“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
~ Laurie Colwin
Our farm is a social place. The pace of life is slower here, and people have time for a chat and a cuppa. It’s also a place where lots of physical work gets done, and I like to have a cake tin or biscuit barrel full so that I have something tasty to offer any visitors or workers with their cup of tea.
This beautiful moist date loaf recipe is handwritten in pencil on the inside cover of an old cookbook I found in an op-shop in Gin Gin when I was still a college student. I wrote the recipe, given to me from memory by an elderly lady named Marge who was busy making cakes and sandwiches with me and a group of other women one long hot summer so we could feed the rural fire-fighting crews during a terrible bush-fire year. Marge wrote written the words ‘economical’ and ‘quick’ in blue pen at the top of the page because these are very important things for a young girl to know, apparently.
It is indeed both of those things – and delicious too – made from simple ingredients most of us have in our pantry. This date loaf packs well for travelling or school lunches and will keep fresh in a sealed tin for up to a week. It also freezes well so I usually double the mixture, cook two and freeze one for emergencies.
I’ve sometimes served it as a simple warm dessert with a sploodge of cream or ice-cream. The date loaf is also very good served sliced and buttered. When it’s fresh it doesn’t really need the butter, but gee, it’s so good why wouldn’t you?
4 Weet-Bix, 1 cup of chopped dates, 1 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons of butter (60 grams), 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 1 egg, 1 cup of self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1 cup of boiling water.
Variations of this recipe used by my CWA ladies:
- 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger or ground cinnamon
- swap out the sugar for 3 heaped tablespoons of golden syrup or treacle
Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).
Line a loaf tin (23cm x 12cm – 9 inch x 5 inch) with baking paper.
Crumble the Weet-Bix into a large bowl. Add the sugar (or syrup if using instead), chopped dates, butter and bicarb soda. Pour the cup of boiling water over and leave to soften for five minutes.
Add the sifted flour (and spices if using) and egg. Mix together well with a wooden spoon. The batter will be quite thick. If you are adding walnuts or pecans dump them in now and give another quick stir.
Pour into the lined tin and place in the oven for forty-five minutes. Test to see if cooked through by inserting fine skewer in center of cake. If it comes out clean it is done, if there is still sticky residue bake a little longer.
Leave in tin ten minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack. It slices best using a serrated knife.