Much to my family’s delight I’ve been banishing the winter blues with a renewed interest in baking. As always school holidays mean a full house and quickly depleting fridge and pantry courtesy of a contingent of constantly ravenous teenagers on the hunt for even more to eat. These holidays our eldest is also studying for his HSC trials. It’s hard to believe there’s just one term left and his secondary schooling will be done. Forty days left to be exact once school goes back. Where have all those years gone? It seems like only yesterday we were taking the obligatory first day of kindergarten photo outside our front door.
My contribution to the study effort is a constant supply of food. Of the comforting, stick to your ribs, fill you up variety. Like this Sticky Date Bundt Cake dressed up with a Salted Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze. A rather sophisticated variation of our perennial favourite; the sticky date pudding with caramel sauce. Such an afternoon tea pleaser it disappeared, still warm from the oven, in the blink of an eye.
Sticky Date Bundt Cake With A Salted Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze
Makes 10 – 12 generous serves
1 cup (185g) medjool dates, each date pitted and scissored into six or eight pieces depending on size
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup (250ml) warm water
2 cups (250g) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
225 g unsalted butter
1 cup (250g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
2 eggs, well beaten
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and grated
1 3/4 cups (175g) pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped, divided
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to sprinkle over cake
DISSOLVE the bicarbonate of soda in warm water and pour over the chopped dates. Cover with cling wrap and set aside for at least one hour, longer if possible. Overnight works well.
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Butter and flour a large bundt tin.
SIFT together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
ADD the apples and one and half cups of the pecans to the softened date mixture, reserving the remaining quarter cup of chopped pecans to garnish the cake.
IN A separate bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until very light and fluffy.
BEAT in eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition,
USING a wooden spoon stir the apple, date and walnut mixture into the creamed butter and sugar in two or three batches, alternating with the flour. Be careful not to overmix.
POUR batter into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into cake comes out clean.
ALLOW to cool a little in tin before turning out onto a wire rack set over a large baking paper lined oven tray. Using a large spoon quickly drizzle hot burnt butter caramel glaze (recipe follows) over the cake.
OPTIONAL: Stir up to 1/4 cup warmed cream through any unused burnt butter caramel glaze to create a delicious caramel sauce. So as to not waste any of the glaze, I like to scrape all the delicious drips caught on the baking paper back into the saucepan to make the sauce.
SPRINKLE over reserved chopped pecans and sea salt flakes to garnish Allow glaze to set at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before transferring to a serving platter.
SERVE warm or at room temperature with vanilla bean ice-cream and warm caramel sauce (optional).
For the Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (100g) soft brown sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) pouring cream
MELT butter in a small saucepan over medium heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring frequently until the mixture bubbles and foams, and milk solids begin to separate. Continue to cook until nut brown. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
MEANWHILE combine sugars in a small bowl, stirring well to ensure there are no lumps.
PLACE a wok or large heavy based non stick pan over medium heat. Add sugar in an even layer.
HEAT without stirring until the mixture caramelises, swirling the wok every now and then until all the sugar crystals have dissolved and the mixture is a deep golden colour. Once melted the mixture will caramelise very quickly in a matter of minutes. Resist the urge to stir for a smooth finish.
REMOVE wok from heat, then whisk in the brown butter and cream. Take care, the hot caramel mixture will bubble and spatter a little.
RETURN to low heat and cook for a few more minutes, stirring constantly until the butter and cream are completely incorporated.
TURN OFF heat. The caramel is ready for glazing the sticky date bundt cake