My mum has a handwritten recipe tucked away in the back of one of her oldest cook books, given to her by my great-grandmother (my dad’s granny), who, coincidentally, I was named after. My Great Granny McCreath died after I was born so I am lucky to say that I was able to meet her. She wrote it out for Mum not long after Mum and Dad were married, which is coming up on 30 years.
According to the recipe that she wrote out for Mum, this cake was the favourite of the Queen Mother. I have done a bit of googling and found that there isn’t much proof to back up this claim but there are a lot of postings of this recipe with the exact wording that Great Granny McCreath used so perhaps it was published in a magazine or the newspaper and everyone copied it from there. I wouldn’t blame the Queen Mother if it was in fact her favourite cake because it is very delicious. It’s also very quick and easy to make so that makes it even more appealing in my eyes!
The bottom of the note has a P.S which states that as the request of the Queen, the cake is not to be given away, but to be sold for 5 pence and the money given to charity. I made a few for a fund-raiser we held at the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers on the weekend. We didn’t sell it for 5 pence though but all the money raised was donated to a local charity- Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Support.
The recipe is written out like a story as opposed to have the ingredients listed and then the method. I find that more difficult to follow- maybe it’s just me- so that’s how I’ll put it on here. The icing that I have listed below is not the one that came with the recipe. The original recipe calls for a caramel sauce to be poured over the top of the cake. As we were selling the cakes to be taken away, as opposed to be eaten on the spot, I had to use an icing rather that the sauce. I’ll put the ingredients for the sauce at the bottom of the recipe.
- 250g pitted dates, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon bicrabonate of soda
- 1 cup boiling water
- 250g caster sugar
- 90g butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 egg, beaten
- 315g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 50g walnuts, chopped
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Line and grease a 23cmx30cm tray or two loaf tins (like I did).
- Put the chopped dates into a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Mix in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to stand for as long as it takes to complete the next step.
- Beat the sugar and butter together with the vanilla essence until pale, light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Add the flour, salt and the baking powder and mix.
- Now add the date mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
- Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 35 minutes. I found my cakes took a lot longer than 35 minutes, probably closer to 50 minutes but that might be because I used the loaf tins, not the larger tin.
- Leave in the tin to cool for about 15 minutes and then remove the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing. If you are going to use the caramel sauce instead of the icing, leave the cake in the tin and pour the sauce over the cake, allowing it to soak in before removing it from the tin.
- Icing: To make the icing, put the butter, milk, brown sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in half the icing sugar and then beat in the rest. Allow the icing to cool before putting it on the cake. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on the top of the cake. (I didn’t add the walnuts so we didn’t have any issues with nut allergies at the cake stall, hence why the cake is decorated with dates in the photo).
- Store the cake in an air-tight container for up to a week.
For the caramel sauce:
Mix together in a saucepan:
- 5 tablespoons soft brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons cream
Bring the saucepan to the boil and boil for three minutes. Allow the sauce to cool slightly before pouring over the cake and sprinkling with the chopped walnuts.
If you are going to use the sauce instead of the icing, I would keep it in the fridge so that it keeps longer and so that the sauce sets, for ease of consumption.