date and pecan loaf cut

Date loaf, or sometimes sultana loaf, is a classic Australian (originally Scottish) tea cake. The sort of thing you slice and serve with butter as it’s not terribly rich. It’s associated in my mind with the tea tent at the local show, alongside the scones and shortbread, and to be honest, I’ve never been particularly keen, even though I am quite a fan of the similarly simple rock cakes (which I will post when I find the perfect recipe, as for some reason none of them live up to the recipe we made in domestic science in year 8!)

It will surprise you not a bit to know that this is not that date loaf…well, it’s sort of that date loaf, but with more butter, more dates, and topped with a golden syrup and pecan caramel. At the same time, it’s still a very simple melt and mix batter made with common pantry ingredients; with the flexibility that you could just as easily have a slice with ice cream for dessert, as enjoy with a classic afternoon cuppa.

gently spread cake batter over pecans

I’m afraid I got the recipe as a now faded photocopy from a long ago flatmate, so I can’t attribute it, but it’s fabulous, so give it a try!

cool in tin for a few minutes before turning onto rack
turned out cake on rack

Date and pecan caramel loaf

  • 185g pitted dates
  • 125ml water
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp bicarb soda
  • extra 60g butter
  • extra 2 Tbs (35g) brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs (30g) golden syrup
  • 100g pecans
  • 2 eggs
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Line a 21 x 14cm (9 x 5″) loaf tin with baking paper. Combine dates, water, butter and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for eight minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick, until dates are soft and falling apart. Remove from heat, and cool for a few minutes until it has stopped bubbling. Add bicarb soda, noting the mixture will foam, and stir thoroughly. Put aside and allow to cool completely.

Set oven to 160C. While the date mixture cools, cream extra butter, sugar and syrup thoroughly. Spread over the base of the lined tin, and sprinkle with chopped pecans, pressing lightly into the butter.

If the saucepan is big enough, beat eggs into date mixture (otherwise scrape into a medium mixing bowl first). Add flours and cinnamon, and stir until just combined. Gently spread batter over the butter and pecans, and smooth the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a rack for a few minutes before turning out of the tin to cool completely. If any of the pecan caramel sticks in the tin, just scrape out and pop back on the loaf.

Serves 8-12