I am happy and proud to say that, after several tries, I have perfected my version of this well-known cake of British origin. My research has uncovered this interesting “fact” – namely, that this is supposed to be the only cake Queen Elizabeth makes herself. That said – and it may be disputed by people reading this – it is one of the best cakes I have ever made. Redolent with dates, this classic confection is moist and topped with a crisp coconut broiled icing. Make sure to use dates without pits. I added chopped apples to give a little tang to the traditional recipe – it is still a sweet cake that benefits from being served with tart baked plums and vanilla ice cream or thickened yogurt. I grease the sides and bottom of the pan with butter or oil and only line the bottom with parchment paper. I didn’t have cream for the topping the last time I made the cake and substituted vanilla ice cream – it worked famously. This cake tastes even better the day after it’s made stored at room temperature under a cake dome.
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup boiling water
½ tsp baking soda
2 tart apples, peeled and chopped
½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup flaked coconut
⅓ cup butter
⅔ cup brown sugar
¼ cup whipping or half-and-half cream
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line 9-inch/23-cm springform pan with parchment paper.
Place dates in medium-large shallow bowl. Pour on boiling water and sprinkle with baking soda. Add chopped apples.
Meanwhile, mix butter and granulated sugar in stand mixer until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract; mix until combined.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl; whisk until combined. Add to butter mixture alternately with date/apple mixture (including any liquid) in two parts and ending with flour mixture; mix until combined. Spread batter evenly into prepared springform pan.
Bake in oven about 30 to 40 minutes until cake tester or wooden skewer comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack.
While cake is baking, combine topping ingredients in small saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until combined. While cake is still warm, spread topping evenly on cake. Place under the broiler (not too close) for a few minutes until bubbling and nicely browned.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, poached fruit and/or thickened yogurt.
Makes about 8 to 10 servings.