It’s been quite a wet and windy week over here. While the Western world is somewhere in the middle of summer frolic, we are stranded (pun intended) in our rainy season…monsoon rains, buffeting winds, floods, wonky internet, and the occasional power outage. I swear next year I’ll be buying myself some cute rain boots instead of stubbornly amassing flip flops and sandals all year long. It may seem, to me at least, counter-intuitive to buy rubber boots when, for most of the year, you are in varying states of melting, but any rainy morning at the market (with feet totally soaked) will tell you otherwise.
The rainy season’s gray clouds do have their silver lining though: cozying up to a bowl of steaming tinola, sinigang, or bulalo…not having to deal (so much) with the heat…the electricity bill going down (!!)…snuggles under the duvet…hot chocolate…
It’s also the most comfortable season in our tropical year for baking. Not that we don’t bake at any other time. Just that, with the rain pouring outside, cooling down my city’s steamy pavements, a warm oven actually seems, for once, halfway inviting.
And, of course, baking has the added bonus of creating an end-product that adds brightness to otherwise dreary days. Especially when combined with rum and caramel.
Rum and Date Cake with Caramel Sauce
(from Donna Hay magazine issue # 62)
- 1 1/2 cups (210 grams) dates, chopped
- 1/2 cup (90 grams) prunes, chopped
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) raisins
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) boiling water
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) rum
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted
- 1 1/2 cups (225 grams) self-rising flour**, sifted
- 1 1/3 cups (235 grams) brown sugar
- 225 grams butter, melted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 eggs
- 100 grams butter
- 3/4 cup (135 grams) brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (175 grams) golden syrup***
- 1 cup (250 ml) single cream
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) rum
- Place the dates, prunes, raisins, boiling water, rum, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and leave for about 10 minutes. Process the mixture until smooth. Resist the urge to spoon a splodge of it into a shot glass to top with more rum and turn into the most indecent dessert/cocktail/shooter ever. Set aside.
- Place the flour and sugar in a bowl and mix to combine. To this add the butter, vanilla, eggs, and the date/rum mixture. Mix well to combine.
- Pour the batter into a well greased bundt pan (3.5 liter capacity) and bake in a pre-heated 160C (325F) oven for 55-60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- While your cake is baking you can make the caramel sauce. Place the butter, sugar, syrup, cream, and rum in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until thickened.
- Allow both the cake and sauce to cool completely before pouring the sauce over the cake. I like to pour some sauce on the cake and save some to serve alongside it.
I knew I had to make this cake the moment I saw it gracing the cover of Donna Hay magazine’s April/May 2012 Autumn issue (bit of trivia: autumn and winter are usually my favorite issues for all food magazines). It was dark and beguiling, and involved dates and prunes and rum. And caramel. And a bundt pan (I so had been wanting to use that bundt pan!). Before I tell you that I and my not-too-hot-about-cakes husband loved it, I need to let you know that the making of it did not go totally without a hitch. The cake stuck to the pan (despite my having greased it generously as the recipe instructed) and the caramel split.
What, me panic?
I gently (gently!) extricated the cake parts stuck at the bottom of the pan and patched them onto the top of the bundt, fitting each part as precisely as I could. The split caramel took a bit more elbow grease. After extensive research telling me that split caramel which was already finished cooking had no hope of being remedied I decided to take matters into my own hands. I was not giving up and I was not throwing a batch of perfectly tasty caramel out. I let the caramel sit and split completely, which is to say I let all the butter that had split float to the top. I then skimmed that all off. Then I placed the remaining caramel in a metal bowl, and placed the metal bowl into another bowl filled with ice water. Finally, I took a whisk in my hand and beat the living daylights out of it. Before I knew it, the caramel was smooth and creamy again. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Just so you know.
Was it worth it? Every second. The cake was incredibly moist, as only a cake packed with rum-soaked-then-blitzed dates, prunes, and raisins can be. It was tender and damp, with a deep, dark, vaguely adult flavor. Smother a slice with the rum-infused caramel and you go up the audacity ladder more than a few notches.
Just as you should never let a little rain and the lack of rain boots stop you from going to the market, you should never allow such trivialities like cake sticking to your pan (fie on you faithless bundt pan!) or split caramel stop you from enjoying something delicious.
**I have no clue where to find self-rising flour in Manila, nor have I ever had any need for it. I just use this formula: for each cup of all purpose flour, add 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt.
***Tragically, golden syrup is not available anywhere on my islands. I used a mixture of corn syrup and honey and it worked fine.