Dates, otherwise known as the fruits of paradise, certainly live up to their reputation. I’ve always had a passion for this sticky fruit, mostly because my mother loves them so much. We always had dates at home, as well as almonds. Eating them together is so pleasurable, especially with a hot drink to warm up the palate. I recently read about all the benefits of dates, and was amazed to see that they are renowned to uplift your mood and cure mild winter blues. I couldn’t wait to make a date and almond cake, and added two of my favourite ingredients – orange blossom water and a shot of espresso. So nutritious, delicious and such a hit! I wanted to bake it in a bundt cake pan to give it an old-fashioned twist along with the dripping salted caramel glaze. Everybody loved it. I highly recommend serving this cake with a cup of hot almond milk, a drink I love ordering in Chinese cafés. You can find this drink at Asian supermarkets, or in health food stores.
For the date & almond cake:
300 g/ 2/3 pounds dates, stoned and coarsely chopped
350 ml/ 1 & 1/2 cup water
3 tsp instant coffee, or a small shot of expresso (if you have an expresso machine at home)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
80 g/ 1/3 cup butter + butter to line cake pan, softened
220 g/ 2 cups self-raising flour (sifted)
220 g/ 1 & 1/4 cup brown sugar
100 g/ 3/4 cup almonds (blanched and coarsely chopped)
4 tbsp orange blossom water
3 eggs, beaten lightly
1 pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. I used a bundt cake pan (you can use any type of pans you wish).
Chop dates coarsely, place in a saucepan add water and the shot of espresso (or instant coffee + one tbsp water). Bring to a boil, remove from heat and add bicarbonate of soda. Let it fizz for a few minutes and mix well. Set aside.
Chop almonds coarsely, place in a small bowl and pour the orange blossom water. Leave to soak for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (you can use electric whisks). Add sifted flour, eggs (one at a time), mix well until batter is creamy. Stir in the date mixture and chopped almonds and the orange blossom water. Spread butter generously around sides, bottom and into crevices of the cake pan. Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.
For the salted butter caramel glaze:
60 g/ 4 tbsp butter (cut into cubes)
90 g/ 1/2 cup brown sugar
80 ml/ 1/3 cup cream
70 g/ 3/4 cup sifted icing/ confectioner’s sugar (just use enough until you get desired thickness)
In a saucepan, melt the salted butter, brown sugar, cream and bring to a full boil. Lower heat, stir constantly for two minutes, then set aside and leave to rest for a few minutes. Whisk in sifted icing sugar gradually until you get the desired consistency. You should be able to pour the glaze on the cake so the sauce should not be too thick. Pour glaze all over the top of the cake. Let the glaze set before serving (a few minutes should do).