Friday, March 11, 2011

Live. Love. Eat.


My first thought when I woke up this morning was "Must bake today."

I must love cake more than I think.

Spring is here, and because this season lasts for all of two weeks in this city, it's going to be too warm to want to eat or bake anything with dry fruit, nuts or butter pretty soon. That and the fact that my subconscious is obviously craving the rolled up sleeves, flour on my collar and telltale chocolate on my pinkie that go with baking brought me straight to my grandparents' kitchen after class.

(Okay, almost. I paused for lunch. Delectable squash and daal the way only my grandmother can make it.)

Anyway, I've had some gorgeous date and walnut cake lately (mental thank you to the awesome people at Cakeaway), and ever since ASG, their extremely generous main man, told me the cake pictured above is his mother's recipe, I've been subconsciously thinking about it, I guess, because I knew exactly what order and in which quantities to put where, even before I did a brief check with Aunty Google. Yes, my dates were separated and soaked in hot water before I knew what I was doing, and my butter was beautifully (but not quite so successfully) melting on the countertop. Guess it isn't warm enough for it to melt quite just yet.

So I tipped and cracked, mixed and mashed, whipped and ...umm... didn't quite get whiplashed, and devised this recipe to satiate my needs. And boy, that familiar ache from too much stirring in my arms felt good. (There, I've said it. Make of it what you will.)

Click below to read the recipe.

Date and Walnut Cake with Chocolate Shavings

Separate, chop and soak 300 g dates in boiling water. Just enough to cover them. Allow this to cool in its own time, while you get on with the rest of the recipe.
Chop and toast almost a cup of walnuts (!) without any butter. Allow these to cool till you need them.
(You can add figs or prunes instead of/alongside dates, and almonds or pistachios instead of walnuts for a sweeter cake.)
Meanwhile, roughly cube 120 g butter (preferably lightly salted), and if it’s cold from the fridge, microwave it for 20 seconds, until it is very soft and just starts melting. Or if you have the luxury of central heating, just leave the bowl on the radiator. This should go in your biggest mixing bowl.
To this, add about 3/4th cup powdered or fine sugar. More if you like things sweeter.
Beat, beat, beat like a crazy person until all the lumps in the butter/sugar mixture go away. Beat some more till you can’t see the difference between the sugar crystals and the butter. As smooth as about-to-melt soft serve ice cream.
(Why all this beating? To make a dense cake supersoft. Supermelty. Superlight.)
To this, add one egg and vanilla or orange essence. Beat again! At this point, this should taste ridiculously yummy. But make sure to leave some of it for the actual cake!
Now, turn on the oven to 180 degrees. 170-160 if it’s a smaller oven, or your oven has a fan. Do this earlier if your oven takes a long while to heat up.
Done? Now you can sift in about 1.25 cups of whole wheat flour and cake flour (roughly half-half, but more of whatever you like) with 1.25 teaspoons baking powder.
Now you have fifteen million four bowls just sitting on your countertop; dates, nuts, egg-butter-sugar and flour-baking-soda. Let’s mix them up!
Wait, notsofast! There’s an order for these things.
First, mix the flour into the egg-butter-sugar. This will get thick, so add as much of the water you used to soak the dates as it needs to make it thin but relatively viscous. A little thicker than usual cake-batter, because it’s meant to be a loaf.
(Huh?, you ask. It’s too thick if it drops with a distinct ‘glop’ if you drop a spoonful into the mixing bowl from above. It’s too thin if it falls like…uh… water. In that case, add in a little bit more flour and you should be fine. But try to err on the side of too thick, so you can add in more liquid as needed.)
Then, add in the dates and nuts. Easy peasy. Mix mix.
Shave in about 50 grams of chocolate if you like.  I used good Swiss bittersweet, but you could add in milk chocolate, plain cocoa, bits of caramel toffee too, I reckon, if you smashed them up really tiny. Or nothing at all, if you don’t want. I just like the cool, wow-what’s-in-this expressions when I add in flecks of random yummythings to my baking.
We aren’t done yet. But almost!
Butter a rectangular cake loaf tin by rubbing a block of butter along the edges and rubbing the grease into all corners with your fingers. This will make the cake caramelize in the most beautiful way at the edges for that toffee-flavoured feeling called happiness.
Finally, pour in your yummy, filled-with-the-goodness-of-nuts-and-fruits cake mixture into this. Push this into the oven, and leave it there till the top looks stable, then dries out the tiniest bit, and you can smell the whole mixture. You can check if it’s done with a knife; dip in, pull out. If the knife looks clean enough and there aren’t any crumbs or gluey bits sticking to it, you’re good to go!
Now, you just have to wait for it to cool, upturn it into a tin or plastic wrap, and leave it overnight.
Eat it. Love me.

So while I'm still waiting for tomorrow morning for the final verdict (my cake is lying all lonely in a basket at the moment), it tasted pretty darn good to me straight out of the oven.

Those of you who get to bake: try it, tell me how it goes.


On a completely different note, I heard about the Japanese earthquake in the middle of class today. Worries about the environment-gone-crazy aside, send everyone who could be affected good, happy thoughts and prayers with me, won't you?


  1. That's funny! I suddenly felt like baking on friday too! But I didn't actually get down to it till yesterday evening.
    Must try your recipe sometime soon...sounds like oodles of fun! :D

  2. And oh sugar+butter, beaten till its creamy white, is my FAVOURITE part of baking. I'm always surprised there's some left over for the actual cake. XD

  3. I ATE THIS. SO GOOD. SO SO GOOD. Good doesn't even begin to describe it.