The Spinning Ladies of Sanday love this cake – and so has everybody I ever baked it for. It’s a great “tray-bake” for bazaars etc. and a brilliant stand-by for when you run short of eggs, as it takes just the one egg to make it.
I first came across this recipe in the 1970s, when my then Mother-in-Law passed it on to me. The story was that this was Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s favourite cake and that she had bestowed the recipe upon the WI, and that it must only ever be “sold” for charitable donations and never given away.
That story has since proved to be apocryphal.
Having lost my copy of the recipe, I Googled one day and found this recipe (given verbatim first) that has one or two problems..
“Queen Mum’s” Date and WalnutÂ Cake
Pour one cup of boiling water over 8 oz of chopped dates and add one tsp
of bicarbonate of soda.Â Let it stand while the following is mixed:-
8 oz sugar (dem or caster);
3 oz butter;
1 beaten egg;
1tsp vanilla essence;
10 oz plain flour;
1 tsp baking powder;
half tsp salt;
2 oz chopped walnuts.
Add to date mixture and mix well.
Spread in a greased and floured 9 inch square cake pan.
Bake in 350F oven for 40 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
5 tbsps brown sugar;
2 tbsps butter;
2 tbsps cream.
Mix together and boil for 3 mins.
Spread on top when cake is cold and sprinkle with chopped nuts.
This cake is fine without the topping, but oh-so-much-finer with it. I recommend that you do not stint.
Clearly, the recipe as given is ambiguous. May I suggest:
- Allow extra weight of chopped walnuts for topping the cake
- Pour boiling water over dates and soda; let stand until lukewarm. Use a standard 250ml “cup” measure.
- In bowl, cream the butter with sugar until soft and light. I use soft light brown sugar, usually – but have used Muscavado too. Rarely do I use white caster or granulated. Sometimes I use the recommended Demerara sugar, but not often.
- Beat in the beaten egg and vanilla essence.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
- Add the flour to the creamed mixture alternately with the date mixture. Use all the liquid. Stir in the chopped nuts.
- Bake in a foil-lined tray, 9″ by 12,” in a moderate oven 160Â°CÂ for a half to three quarters of an hour.
- The cake is done when firm to the touch and still springy. Testing with a skewer can be problematical, due to the gooeyness of the dates.
As for theÂ topping – use top of the milk if you don’t have cream. (Don’t be stupid and sub marg for the butter – if you can’t do dairy, forget the topping.)Â Boil rapidly, don’t be scared of it. I like to beat the topping as it cools, in the same way that I would if making ordinary fudge. I add the topping to the cake while still a little runny – that way, when I add a sprinkling of chopped nuts to the top, they tend to stick on better.
A little touch of vanilla essence does the topping no harm whatsoever.
(If you want to donateÂ a pound to a favourite charity in exchange for this recipe, feel free. I doubt that the Queen Mum would turn in her grave over it – no matter how apocryphal the original story.)