Sunshine. We didn’t have a great deal of it on mine and Tom’s road trip around Iceland last month. What we did get was more exciting – glaciers, hot pools, black gravel beaches and this family recipe, which was given to us by a farmer’s wife on the rugged South coast of the island. Her daughter baked it to welcome us as midwinter’s only guests and while it used to be a Christmas treat when her mother was a little girl (and when dates were a doubly expensive import) we got the impression it was baked in their farmhouse quite alot these days. In Icelandic it’s called Dillon Kaka but for the sake of our English speaking guests at Sunday’s Kitchen Club, I renamed it. It went down a treat at Rosie’s kitchen table which, far from Iceland, was drenched in sunshine. It’s good to know that dissolving the dates makes the cake dense and moist rather than lumpy with dried fruit. If it weren’t for the giveaway name, you might not know they were in there.
Caramel and date cake
Stone and finely chop 250g of dates into a pot and just cover with water. Boil them uncovered for 3 minutes, remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate. Beat together 120g of soft butter, 2 tablespoons of white or brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of muscovado sugar in a mixing bowl. Add 2 eggs and work at the mixture until combined. Then add 300g of self raising flour, a good pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the bowl. Now add the dissolved dates to the mixing bowl. Combine the ingredients carefully with a large metal spoon in a figure of eight and bake in a round greased or lined tin for 30-40 minutes at 180˚C.
For the caramel sauce, gently heat 1/2 cup of single cream, 115g of muscovado sugar, 120g of butter and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence in a pan for 3 minutes.
Once the cake has cooled a little but still retains some warmth, add a last minute pinch of sea salt to the caramel and pour it over the cake. Serve with creme fraiche and coffee or mint tea.
We served our eclectic menu to a happy, chatty group of nine. A huge thank you to them for rolling up with great enthusiasm and jollity despite hangovers, pregnancies and long journeys.
Beetroot, feta, chorizo and mint salad / Salted lebneh with basil and olive oil / Tuna and caper butter / Sourdough bread
Tuscan sausage and lentil spezzatino with fresh carrot, chilli and sultana salad
Caramel and date cake with creme fraiche