Oh dear, my stats are looking droopy. Not so many page views recently , but I can hardly be surprised when I spend all week with my nose in my study notes and have nothing to tell you (unless you're interested in European Directives?) and nothing to show you.
Well, the good news is that I am slowly trying to get a routine of work in the week and craft at the weekends going, and I managed to revitalise my crafting mojo on Friday, so there will soon be something interesting back on this blog.
But even I need a break occasionally from relentless studying so only 8 days late, here's a cake for you!
This is a recipe I got from a South African colleague years and years ago, and although I don't make it very often, it is a favourite of mine because it's simple to make, you eat it with cream and has brandy in it (always a winner for me, if I can say that without sounding like I'm permanently sozzled!).
(this was the last piece and I couldn't be bothered to whip the cream, pah! call me Nigella!)
One quick pre-recipe note here: as you will see, the original recipe is measured in cups. I have metric equivalents scribbled on my copy of the recipe for some of the ingredients but not all. I was going to try to completely metric-ify the amounts for you, but I discovered that firstly there seem to be at least 6 different definitions of what a 'cup' holds (thank you, Wikipedia, groan), and secondly the bits of the recipe I did previous metric-ify don't seem to correspond to any of them! So I'm afraid you'll either have to work in cups (which I am kind of fundamentally opposed to) or decide which version of a cup you like best and work it out yourself. Sorry!
Di's date and nut cake with brandy syrup
1 cup dates
2/3 cup boiling water
1 tsp bicarb of soda
2 tbs butter
1 cup sugar (I use brown sugar)
1 1/2 cups plain flour (I use wholemeal)
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I think something strongly flavoured like walnuts or pecans works best)
1 cup sugar (I used granulated)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup brandy
Preheat the oven to 185 C/ 375F.
Chop up the dates and mix with the water and bicarb of soda. Leave to cool.
Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in the dry ingredients and then add the date mixture and chopped nuts.
Butter an 8"/21cm tin (or put a circle of baking paper in the bottom and just butter the sides - I find this a more reliable way of getting a cake to come out of it's tin), and pour in the mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool - you can freeze it at this point if you like.
Before you make the syrup, give the cake a good poke all over with a skewer - this helps the syrup soak in.
To make the syrup, boil the water and sugar together for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and add the butter, vanilla extract and brandy. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the cake and leave to cool before eating with lots of whipped cream. You could also sprinkle some more chopped nuts on the top of the cake if you're feeling fancy.
There is no point working out Weight Watchers Points for this cake. It is far too bad. So either don't eat it, don't diet, or sin and be carefree.
The cake is a doddle to make but I would add a few words of caution about the syrup. It may well bubble up enthusiastically when you add the vanilla and brandy, so just bare this in mind. Also, the syrup can burn very suddenly so don't let yourself be distracted (as I did by Mr G and something 'important' he just had to tell me).
If it burns, start again. You don't want the cake to taste of burnt sugar. Although the recipe says boil for 5 minutes, I'd use some common sense here - you want a clear syrup so if it starts to look like it's colouring, take it off the heat immediately and add the rest of the ingredients.
Solidified caramel is hard to get out of a pan so the easiest thing to do is add some hot water, put the pan back on the hob and bring it to the boil whilst stirring. This will remelt the solid bits and dissolve them in the water, and presto! your pan is saved.
I can't help feeling that as the brandy goes into very hot syrup most of the alcohol evaporates and therefore makes the cake suitable for kids (if you have views on this sort of thing). Alternatively you could just forego the syrup and spike the cake with neat brandy. I ended up making half quantity syrup (because I didn't want the cake to be too sweet) and sloshing in probably more than the 1/4 cup of brandy called for.
And typing this out made me wonder, can you still get thos bricks of compressed dates? I've never seen them in Ireland but surely a proper British supermarket still stocks them?