Sometimes all one needs is a hot cup of tea accompanied with a slice of a humble cake to brighten up your day. Be it winter or summer, I can guarantee that this version of the date cake will definitely lift your mood. I made this as a birthday cake for my mum who doesn't like frosting, and so the occasion called for a cake which could be flavourful and rich on its own and yet be easy to prepare as I did not have all required ingredients nor a working oven at hand!
Thus was born this recipe, made on a make-shift gas stove 'oven'. I will post pictures of the stove top oven at the end for those who do not have an oven. Ingredients -
1.5 cup plain flour0.5 cup softened butter0.75 cup powdered sugar, can use demerrera sugar for beautiful colour0.5 cup milk2 large eggs0.5 cup dates, pitted and chopped0.75 cup water approx1 tablespoon vanilla essence0.5 teaspoon baking powder0.5 teaspoon baking sodacouple of pinches of salt1 teaspoon cocoa powder (optional)0.5 teaspoon cinnamon powderWalnuts/ Mixed nuts for topping (optional)
1. If you are using convection oven, preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare your baking tin by greasing generously. If using stove-top, refer to notes at the end
2. In a sauce pan, add dates and water and cook for 5-7 minutes till all the dates are mushy. set aside to cool for 15 mins. Then make a fine paste in a blender (thick smoothie consistency).
3. In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
4. In a separate large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. 5 minutes if using a hand mixer and 12-15 minutes if mixing by hand whisk.
5. Add couple of tablespoons of the flour mixture and gently fold in.
6. Add an egg and mix it in, without heavy whisking.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 but save some more flour for a last addition later.
8. Add the dates 'smoothie' in 2 or 3 steps and fold in.
9. Add vanilla essence, cinnamon powder and 2 or 3 tablespoons of milk judging the consistency.
10. Add half a teaspoon of dark cocoa powder to enhance the colour, be careful not to add more otherwise cocoa will overpower the dates and cinnamon flavour.
11. Fold in the remaining flour and ensure a final mix
12. Pour batter in prepared tin and sprinkle coarsely crushed walnuts or nuts of your choice on top. Bake in convection oven for 30-40 mins. The cake should be firm to touch, well risen and pass the poke-test.
13. Serve warm or at room temperature.
1. Things you will need for making a stove-top oven arrangement - a flat tawah (girdle), clean sand/fine pebbles, a wire mesh or metal stand, a steel pan which fits the tawah when inverted so as to cover the baking tin (without touching the sides of the tin) and also covers some part of the sand but doesn't fall over.
2. Place tawah on stovetop and add a layer of sand about 1-1.5 inch thick. Spread evenly.
3. Place a wire mesh or metal stand in the centre - this will avoid direct contact of the tin with sand thereby avoiding cakes burnt from the bottom
4. Preheat this assemble (without covering the sand) on full flame for upto ten minutes
5. Place the cake tin (with batter) on the wire mesh
6. Cover with inverted steel vessel. Ensure that the sides of the inverted vessel are resting comfortably on the sand and that there are no major air gaps.
7. Baking time on this oven is generally longer, ranging from 45 minutes to an hour. Bake on low flame and check for done-ness after 40 minutes.
8. Resist the temptation to check before 30-35 minutes as this may cause the cake to collapse.
9. Wear heavy mitts while handling this as everything gets extremely hot and observe care to not touch the sand as it may fly into the cake tin.