Cake is in the air. If ever there was a weekend for cake, this is it. I’m writing this post indoors wearing my thickest fleece jacket and a wool hat. Yesterday’s snow lingers; my daffodils huddle by the sap shed, still waiting to blossom. It’s May 10th.
“Where there is cake, there is hope, and there is always cake,” quoted Maple Trout Lilli back in March. Where there is cake, there is also celebration: Here at Nebraska Knoll the forty-cord woodshed that was nearly empty on April 5th is now stacked to the brim. Congratulations, crew!
On crew this season was Matt Hiebsch, a chef with broad culinary experience in New York and Philadelphia restaurants who now caters in Stowe. When I asked him to submit a favorite recipe for the blog, sweet or savory, he chose cake. It’s a recipe worthy of The Great British Baking Show. (By the way, why do everyday American bakers measure by volume when measuring by weight is so much more precise? It’s a mystery. It turns out I own a baking scale – in its box, never used. There’s no time like the present.)
Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake
550 g-Medjool dates, whole
9 g-Baking soda
5 g-Vanilla bean, from about 9 small or 5 medium pods (optional)
260 g-Room-temperature butter, divided, plus more to grease pan
180 g-Sugar, granulated
4-Eggs, large, about 225 g
38 g-Baking powder
270 g-Cake flour (bleached), plus more to dust the pan
225 g-Maple Syrup (Grade A Dark Robust recommended)
100 g-Heavy whipping cream
-Flaky sea salt, as needed
-Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F
-Use a paring knife to pit the dates. (You’ll end up with about 500 g.)
-Combine the dates with water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and allow it to boil away for one minute. Stir in the baking soda. After 15 seconds, remove the pan from heat. The mixture will foam, turn green, then turn dark.
-Blend the dates and water with an immersion blender until the mixture has a consistency like applesauce.
-Allow the mixture to cool to about 120 °F / 49 °C. (Keep it hotter if you like your cake with a fudgy, gelatinous texture.)
-If you’re using vanilla, gently halve the vanilla pods with a knife and use the edge to gently scrape out the beans. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla beans in a stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, set the mixer to low, then gradually increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the ingredients are incorporated and take on a thick texture.
-Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each one is incorporated before adding the next and stopping once or twice to scrape down the inside of the bowl with a spatula. The resulting mixture will be a bit lumpy.
-Mix in the cooled date purée on medium speed.
-Whisk the baking powder and cake flour together in a medium mixing bowl and, with the stand mixer on medium, use a serving spoon to add them to the date mixture until the batter has an airy, almost gelatinous texture.
-Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom of the springform pan. Grease the springform pan with butter. Set the parchment inside the pan, butter the paper, flour the whole thing, then invert the pan and tap out the excess flour.
-Pour the date mixture into the springform pan, leaving the top third of the pan empty. (You may end up with a bit of extra batter.) Set it in the oven on the middle rack. You’ll be letting it bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.
-While the cake is in the oven, combine the maple syrup, remaining butter, and whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter and sugar have melted, allow them to boil for 30 seconds. Drop the heat to low, stir in the whiskey, and cover the pan until the cake is ready.
-Pour the Mixture over the cake when ready and let stand for at least 2 hour
Serve with Whipped Cream or Ice Cream. Orange segments and chopped hazelnuts also work well.