I liked everyone’s ideas for making use of the tamarind nectar and chopped dates I found in the pantry — all of them were much healthier suggestions than what I had come up with: a cake.
The cake idea was first inspired by a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a cake with dates and chocolate from Death By Chocolate, by Marcel Desaulniers. But when I found the tamarind nectar, too, my mind wandered to the tamarind-date chutney we had just sampled. Tangy tamarind and sweet dates in a cake? What would that taste like?
Of course, when making chutney one would use tamarind pods or paste instead of nectar, but I only wanted to borrow some of the flavor components from tamarind-date chutney: cumin and coriander. Cayenne, or red chili powder, was the third key flavor in the chutney, but I thought that was going too far in a cake!
The proportions and method for making the cake, including the chocolate and nut topping on half the cake, came from the book.
I didn’t get much feedback on the cake except through the grapevine. It seemed the consensus was that the cake with the chocolate and nuts was too sweet, although I cut back 1/4 cup of sugar from the original recipe and was using less-sweet raw sugar. The topless version of the cake was lightly sweet and moist, with a hint of exotic from the cumin — probably one of the last spices you might expect in a cake! I think it makes a wonderful snack cake, especially with dark coffee.
If I were making this only for our family, I would not have put the chocolate and nuts on the cake because we are not big consumers of sweets. But I have to confess that a sliver of cake with the topping was trimmed during slicing and saved as a “chef’s perk” for later. That evening we were enjoying another pantry item that needed to be consumed — port wine, and we were delighted to find that the combination of port with the nuts, chocolate and spices in the cake was a real winner!
We will make this cake again, probably without the topping unless we’re expecting to share it again. I would like to try the plain cake again with nuts mixed into the batter, too.
Thanks again to everyone who played along!
DATE & TAMARIND CAKE
(inspired by a chutney and a recipe from Death By Chocolate (1992), Marcel Desaulniers)
1 1/2 cups tamarind nectar
2 cups (225g) chopped dates
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter
2 cups (200g) whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. coriander powder
1-1/4 cup (220g) raw sugar, (240g) regular sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Optional Topping: (See 2d set of baking instructions)
3 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup chopped macadamia or walnuts
Grease and flour 9×13 inch pan. (I don’t have a 9×13 pan so I used a 9” square cake pan and a 6-muffin tin.)
Heat tamarind nectar to just boiling. Pour over dates. Let cool completely and set aside until needed.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Sift to combine.
Cream together butter and sugar until light.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat on high until completely combined each time (about 15 seconds). Scrape down bowl. Beat on high for 20 seconds.
Add vanilla, and beat again for 15 seconds. Scrape down, then add flour mixture. Stir to combine, then beat on low for 15 seconds.
Add cooled date-tamarind mixture, and beat on medium speed for 20 seconds to combine. With rubber spatula, finish combining, then pour into prepared pan.
Bake in middle rack of pre-heated oven for 10 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool on rack 30-40 minutes before turning out to cool completely.
If using optional topping: Bake in middle rack of pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, then sprinkle chocolate and nuts over cake and return to oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool on rack 30-40 minutes, then place in fridge for at least 20 minutes to firm up (but not harden) chocolate before slicing.
If cake chills completely in fridge (so that chocolate hardens), leave out for 30 minutes before attempting to slice the cake, or the dark chocolate will be almost impossible to cut through, even with a serrated knife. I managed to mangle the first piece when I tried to saw through the chocolate topping when the cake was still cold. It may not be so difficult to cut the cake when it’s cold if you opt for milk chocolate or semi-sweet chips instead.