A sticky, tender date cake studded with tangy feijoas and finished with a caramelised coconut topping. Click here to jump straight to the recipe.
You might have guessed from the rolling sets of ocean waves and far-too-green, far-too-hilly terrain on my instagram last weekend that I did not spend Easter in Melbourne. The family holiday in New Zealand was far more tempting. The boys worked up appetites chasing the surf, while we made a daily climb up Mt Maunganui before returning for my new favourite porridge and home-roasted coffee. Yes, Dad is crazy enough about his brew that he not only roasts his own green beans, but brings his grinder and espresso machine away with us – it’s why, along with the multiple surf boards, mountain bikes and my far less space-consuming baking equipment, we generally need a trailer. We ate salted caramel & banana crumpets at the Little Big Markets, made double batches of warmly spiced hot cross buns – generously smeared with melting butter, and I reluctantly spend afternoons catching up on university notes. We biked to the supermarket, where I remembered how in beach-town NZ everyone shops in jandals or bare feet, and borrowed electric hand beaters from friends because I refused to cream my butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, as Mum suggested.
I also managed to eat my weight in feijoas – a fruit that is eaten like a kiwi, cut in half and innards scooped with a teaspoon, yet tastes a little like a tangy guava mixed with a pineapple. Heralding the arrival of autumn in New Zealand, they fall to the ground in a deluge from suburban trees and are gifted by the bag to neighbours and friends. I didn’t appreciate them enough before moving to Melbourne, where only small, sad and overripe versions are sold at extortionate prices by gourmet fruit shops. So amid the delight over feijoas, I made a sticky date, coconut & feijoa lumberjack cake – the one that necessitated the electric beater.
It’s what I call an ugly duckling recipe. As much as I tried, it was never going to be pretty. But to be honest, I’d take a warm slice with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and maybe a drizzle of butterscotch sauce over a beautiful yet almost sickly frosted layer cake any day. Hands down, it’s one of my top few cakes ever, despite its looks. Sticky, almost gooey medjool dates caramelise in the oven with shredded coconut, punctuated by tangy, soft chunks of feijoa. You take the cake out half way through baking to add the crunchy, toffee-like coconut topping, which gently melds into cake’s surface.
The first time I tried it as a loaf cake – it worked, but took a little long to bake and sunk slightly in the centre. The second time, back in Melbourne following a frustrating hunt for those feijoas, I tried it square. Better, but getting ready for a picnic meant I cut into it far too eagerly and early – hence the haphazard, crumbly slices you see. If you were a little more patient than me, cutting it wouldn’t be such a task. It doesn’t necessarily need ice cream, but with it would be a perfect autumnal dessert.
- If you can’t find feijoas in your part of the world, it’s still lovely with diced pear.
- You can use 20cm square baking tin, a 22cm round tin, or a large loaf tin.
- Make sure to let it cool before cutting – makes it much easier!
A sticky, tender date cake studded with tangy feijoas and finished with a caramelised coconut topping. The cake is baked for 30 minutes, then the coconut topping added before baking a further 30 minutes. You can use a 20cm square or 22cm round cake tin.
Replace the feijoa with ripe diced pear if they are unavailable.
Adapted from Frances - a restaurant in San Francisco.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup medjool dates , pitted and halved (this was 10-11 dates for me)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 130 g butter (4.5 ounces / 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups plain flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup peeled and diced feijoa
- 1 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
- 50 g butter
Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease and line a 20cm square or 22cm round baking tin.
In a small pot over medium heat, combine the medjool dates and water. Bring to the boil. Add the baking soda and use a fork to whisk to combine. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Using the fork, mix and slightly mash the dates a couple of times as they cool until you have a slightly chunky brown date paste.
Meanwhile, cream the butter and both sugars until pale and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to fully combine.
Add the date paste to the creamed mixture and stir until combined.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt and coconut and fold until just combined.
Add the feijoa chunks and gently fold through.
Bake for 30 minutes. While cooking, make the coconut topping: combine all ingredients in a small pot over a low heat until melted together.
When the cake has baked for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and gently spoon over the coconut topping, spreading out in an even layer.
Return to the oven for a further 25-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the centre is no longer jiggly.
Leave to cool for a minimum of 2 hours.
Serve alone or with ice cream or mascarpone for dessert.