Friday, April 21, 2017

Date, Walnut, & Nutmeg Cake

I am not a baker, although I love eating baked goods. I also love watching the Great British Baking Show and have really been enjoying the "Master Class" addendum series with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood demonstrating their recipes. It's actually more fun for me to watch people baking than to do it myself. In fact, the thought of making something more complicated than a bundt cake or brownies is more than a bit intimidating. How those people--amateur, home bakers--can make such incredible fantasias with meringue and gum paste and multiple layers of cake and icing is incredible to me. Also time-consuming and potentially kitchen-messing.

Sometimes I do go into the kitchen to bake, and sometimes it goes well. Normally when I cook, I alter recipes like crazy, but I can't do that with baking. Baking is science, and therefore shouldn't be messed around with because it could end badly. So I rely on cookbooks most of the time. Like The Cardamom Trail, by former British Baking Show contestant Chetna Makan. Chetna was known for using unusual flavor combinations in her baked goods, which is one of the things that endeared her to me. But she also liked to bake straight-up British favorites, like Victoria sponge and lemon drizzle cake. The recipe I've included in this post is for a cake somewhat similar to sticky toffee pudding in that it uses dates as a main ingredient. There's also a sauce component, which I have omitted, that would make this dish even more like STP. (And I would have made it, had we double cream on hand.) Without it, this cake is somewhat like a quickbread in flavor and texture, and it is lovely with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a cup of coffee or tea.

Date, Walnut, & Nutmeg Cake (from The Cardamom Trail)
You need a kitchen scale for this one. Also, you can make your own self-raising flour by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a cup of flour. For this recipe, you'll need about 2 cups of flour. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and then measure out the 10 1/2 ounces.

4 1/2 ounces pitted dates, chopped
1 cup water
5 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
5 1/2 ounces light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 1/2 ounces self-raising flour
1 3/4 ounces walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a bundt pan and set aside.

Bring dates and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated before adding the next. Add the baking soda and the flour and mix well. Fold in the dates and any leftover liquid, the walnuts, and the nutmeg.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before unmolding cake. Allow to cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar.

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