Baking is new to me. It’s exacting nature lies in direct opposition to my freeflow cooking habits. There is little room for error. Especially when the cake or biscuit mix has gone into the oven. I’ve already had cause to throw out two cakes in the last month due to careless conversions from cups to grams and a ridiculously hot oven.
Having said that I currently have two desserts sitting out in the kitchen. The end of a honey, apple, date and walnut olive oil cake – a kind of riff on a Jewish honey and apple cake that’s traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year – and a plum torte which I made last night.
But more about that torte later. For now let me share with you this wonderful recipe for a honey, apple, date and walnut olive oil cake. Olive oil is the perfect ingredient for beginner bakers. It pretty much guarantees a moist cake and if have a good olive oil then all the better. Many Levantine and Italian desserts are made with oil rather than butter, as well as honey, nuts and yoghurt, which gives them a wonderful earthiness; a depth of flavour, a natural sweetness and a rich textured quality. And this cake is no different. Yes, it’s a little faffy to make but it’s definitely worth it. As I mentioned we have a really hot oven so I dropped the heat to 160ºC and cooked it for the same time given in the recipe.
3 large eggs, at room temperature
130g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
165ml good olive oil
260g runny honey (coat the measure with a little olive oil so the honey slips out easily)
375g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 – 2 crisp apples, peeled, cored and roughly diced
100g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
100g dates, stoned and roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a 9×13 inch cake/roasting tin with baking paper, base & sides. Beat the eggs, brown sugar & vanilla (if using)in a large bowl with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until light & fluffy. Slowly add in the honey and oil bit by bit, beating until well blended.
Into another bowl sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt then tip in the whole-wheat bits left in the sieve as well. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture, apples, walnuts and dates to the wet ingredients and fold together gently until just blended (Don’t overmix you will get a tough cake).
Pour the mixture in to the lined baking tin and spread out evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until the top is firm and golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin.
The author of this recipe serves the cake with mascarpone and honey. Sounds yum but I’m a little puritanical so I ate mine with Greek yoghurt.