This is a moist, orangey cake that is studded with dates. It is a cake you want to eat when you are tired of another run of the mill cake. No unnecessary embellishments here. No cream. No frosting. What you see is what you get and it is very good. The only exception I make when it suits me, is to dust some icing sugar.

I was given a lovely Le Creuset tagine one Christmas. There was a recipe for this cake in the little recipe booklet that came with it. I have adapted that recipe. After baking 5 cakes, I now have a lighter, higher rising and more moist cake that I prefer. What of the tagine? It is hibernating in the kitchen cupboard. At some point in time I will retry cooking my stews in the tagine. Not as easy as you might think. I do better with my pot over the stove. It is a beautiful looking tagine though.

This is a relatively fool proof cake to bake. As it tastes even better the next day, this is a good ‘make it ahead’ cake.

Moroccan Inspired Dates And Orange Cake

Prep: 30 minutes 
Cook: 45 minutes
Inactive: 2 hours to overnight
Level: Moderately easy
Serves: ~10 – 12
Oven Temperature: 360F (180C) Rack adjusted to lower middle shelf
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Definitely. Keeps well refrigerated up to 5 days tightly wrapped. Let it come to room temperature before eating.

Ingredients

Cake batter
7.93 oz (225g) 1 cup unsalted butter
7.93 oz (225g) 1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup lightly beaten eggs (about 3 large size)
2 large oranges to get 2 Tablespoons orange zest and
all the orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons yogurt*
2 cups (9oz) (250g) all-purpose/plain flour
2 and 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt**
7oz (200g) dates (weight before being pitted)
1/2 Tablespoon all-purpose/plain flour for dusting dates
1/2 Tablespoons flaked almonds (optional)
The orange syrup
~ 5 – 8 Tablespoons icing sugar
~ 5 – 8 Tablespoons orange juice (strained of pulp and seeds from the 2 oranges)***
Scroll down to ‘Tips’ for suggestions to use up any excess yogurt.
** Reduce to 1/4 teaspoon if you are using salted butter.
*** If you have less than 8 Tablespoons of orange juice (from the 2 oranges), don’t worry. Use whatever amount of orange juice you have and add the equivalent of icing sugar to make the orange syrup. If you have more than 8 Tablespoons of orange juice, reserve the excess. You might need it to make more syrup should you want your cake more moist.  

Method

Prep work
1. Turn on the oven to 360F (180C) and adjust the oven rack to lower middle shelf.
2. Before starting, all your ingredients should be at room temperature.
3. To bake this cake, I use my 10.5″ (26.67cm) X 5″ (12.7cm) X 5.5″ (13.97cm) Pullman loaf pan (without the sliding lid). This is a larger size loaf pan. Butter, flour and line the loaf pan with parchment paper with an overhang to help lift the cake out from pan. Refer to the image below of the baked cake in loaf pan. If you are using a different sized baking loaf or a cake pan, adjust the baking times accordingly.
4. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
5. Dust the 1/2 Tablespoon flour over the pitted dates and toss to coat completely. Set aside.
6. Zest oranges for 2 Tablespoons worth of zest. Squeeze oranges for juice. Strain the juice. Set aside.

Cream butter & sugar
1. Attach whisk attachment to the beater shaft of your mixer.
2. With machine at medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until light and creamy. Stop machine, with a spatula, scrape bottom and sides of mixer bowl to ensure even mixing. Mix another 1 minute. At this point, your batter should leave a ribbon trail when you lift your whisk up. All this should take you about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add eggs
1. With machine at medium speed, add 1/4 cup of the eggs and beat 1 minute.  Stop the machine, lift whisk and scrape bottom and sides of bowl to quickly and evenly incorporate batter.
2. Turn the machine back on to medium speed. Add the next 1/4 cup of eggs and repeat process. Do the same for the last 1/4 cup of eggs.
3. After the final scraping of the bottom and sides of the mixer bowl, turn the machine back on to medium high speed and let it run for 1 additional minute to totally incorporate eggs.

