There’s a group of dawn stalwarts that swim off Mooloolaba Beach all year round. They’re usually towelling down by the time we finish our walk and are heading back with our coffees. The other morning though someone brought in a cake to hand around and the scent of it wafted about in the early morning air.
‘Fruit loaf,’ Grant said.
‘Date loaf,’ I said.
‘Same thing,’ he said.
‘Is it though?’
A pause and then, ‘it’s been a while since you made one. I’d love a slice with my coffee.’
‘With heaps of butter,’ I added.
As these things go I couldn’t get the idea out of my head and, as luck would have it, I had all the required ingredients – even the dates and the walnuts – in the pantry.
Thanks to the mixed spices and ginger, this loaf smells even better than the one they were eating at the beach. It tastes mighty fine too – either on it’s own or with way too much (although really, is there such a thing?) butter. Plus, it’s easy to put together, can be mixed by hand in a saucepan, and fills your house with the scent of Christmas.
And for those of you who are interested in it, the vintage china used here is part of a set including a loaf tray and 6 little side plates. It’s by WH Grindley & Co Ltd and is in the Avignon pattern dating back to (I think) the 1950s.
What you need
- 225g caster sugar
- 50g butter
- 1 cup sultanas
- 1 cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 (heaped) tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped roughly
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 300g plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
What you do with it
Preheat the oven to 170C (fan). Grease and line a 23x14cm loaf tin, leaving a little overhang on the long edge to help you pull the loaf from the tin.
Into a large saucepan goes the butter, sugar, sultanas, dates, golden syrup and water. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Once the time is up, take it off the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
Stir the mixed spice, ginger, walnuts, vanilla and salt into the fruity buttery sugary slodge in the pan. Add the flour, buicarb and baking powder and mix until well combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared tin and bake for an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow it to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Boil the kettle, pop some tea leaves into a pot, slice the loaf and butter generously. Sit down, pour your tea and exhale.