There will not be as much baking going on in this house over the next few weeks, or even months. The reason being – I am on a diet. A quest to lose the more than two stone I have gained since I retired, preferably by the time we return to France next spring.
The excess weight did not arrive overnight, it was a gradual thing, the result of the constant availability of food, eating a meal instead of just a sandwich at lunchtime, and possibly an overly enthusiastic interest in all things cake. The last half stone has appeared since we lost our dog Lulu last summer and, with 2016 being my personal annus horribilis, no doubt a bit of comfort eating as well.
I have lost weight successfully before on various eating plans, the most successful being a calorie counting regime. I accept that an increased activity level would help matters, but it would be hard to fit in any visits to the gym at the moment, what with doing up our new UK house and – keeping an eye on our new puppy, Hugo. We have a lot of plates spinning and are only just keeping ourselves sane – you can read more about it here if you like. We can hardly be described as inactive, compared to those who might sit in front of a computer or a TV all day, and it’s good to see that the first half stone has already disappeared.
However, I still have plenty of cakes and other bakes to write about, in fact a backlog of baking posts that should keep me going for quite a while. It will actually be nice to bring the blog up to date so that all those bakes don’t just disappear forever into the mists of time.
Nick made this cake for the last CCC meeting. I had made it myself (and blogged about it) a while ago and when I looked it up it turns out that that was three years ago – how time flies! I remembered that it was a delicious cake, full of spice and just right for early autumn, with its dates and pecans. You can read about it here.
Autumn arrived unusually early in our little corner of France. Considering that the cake club meeting was on 27th September, looking at the photos you would think that it was a month later. September is usually a glorious month in the Loire Valley, warm and sunny, with all the joys of summery days without the baking heat of say July and August. This year September was disappointing, cool and showery. (Apparently October has been better – but we were not there to enjoy it, sadly.)
It was definitely a “mists and mellow fruitfulness” kind of day when Nick baked his cake and I had to take the cake outside to get enough light to take its picture.
The cake is made to a Delia Smith recipe – Nick is very much a fan of Delia – and rightly so. I can’t recall having too many failures with any of her recipes.
This time we decided that we liked the rustic look of the cake without its icing so decided not to ice it. That was a good decision I think. Sometimes an icing is called for but on this occasion the cake was perfectly delicious without it. (For those who like the intense sweetness of a sticky toffee pudding, the icing would satisfy the need.)
It kept really well for several days. Chunks of it sustained us on our long, twelve hour journey back to Derbyshire from the Loire. The last few pieces kept us going and our spirits up when we faced the first tranche of building work on our new house in the UK.
You can see the original recipe with the iced version here.
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g chopped dates
50g pecan nuts, chopped
110g Flora Buttery (or similar, such as Lurpak Spreadable)
50g black treacle
175g golden syrup
2 eggs, beaten
225g plain flour
Preheat the oven to 150˚ C / 130˚ fan / gas mk 2. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or use a paper liner.
Put the butter, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan over a low heat and melt them together. (Warming the tin of treacle in a saucepan of hot water will help to make it easier to measure out.)
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, mix in the milk then the beaten eggs. Sift in the flour, spices and bicarb, whisking in gradually until smooth. Add the nuts and about two thirds of the dates, mix well and pour into the tin. Drop the remaining dates onto the top of the cake and push them in a bit with a skewer.
Bake on a low shelf for 1½ hours to 1 hour 50 minutes until done, risen and cracked on the top. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Cuts into 10-12 slices, depending on how thick you like you slices of cake.