Virtuous Cake and Nigella

Aka ‘Voluptuous Cake’

It’s quite a few years now since my original virtuous cake recipe had its first outing in the pages of the Blackmore Vale Magazine. Recently, I’ve given it a bit of a makeover so here it is again, possibly even more virtuous than before but still as delicious as ever and a real pick-me-up with a nice hot cup of tea if you are feeling a bit feeble.

It's fat free with no eggs or added sugar and all that fruit and fibre, it er, um . . . ‘helps keeps you regular’!

Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-Free, Potentially Gluten-Free

The recipe is a useful one in that it is suitable for vegetarian, vegan and non-dairy diets. It also works well with gluten free flour.

Nut Allergy Note

You can make the cake with ground almonds or desiccated coconut: the 2 versions are subtly different but both good. Coconut allergies are comparatively rare so the coconut version may be suitable for some people with nut allergies but always check individual cases.

  • 200ml freshly made hot tea: an everyday ‘buiders’ or Earl Grey work equally well
  • 225g dried stoned dates, chopped
  • 175g raisins or sultanas (or a mixture)
  • 75g plain flour (or gluten free flour)
  • 3 level teaspoons baking powder (most are naturally gluten-free but check the label if it’s an issue)
  • 75g wholemeal flour (or buckwheat flour for GF)
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 50g ground almonds or desiccated coconut
  • 175g ready-to-eat dried apricot, chopped
  • 225g grated dessert apple, unpeeled for extra fibre and goodness

Pour the tea over the dates, raisins and sultanas in a roomy pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 160C (fan oven) or equivalent

Grease a round loose bottomed 20cm cake tin or a silicone cake mould (which needs to stand on a baking tray: it will be too wobbly on its own)

Once the mixture is cool, add the baking powder to the plain flour and sieve over the top, (you can do this in the pan and save yourself some washing up). Stir thoroughly.

Add the wholemeal flour and cinnamon and stir to combine. Stir in the ground almonds or desiccated coconut and chopped apricots.

Add the grated apple and mix everything together thoroughly. The mixture will look a bit sludgy but don’t worry; the fruit will meld the unpromising-looking mix together in the heat of the oven.

Spoon into the prepared tin, smoothing the top with the back of a moistened tablespoon. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave in the tin for a few moments to settle before transferring to a cooling rack. (Unless you are using a silicone mould, in which case cool completely before turning out.)

Eat warm or cold. Once cold, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin, for up to a week.

Mrs Simkins and Nigella

Did I ever tell you how this cake once came to Nigella’s attention?

The original recipe from the Blackmore Vale Magazine appeared in ‘Cooking with Mrs Simkins’ published years ago. I did a book signing for it at Waterstone’s in Yeovil and the following year they invited me back for a signing for ‘Tea with Mrs Simkins’ as well. The staff there are all full of fun and we had a great laugh together.

Sometime between the two signings Nigella visited to promote one of her books. Apparently, she looked fantastic and was absolutely lovely to all the staff. Among other things, she asked them what their favourite cookery books and recipes were.

Bless him, Marcus, the manager said: ‘Actually, we all like ‘Cooking with Mrs Simkins’ and her recipe for . . .’

He was trying to say: ‘Virtuous Cake’, but unfortunately, confronted by the full spectacle of Nigella, in all her magnificent glory, right in front of him, it came out as ‘Voluptuous Cake’!

After a short time, during which he prayed fervently for the ground to swallow him up, he stammered: ‘I mean, Virtuous Cake!’

She looked at him witheringly: ‘I don’t do virtuous; she can keep it!’

Incidentally . . . .

I’ve just taken some new photos of the cake – and not before time, they were well overdue for a makeover! We were taking this particular cake round to our friend for coffee and cake in her garden but I had to photograph it and ‘test’ it first. I don’t think anyone will notice the missing bit, will they? Is it obvious at all?