200g stoned dates, chopped
50g tamarind paste
250g unsalted butter
150g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
275g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Icing, if you want it
175g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
150g icing sugar
Seeds from 6-8 cardamom pods, field ground in a pestle and mortar
Juice of ½ lemon
Dan Lepard, whose recipe from the Guardian this is, unashamedly calls it ‘The best date cake in the world ever’
Equally unashamedly, as someone who bakes and eats it quite frequently, I would agree wholeheartedly. It is extremely delicious and very easy to make.
So please don’t be put off. Cardomom icing? It’s lovely but I don’t usually bother although i have tried cardomom in the cake with very pleasing results. What on earth is tamarind? Well I didn’t know, still don’t really, but one can buy little bottles of the slightly salty lemony paste from Waitrose although not our local Sainsbury’s (bigger branches might). BBC Food describes it as ‘A tart fruit from the tamarind tree, used as a spice and souring agent’. Funnily enough I soaked the dates and tamarind paste and water overnight so that it would be all ready for this morning’s bake. John, not knowing what it was, reported to me that there was a really delicious warm spicy smell in the kitchen when he got up in the morning. He reckoned one could sell the scent, maybe for food shops to waft around on the hour like bakeries and coffee shops are meant to do with appropriately scented freshly baked bread and coffee ‘odours’!
I looked up tamarind in Wikipedia and discovered all sorts of interesting facts; I began to feel that perhaps we ought all start eating it quite seriously. Tamarind is high in acid, sugar, B vitamins and, oddly for a fruit, calcium; it is used in Ayurvedic medicine for gastric and/or digestion problems, and in cardioprotective activity… Anyway, it tastes nice. See what you think…
Heat the oven to 160 Fan-assisted/350F/gas mark 4. I do it in the Aga top oven with a cold plain sheet slotted into the second row of runners from the top.
Line the base and sides of a deep 18cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
Put the dates, tamarind paste and 300ml water into a saucepan; bring the mixture to the boil and let it boil for one minute. Take the pan off the heat, add the butter and leave it about ten minutes or so to melt.
Add the brown sugar, stir and then beat in the eggs until the mixture is sooth. Then beat in the flour and bicarb, and stir in the walnuts.
Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour, or until a skewer poked not the middle comes away clean.
Turn the cake out and leave it to cool. If you want to bother with the icing, mix the icing sugar, cardamom lemon juice and a little water and spoon it over the cake, happily letting it dribble down the sides.
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