At a farmers’ market or at The Waiting Room, I sell a large variety of cakes and bakes and customers will all be drawn to different cakes for a variety of reasons. Some might choose the sponges because they remind them of cakes their grandma used to make, some love brownies for the intense chocolate hit and some might prefer the richness provided by a fruit cake. More and more customers are now looking for cakes that can match their lifestyle choices and health cares, be it to follow a plant based diet or avoid ingredients like gluten or sugar. As a baker who takes their influences from around the world, sometimes my bakes are accidentally free of those ingredients and my philosophy is to happily create foods to tick these boxes as long as the taste is not compromised. A Passover cake made from ground almonds is gluten free and a slice of cashew burfi can easily be made into a vegan sweet treat.
Here I have a cake that is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, vegan and with no added sugar. Does it taste like cardboard? No, it’s a deliciously rich, flavoursome loaf cake. Oh and it’s not entirely saintly, as it does incorporate a splash (or three) of rum.
The date and rum banana loaf is a joy, easy to make and a pleasure to eat. Its only downside is it’s not the cheapest cake but worth every penny if you, or any of you’re nearest and dearest are frequently deprived of the joy of cake, due to dietary restrictions. It’s also a flexible kind of cake. You could swap some of the raisins for cranberries or chopped dried apricots or swap the walnuts for pecans. You can serve it plain and unadorned but if you want to dress it up, add a frosting made from date syrup and coconut oil and top with walnuts and dried banana chips.
Here’s the recipe.
DATE AND RUM BANANA LOAF
25Og pitted dates
2 bananas (about 160g in weight)
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
100g fine polenta
2 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp rum
3 tbsp Coconut oil
180 ml date syrup
Heat oven to 180c /fan 160c/gas mark 4. Line a 2lb loaf tin with a liner or lightly greased parchment paper.
Grind chia seeds with a pestle or mortar or in a spice grinder or food processor. Place in a small bowl and 6 tbsps of water. Stir and then leave in fridge for 15 minutes.
Put dates into a small saucepan with 200ml boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain liquid into a jug and then whizz dates with bananas and 100ml of date liquid until smooth.
Mix the polenta, chopped walnuts, dried fruit, mixed spice and baking powder in a bowl, then fold in the date puree, rum and chia seed mixture.
Put the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 1 hour until golden. Do keep an eye out that it doesn’t catch and darken too much. To check the cake is cooked through, insert a skewer and it should come out free of crumbs.
To make the frosting, gently warm the coconut oil in a pan and then stir in date syrup.