This is another recipe from an ex-colleague of mine. I don’t know if this is true of all sciences, but as I biologist, I have always found myself amidst a lot of foodies, bakers and excellent cooks. While doing my PhD, we had cake bake-offs to raise money for the student society. It was at one of these bake-offs that I tasted and fell in love with the sticky date pudding. I hadn’t eaten one until then. In typical fashion, I chased the baker of this cake and annoyed him until he parted with the recipe for it. He even mentioned that the version I’d tried was with gluten-free flour so that one of his colleagues who was allergic to gluten could eat it. It was delicious!
I have made this cake a few times since I got the recipe – for pot luck dinners, afternoon tea at work etcetera and it has always been a hit. The occasion that sticks in my mind is our leaving party prior to moving to England. It was a hot autumnal afternoon and the party was due to start at 2pm in a bar. I was in a sari just because I wanted to be which made walking a bit difficult. We were carrying two enormous sticky date cakes that I’d made earlier that day in two rather heavy cake dishes. In addition, we’d had to take public transport so we could have a few drinks at our own party.
By the time we got to the venue we were sweaty, our arms were sore, our guests had already arrived and I had one fuming boyfriend. However, we handed the cakes over to the chef at the bar and sat down to have a few drinks. Later that evening, the kind chef warmed my cake, cut it into pieces, drizzled the butterscotch sauce I made over it, sprinkled icing sugar over the top and brought it out to serve to our guests. It was a hit and the pain in transporting them was soon forgotten. Thankfully, one of my friends who is a more talented photographer than I captured the cake with my camera – a memory that I’m delighted to share with you. I hope you like this cake as much as I do.
This recipe will make a 15 x 15 cm square cake or a slightly thinner 20 cm (diameter) round cake.
For the cake:
1 ¾ cups dried pitted dates
1 ½ cups (375ml) hot water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100gms butter chopped
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1½ cups self raising flour
½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts (or half walnuts and half pecans)
For the butterscotch sauce:
½ cup firmly pack brown sugar
125ml thickened cream
60g butter, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Grease your baking dish, double-line its base and long sides with baking paper, bringing the paper 5cm above edges of dish.
2. Combine dates and the water in medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. Remove from heat and stir in soda. The whole mixture will froth up at this point and threaten to rise over the edges of the saucepan. Make sure you don’t use a small saucepan or else the mixture will overflow (been there, done that).
4. To let the frothiness subside, stand the mixture for 5 minutes. Blend or process date mixture until smooth. If you like chunky bits of date, then you can leave it as is but the cake will not be as moist.
5. Beat the softened butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy.
6. Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating until it until it is well combined with the sugar-butter mixture. At the end of this, you should have a pale, creamy and light mixture for the cake.
7. Into the creamy mixture, stir in date mixture and sifted flour.
8. If you’d like to add walnuts/pecan/both, toss them in a little bit of flour and add to the cake mixture. Combine until the nuts are evenly spread through the mixture.
9. Bake the cake uncovered for about 50 minutes or until a knife/skewer comes out clean when stuck into the centre of the cake.
10. While waiting for the cake to bake, make the decadent and delicious butterscotch sauce.
11. To make the sauce, stir all butterscotch sauce ingredients in medium saucepan over heat. Don’t allow the mixture to boil until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down and simmer for a further 3 minutes. This sauce can be kept in the fridge for a week or so.
12. Once the cake is done, stand it in the dish for 10 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack. Turn it back again so that the top-side of the cake faces up.
13. Brush surface of hot cake with as much of the hot butterscotch as your heart desires. You can also sprinkle icing sugar on top to make it look pretty.
14. Serve it with more butterscotch sauce if you are greedy like me.
1. If you are allergic to gluten, use gluten-free flour and follow the same recipe.
2. If you are allergic to nuts, omit the nuts and use sultanas instead or leave this out completely.
3. If you are vegan, skip the butterscotch sauce and use margarine instead of butter in the cake.