There are many interpretations or misconceptions when it comes to coffee cake, depending on where in the world you are. The term coffee cake is often used to describe a cake that is enjoyed when drinking coffee beverages, a tradition which dates back to 17th century Europe.
Northern & central Europe were already known for their sweet yeasted breads & cakes but with the introduction of coffee to the continent, the idea to combine the enjoyment of the two together was born. It was widely known that their yeasted breads & cakes were a great compliment to this blackened beverage.
For me though, a coffee cake isn’t simply a cake that accompanies a coffee (I can do that with any cake, plus we have Rich Tea biscuits for that purpose) but it should be coffee flavoured, delivering that all important caffeine punch with every bite.
I think that both coffee lovers & haters can unite in finding a place in their hearts for a slice of a good flavourful, moist coffee cake. However, this can be challenging, most offerings in coffee shops & the like are often a dry, mediocre sponge which lacks enough of that all important flavour that can only come from those punchy beans.
By nature, a coffee cake should never be dry but its always dangerous territory adding too much liquid to a cake. I’m sure we’re all guilty of not adding enough of these liquid flavourings, leaving us with a flavourless sponge or even worse, over baking your cake, just to be sure (if you haven’t, you’re lying), leaving us with nothing but a dry, slightly burnt sponge which tastes more of burnt sugar than whatever flavour it is you were trying to achieve.
So how do I add that all important moisture without overcomplicating the beautiful simplicity of a classic cake, or worse, overpowering its primary flavour? My secret weapon? Dates! It’s the secret ingredient to all of those sticky, moist cakes of your childhood dreams. They not only add a moist, dense quality but they even help to prolong your cakes life. Acting as natural preservative, this cake last very well in a cake tin or airtight container, meaning that you’ll be able to enjoy your cake for a little but longer (if it even lasts that long).
The subtle toffee-like sweetness from the dates works very well with the coffee in this cake, thrown in a little spice which add an extra dimension to what is otherwise a very simple cake. It’s a moist, rich sponge with a well rounded flavour that isn’t overly sweet but packs a punch.
COFFEE DATE CAKE
(makes one 23cm round cake or an 18cm bundt tin)
- 150g pitted dates
- 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
- 100 ml water
- 200g butter
- 175g light muscovado sugar
- 4 eggs
- 140g self-raising flour
- 100g ground almonds
- 1 tsp mixed spice
For the icing:
- 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
- 1 1/2 tbsp water
- 200-300g icing sugar
- Grease and line a round 23cm baking tin or an 18cm bundt tin with baking parchment or bundt tin
- Place the dates in a saucepan large enough to spread them out
- Add in the ground coffee & pour over enough water just to cover them
- Boil the dates for 5 minutes until softened
- Once softened, either place the mixture in a blender or use a hand blender to blitz the mixture to a paste consistency
- In a large bowl beat together the butter & sugar
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl & beat until just combined
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin & bake at 180C for 40 minutes
- Leave the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before removing & allowing to cool fully on a cooling rack
- Once cooled prepare the icing but dissolving the coffee granules in the water before adding in enough of the icing sugar to make a pourable icing
- Drizzle or pour the icing over the top of the cake