The joy of cake-baking is that it is simultaneously selfish and generous. Selfish in that a cake can be finely tuned to your exact preferences to create your perfect flavour, texture and appearance; and generous in that, by their very nature, all cakes are best when shared (unless your name is Bruce Bogtrotter). Today’s recipe happens to be my perfect slice. It’s packed full of my favourite sweet ingredients: dates, dark chocolate, coffee and cardamom, built on a base of bananas for density, and topped with ganache and flowers just for fun.
Chocolate, date and coffee cake
Pour the ganache over the cake while it’s on a wire rack for a clean look; or, for a more natural style, put it on a plate and let the ganache run down the sides. Or skip the ganache entirely, and turn this into more of a morning or afternoon cake.
Prep 35 min
Cook 1 hr 10 min
Rapeseed oil, for greasing
1 tbsp milled flax seeds
4½ tbsp ground coffee
2 tbsp dark brown soft sugar, plus 50g extra
250g chopped dates
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g ripe banana flesh (roughly 3 medium bananas), mashed
80ml extra-virgin rapeseed oil
2 x 100g bars 70% cocoa vegan dark chocolate
140g plain flour
1 pinch sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
2½ tbsp cocoa powder
1½ tsp ground cardamom
1 handful mixed dried edible flowers such as roses or cornflowers (I get mine from Maddocks Farm), to decorate
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Grease an 20cm springform cake tin with rapeseed oil, then line the base with baking paper.
In a small bowl, soak the flax seeds in three tablespoons of water. Put the coffee in a jug, cover with 220ml just-boiled water, mix, strain (you should get about 200ml coffee) and stir in two tablespoons of sugar.
Put the dates in a saucepan, cover with 250ml just-boiled water, then cook on medium heat, stirring often, until the water is absorbed and the dates disintegrate into a paste – eight to 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the bicarb (it will fizz). Add the bananas to the date mix, then stir in the flax seeds, oil, 50g sugar and 100ml coffee. Break one chocolate bar into pea-sized pieces and stir in.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa powder and ground cardamom, then fold in the date mixture. Tip into the cake tin and level out the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 150C/300F/gas 2 and cook for 50 minutes more, until a skewer comes out clean, then leave to cool before turning out on to a rack or plate.
For the ganache, break the second chocolate bar into pea-sized pieces and put in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (take care the base doesn’t come into contact with the hot water) and stir until melted and glossy. Whisk in the remaining 100ml coffee, then pour over the cake. Leave to cool, scatter over the flowers and serve.
- Food styling: Amy Stephenson