Thursday, 21 June 2012

Cranks date & walnut loaf

adorned with honeyed yoghurt and fruit salad
Cranks was the first vegetarian restaurant in London, on Carnaby Street in 1961. I used to go to the one next to the Craftsman Potters shop, with my mum in the 70s, getting the full strength 70s dose of varnished pine, wholemeal everything and salt glazed earthenware. The food was laid out under the heating lamps you now mostly only see in motorway service stations. But then I don’t go to hotels much, or all-you-can-eat buffets. Oh, and they had a salad bar. It was jolly tasty stuff, and introduced me to the joys of red cabbage coleslaw. Now, in a moment of clarity, I have purchased the Cranks Recipe book via the estimable ebay. It is a gem.

I love a walnut loaf, and, to revisit an old subject, I have eggs to use, thanks to our very own chickens. So I gave the Date and Walnut loaf a try. I’ve just eaten the last slice. I wrapped it up and let it sit for three days before tasting it, or, if you want the truth, I hid it. Cake doesn’t last long around here, and I wanted to see what it was like when it sat for a while. The answer is: delicious.

three trying to lay at once
This cake is made entirely with wholemeal ingredients, and although the name is date and walnut loaf, it tastes wonderfully of orange. I can’t recommend it enough. Some of the walnuts are included in the mix, and some are scattered on top. You get a lovely orangey crumb, with bits of fudgey date the occasional crunch walnut fragment inside the cake and lovely toasty walnut on top. The Cranks recipe recommends it with butter, but for me it is heaven without accompanied by a nice strong cup of tea.

You’ll see that the ingredients are all based around the 3 eggs,  50g of fat, per egg and the same of dates and sugar 100g of flour and 25g of walnuts. So if you want to make a teeny loaf just add that to a third of the juice and zest of an orange. Or make a very very orangey version.

I use an electric whisk.

Recipe: Date and Walnut loaf
Set oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3
Line a 500g/1lb loaf tin

·         150g/5oz Butter or Margarine
·         150g/5ozDark brown sugar (muscovado)
·         3 Eggs, beaten
·         1 Small orange, grated rind and juice
·         150g/50z Dates, chopped and stoned
·         75g/3oz Walnuts, chopped
·         300g/10oz Wholemeal  self-raising flour

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy
Beat in the eggs one by one, then stir in the orange rind
Fold in the dates, and half the walnuts and the flour
Add the orange juice last
Spoon the mixture out of into a lined 900g/1lb loaf tin
Level the surface of the mixture and scatter the rest of the walnuts over the top
Bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours, until risen and golden brown in a coolish oven 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3

If you can, leave for a few days before eating

Sunday, 17 June 2012

how to use thirteen eggs

despite a coffee spillage, still looks good
The chickens have been laying very well, four eggs a day since the days started getting longer. One day it was five, however the next day only three, so that balanced out. Despite a soft shell issue, which means two eggs have been lost this week, that still makes a hell of a lot of eggs. 7x4=28 after all. So, 26 eggs in one week. I haven't managed to flog any (didn't really try), so today saw me baking. Carrot cake which needs 3 eggs, tart a l'oignon also three, plus two for the pastry, and tortilla which used five. Here are some pics.

If I fill the pan full it takes ten eggs and at least eight potatoes, and then I can't turn the tortilla over, as it's too heavy.
slightly low, but I can't lift the pan if I fill it full

carrot cake, with a hole from which a walnut got nibbled
I used a long loaf tin for the carrot cake. It would have been better to leave it to sit for a day.....


Traditional sponge cake is light and fluffy, with a fine texture, small bubbles. Tales abound about the best method to get the right result. Fillings in WI style versions include jam, or jam and cream. I recently savoured a family version made by Layla which had chocolate buttercream as well as cream teamed with strawberries in the sandwich, with cream and strawberries on top, together with shavings of white chocolate. That was very acceptable... I'll check if she took any pix before the ravening hoards disposed of it.

Cake-meets-trifle is a lemon sponge sandwich, filled with raspberry jam, whipped cream and strawberries. I sometimes use raspberries inside too, but they are very juicy and squash easily. The lemon sponge has lemon zest and lemon juice in it, which gives a wonderful tang that contrasts wonderfully with the soft and sweet filling. Sometimes I just dust the top with icing sugar, and sometimes I put more cream on top with some more fruit. If the cake is chilled it holds together better when it is cut. All in all, this is my most requested cake.

The original recipe I used was an all in one sponge, ideal for a food processor. I don't use one at the moment, so I have gone back to following the traditional approach, creaming the butter and sugar together, then adding the eggs and beating them in one by one, followed by the flour. I used self-raising flour, and add a little more baking powder to add a bit more lift. The zest is added to the butter, and the lemon juice is added right at the end.


zest of 1 lemon
200g  sr flour
200g fat (butter or margarine)
200g sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
juice of 1 lemon

raspberry jam
double or whipping cream
punnet of strawberries


Heat oven to 160 degrees

grease and line 2x8" cake tins 
  • cream sugar and fat with zest
  • add eggs blending one by one (add spoonful of flour if mixture splits)
  • add sifted sr flour blend, adding lemon juice as you go
  • spoon mixture dividing evenly between two lined tins 
  • bake for 20m and check by inserting a skewer, cake is ready when skewer comes out cleanly and the cake is drawing away from the sides
  • whip cream, cut strawberries in half, removing leaves
  • when the cakes are cool, remove from tin, peel off lining paper, spread jam over base sponge, spoon cream on and lay cut strawberries on top, lay top sponge on top
  • sprinkle with icing sugar if you fancy it
this quantity makes a good size cake, if you want a monster cake use 8" tins and double the quantities