Dried fruit tends to make a more frequent appearance on our table at this time of year. Locally grown spring fruit is not yet available - nor is rhubarb - and we’ve worked our way through most of our canned fruit from last year, but there are usually still dates, dried apricots, raisins, and prunes in the pantry.
Dried fruit played an important part in the winter and springtime diets of our grandparents’ generation too, for much the same reason. It stored well and could be relied upon to provide both flavour and nutrition during the lean months when there is little fresh fruit available. This recipe dates from that time.
Like many of my desserts, this recipe is from “The Fanny Farmer Baking Book” by Marion Cunningham. I haven’t messed with it at all. It’s lovely just as it is; moist, tasty, and not too sweet. It tastes like date and nut loaf but with a sauce.
To make Date and Nut Pudding Cake, you’ll need:
- 1-1/2 cups chopped dates
- 1/4 cup room temperature butter, cut into slices
- 1-1/2 cups boiling water (not pictured)
- 1 egg
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (Ms. Cunningham’s recipe calls for dark brown sugar. I had only golden sugar on hand this time. It still turned out fine.)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup walnuts, either halves or large pieces
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1-1/4 cups boiling water (not pictured)
Combine the dates and butter in a large bowl. Pour in 1-1/2 cups of boiling water and stir until the butter is dissolved. Let it sit for a few minutes so that the dates can soften up a bit. (I waited about 15 minutes.)
Beat the egg and stir them it into the date mixture.
In a separate bowl, stir in the flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Mix the flour mixture into the date mixture, then stir in the walnuts.
Pour the batter into a buttered 8-inch square pan and spread 1 cup of brown sugar evenly over the top of the batter.
Pour 1-1/4 cups of boiling water over the batter and sugar.
Place the pan on the middle rack of a preheated 375˚F oven and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or just with a trace of dates on it.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool a bit on a rack. Serve it slightly warm, from the pan.
Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap and can be reheated in the microwave.