Feb 27, 2011
I was not looking forward to making this cake. It looked like it was going to be cloyingly sweet, and I didn't think I'd ever be able to get rid of twelve pieces of way-too-sweet cake. But I ended up loving all the elements of the cake and could happily have eaten my way through the whole thing. If you too turned up your nose at this recipe and decided to pass it by, I implore you to give it a try.
This is the first time a can of stout has been in the mise en place. Jim was happy to have an excuse to buy an eight-pack of Guinness.
To my knowledge, this is the first time I've ever poured beer in a saucepan and brought it to the boil. I'm absolutely certain that it's the first time I've ever added baking soda to boiling beer. As you might expect, the mixture starts to fizz.
After the dates macerate (my favorite word from last week) in the hot beer for a while, they're supposed to be put in a food processor until mixed to a brown slurry. My food processor chose this moment to give up the ghost. I thought about getting out my immersion blender, but then decided that I'd rather have bits of dates in the cake anyway. So I just chopped the softened dates, and was glad I did--the little pieces of dates added to the textural interest of the cake.
The three eggs I broke into a bowl measured 142 grams. I didn't want to use another whole egg for eight measly grams, and I decided to call it good enough. Then I remembered that I still had a few of my darling quail eggs. (Don't worry folks; the sell-by date is not until March 2). One petite quail egg put me six grams over, so I scooped out a spoonful. There. 150 grams on the dot.
I expect that the cake would have been slightly darker if I'd succeeded in pureeing the dates, but I like the date-studded looks of it. The batter didn't fill the pan one-third full. I looked through the ingredients to see if nothing was missing, but everything was accounted for.
While the cake was baking, I made the toffee sauce. Jim watched me mix the butter and brown sugar, and said, "That looks awfully rich." He sounded as doubtful as I felt. I said, "Wait until I add the cream." But I also added two tablespoons of lemon juice. The lemon juice was an addition of pure genius; its tartness cut the sugary sweetness of the sauce into something quite palatable. Downright delicious, in fact.
Time to remove the cake from the pan. I was worried about this step because the pan-preparation directions had nothing about spraying the parchment paper or the sides of the pan. I'd been fretting about that ever since I noticed. I considered just spraying the pan, but then I remembered my baking mantra: "Rose has her reasons."
Indeed, the cake emerged from the pan with nary a mishap. It still looked thinner than I thought it should.
When I cut into it, though, I decided that the crumb looked okay. Too late, I remembered the cake-testing sheets that Woody had left at my house, and I didn't measure the cake's height. Sorry, Woody. Someday I may be more scientific in my approach.
I can't resist another picture of the finished product. The effect on guests of cutting the cake, spooning the luscious toffee sauce over, dolloping the creme fraiche, and topping with toasted pecans is quite amazing. People are so impressed, and think you did so much more work than you actually did. Both the cake and the sauce are easy to mix up (the sauce, unlike a traditional caramel sauce, does not require taking its temperature); the creme fraiche is just taken out of its carton and whisked, and the pecans simply toasted and chopped. But when you put it all together, it looks like you're a kitchen ace. And all so good! The date-spice cake could be eaten out of hand, and the toffee sauce is amazing. The creme fraiche, along with the miraculous lemon juice, adds a little tartness, and the pecans make it perfect.
Pat: "Wow. This is delicious. This is really good."
Myra: "Mmmm. I love this cake."
Jim: "This is wonderful. It has a variety of nice flavors--delicious. One of my favorites so far."
Posted by Marie at 5:15 PM