My mom never really cooked desserts. She evidently didn’t have the sweet tooth that both my dad and I had developed. My own addiction to sugar began when I was living with my grandparents in Pakistan, just under the age of 3. I refused the traditional food of rice and chicken (a habit that has carried over to my adulthood) and as I became more and more stubborn they became more and more worried. So, when I took a liking to gulab jamman, which is a sweet South Asian dish filled with sugary goodness, they naturally fed me spoonfuls. And that is how a hypoglycemic was born. (Well I guess genetics played a role too).
The rare times my mother did bake, however, were when we had dinner parties at our house. She used our natural resources of dates to make a cake - and added caramel sauce on top. My mother had learned the recipe when we lived Australia and found an award winning recipe in the Australian Woman’s Weekly. We only had those cakes during rare times, so when I stumbled across a recipe a few days ago, I glanced at the aging dates already present in my fridge and hesitated no further.
It’s definitely not the same cake my mom makes - not even close. I have tried to replicate the recipe but just can’t get it right. They say chemistry labs are easy - you have to follow the instructions as if you are baking a cake. No wonder I suffer in lab classes - I never learned how to bake to begin with.
The truth is, no matter how many times you try to recreate the past, you’ll never be able to quite grasp it. That’s why we have to create strong memories: they literally need to last us a lifetime.
- 250g pitted dates, chopped
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 125g butter, softened
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 300ml thickened cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 60g butter, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a pan.
Bring the water to a boil and place the dates in the water. Remove dates from water when tender and add bicarbonate soda. Let stand for five minutes.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Mix the date mixture and flour together in a separate bowl. Then combine the two mixtures to form cake batter.
Spoon mixture into cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
Make caramel sauce: Combine sugar, cream, vanilla and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until boiling. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour warm sauce over warm cake. Cut into wedges. Serve.