A new year is here and as I mentioned in an earlier post my baking mojo has disappeared, I think all this rain has washed it away, but just recently I have started to crave a slice of cake again. Like many of us over Christmas I put on a few extra pounds, I am happy to say with some clever healthy eating, no alcohol and lots of walks with the dog they have soon disappeared, but I want to keep the good work up and decided to go on a hunt for a healthy and nutritious cake and where better to look than in Love Bake Nourish.

Now I know that no cake can be truly virtuous but with some clever ingredients it can be more nutritious and better for your tummy. If you are a regular reader you will know that I just love using spelt flour, this stunning heritage grain is far higher in minerals and vitamins and due to spelt’s high water solubility, the grain’s vital substances can be absorbed quickly into the body. The nutrients are made available to the entire organism with a minimum of digestive work. The body cells are then nourished, strengthened, and prepared for their optimal performance while the body is flooded with vitamins and other nutritional substances. Spelt contains more protein, fats and crude fibre than wheat and also has large amounts of Vitamin B17. It also contains special carbohydrates which play a decisive role in blood clotting and stimulate the body’s immune system so as to increase its resistance to infection.

I also try to use honey or maple syrup where I can instead of over processed sugars, I always use one or the other to sweeten cream and in this cake I used maple syrup in the cream cheese icing. Maple syrup has fewer calories than cane sugar, is sweeter and it is full of manganese, zinc and antioxidants. I know I have told you all this before but with everyone on diets after Christmas and making resolutions to improve health I didn’t think it would hurt to reminds ourselves once again.

So back to this lovely cake, it is a rather grown up cake, full of sweet dates and the zesty cream cheese icing is optional, well worth leaving it off if you want to save a few calories and fat and just want a healthy snack with a cuppa.

I am now waiting for Luca to return home as he is baking scones at school today and I promised him that we would have an afternoon tea together when he gets home, I am looking forward to getting out the rose petal jam that I made in the summer as I know the scent will brighten up my day and remind me that this rain can not go on forever!

Buon appetito

date cake

190g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
100g white spelt flour, sifted
100g wholegrain spelt flour, sifted
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
90g unsalted butter, softened
160g maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large free-range eggs
Grated zest of 1/2 a orange (unwaxed)
Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon (unwaxed)

For the icing
250g cream cheese
4 tablespoons maple syrup
Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange (unwaxed)
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon (unwaxed)

orange and lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Grease and flour a 24cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

Start by pouring 180ml of boiling water over the dates and set aside to soak. I used Earl Grey tea just for a little extra flavour, you could also be very naughty and add a little of your favourite booze.

dates soaking in Earl Grey

Put the flours, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the flour mix and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Continue to beat until you have a light, fluffy mixture, if it starts to look curdled, just add a little more flour.

Add the remaining flour mix, the maple syrup, vanilla, lemon and orange zest. Lastly add the dates and fold in very gently using a spoon, until everything is well incorporated, but be careful not to over mix. The recipe that I was following didn’t say if you should add the liquid to the dates or throw it away, so I added it and the cake turned out well.

Scrape into the prepared tin, level the top of the cake with a spoon or palette knife and bake in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the centre of the cake springs back to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, place all the ingredients for the icing, saving a little of the zest to decorate the cake later, in a bowl and beat until thoroughly combined. Spread over the cake using a palette knife and sprinkle over the reserved zest.

date cake