Add yogurt, vanilla, orange juice & zest
1. With the machine running on medium speed, add the yogurt, vanilla extract, orange zest, and 2 Tablespoons orange juice. Mix about 2 minutes. Stop machine, scrape and incorporate again. Remove mixer bowl.

Fold in flour
1. Using a long and wide metal spoon or spatula, fold in flour in 3 intervals. This usually takes me 1 minute. Flour has to be almost but not completely incorporated into batter before you add in the next batch of flour.

Incorporating flour the first time. Flour clearly visible on batter.

Incorporating flour the second time. A little less flour visible on batter.

Incorporating flour the third time. Almost no flour is visible on batter but there will be flour on the sides of the bowl.

Transfer batter & bake
1. Distribute 2/3 of the cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. Stud them with the dusted pitted dates.

2. Cover with the remaining 1/3 cake batter. Even out the top. If you want to add the flaked almonds, sprinkle the 1/2 Tablespoon of flaked almonds down the middle length of the cake. Do not be tempted to add more as it will weigh down the cake and the cake might cave in the middle. Bake at 360F (180C) for 45 minutes.


3. To test if cake is done, insert a skewer. If it comes out clean, it is done. If not bake another 5 minutes and retest. Remove to a cooling rack and let it cool before removing.


The orange syrup
1. Measure out in Tablespoons, the volume of orange juice (strained) you have on hand.
2. Measure out the same amount of icing sugar and mix it into the orange juice. Stir to dissolve. Set aside.

Drizzling the orange syrup
1. When the cake has cooled enough, tear off an arm length worth of plastic wrap and set it on your work surface.
2. Use the overhang of the parchment paper to lift the cake out from the loaf pan and back on to the cooking rack.
3. Remove parchment paper and set the cake in the centre of the plastic wrap.
4. Drizzle some of the orange syrup over the entire top surface of the cake. Once the syrup has soaked in from the top, repeat the same process for the side lengths of the cake.
5. Fold the plastic wrap over the cake and use more plastic wrap to secure it snugly. Leave it to soak for 2 hours or overnight before slicing.
6. This cake taste best at room temperature.

Tips

This is an excellent cake to make ahead
After a few days of keeping, you might want to add a bit more orange syrup. It really depends on how moist you would like the cake. Reseal tightly with plastic wrap and I always keep mine refrigerated.

This cake went to a party
This is a fuss free way to take a cake to a party. You save on a cake box, a cake board, and instead of hunting for an appropriate serving plate at your guest’s home, take your own there. As I wanted to dust the cake with icing sugar, I bagged my own and incorporate it in with the twine. At a busy party, save your host and yourself the hassle and bring everything you need to serve the cake.

What to do with the excess yogurt?

1. Use it to make these sturdy and soft buns. Substitute the milk in that recipe with yogurt. The recipe is found in my Hamburger Buns, Savoury Buns post. It will have the same texture and will have an almost indiscernible tang from the yogurt. These buns go very well with anything sandwiched in between them.

Sweet Yogurt Drink, Sweet Lassi

A simple and wonderful way to use up yogurt. This Sweet Lassi is a thirst quencher that I sometimes order at Indian restaurants and especially when I am eating something particularly spicy! No real recipe needed here. Just a ratio.2/3 yogurt to 1/3 iced water. 1 Tablespoon of sugar to every 1/3 cup of yogurt or just add sugar to taste. I had 2/3 cup of yogurt left.  So my recipe was:
2/3 cup yogurt
1/3 cup iced water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence (that’s my own addition – I like vanilla!)
Top up glass with 1/4 cup of ice cubes

Very refreshing and what a treat! For lassi recipe that’s flavoured, here’s the link.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

I call this Salmon On Rice. Not a very creative name I know but what it lacks in name, it more than makes up for in taste and visual prettiness. And because it is steamed with not a drop of oil, it is so healthy! A welcome change from all the heavy eating over the recent festive period.                                              

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