Rhubarb and date cake

The CCD?s (Caked Crusader?s Da) rhubarb plant has sprung into action just at the same time I came across this recipe. Nature really knows what it?s doing!

I?ve never seen rhubarb and dates partnered up before but it makes sense because the sweet, toffee quality of the dates act as a perfect natural sweetener for the acidic, fruity rhubarb. It works beautifully ? both the rhubarb and dates keep their flavour but they hit your palate at different times. I just can?t believe I?ve not seen the combination before.

The rhubarb and dates are cut into small chunks and stirred into the batter. Mr CC was in charge of this and did a lovely job ? he?s very careful in his chopping with the result being uniformly sized chunks. He did protest that the food processor could do it better but when he realised that argument wasn?t going to get him anywhere, he manned up and got chopping!

Garden rhubarb is not as sweet a forced rhubarb (the gloriously pink thin sticks that look like flamingo legs!) so I added a sugar topping to the cake to address this. I used this gorgeous sugar from The East India Company ? it?s a cane sugar from the island of Guadeloupe and I loved the delicate sweetness and crunchy texture; the large granules were perfect for a cake topping. It?s not cheap but the glass jar it comes in is sealed with an old fashioned wax seal ? undoing the jar made me feel like I was unpacking an exotic relic from the past!

When I first read the recipe I was concerned that the cake may be dry ? don?t worry about this; rhubarb releases so much juice as it cooks that the one thing this cake will never be is dry or stodgy! The texture of the cake is a spongy, light bread pudding ? it?s very moist, almost sticky but not dense.

I served the cake at room temperature with thick cream, but it would be divine warm with custard for dessert.

We?re enjoying amazingly sunny and bright spring weather at the moment; the temperature this weekend has been warmer than Istanbul. I love it when weather forecasters share this information ? the location they pick is always so utterly random and obviously chosen simply because it?s colder than us. Anyway, wherever we?re warmer than at the moment, I do like a cake dappled in sunshine ? it makes for such a cheery photo!

340g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
170g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge
230g caster sugar
450g rhubarb, chopped into small cubes
230g stoned dates, chopped into small pieces
2 eggs
120ml milk (either whole or semi skimmed)
Optional: extra sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
Line a 23cm round springform tin with baking paper.
Place the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
Cut the butter into cubes and rub it into the flour using your fingertips until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. You can also achieve the same result using a stand mixer or food processor.
Stir in the sugar.

Stir the chopped rhubarb and dates into the mixture.
Combine the eggs and milk in a jug and beat a little; stir into the cake mix until well combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
If using, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of sugar on the top of the cake.
Bake for approximately 1 - 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean ? best check on it after an hour. Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes.
Leave to cool on a wire rack until the tin is cool enough to safely handle.
Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely on the wire rack.
Serve in generous slices with thick cream.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.

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