Date cake with grilled coconut brown sugar topping

This cake broke my Sunday afternoon baking drought. One autumn Sunday in March after a trip to the fruit and vege markets, I came home and unpacked my market haul, arranged the Omega plums and lemons into my favourite Katherine Smyth bowls, and found myself baking this cake without really planning to.

Cakes for no good reason are usually the best kind of cake. The other best kind of cake is one with this grilled coconut topping on it; it’s what cake dreams are made of.

Date cake with grilled coconut brown sugar topping 


For the cake:

dried dates 1 cup, chopped

boiling water 1 cup

butter 125gm

sugar 1 cup

vanilla paste 1/2 teaspoon

free range egg 1, lightly beaten

plain flour 1 & 1/2 cups

salt 1/4 teaspoon

baking soda 1 teaspoon

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Cover dates with boiling water and set aside. Melt the butter and add to the dates and water, followed by the sugar, egg and vanilla paste. Sift in the flour, salt and baking soda and stir until combined. Pour into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin and bake until almost cooked – about 30 minutes. While the cake is baking, make the topping.

For the topping:

butter 60g

brown sugar 1/2 cup

milk 2 tablespoons

long thread coconut 1 cup

Put the butter, brown sugar and milk into a medium-sized saucepan (it does bubble up, so make sure your pan isn’t too small). Bring to the boil and remove from the heat and add the coconut. Pour over the almost-cooked cake and put back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the topping is browned and crunchy and a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

If you make a mis-time the baking of the cake and the cake is already fully cooked before you’ve added the topping,  you pour the topping onto the fully cooked cake and pop it under the grill until the topping is browned. Keep a close eye on it – do not under any circumstances walk away from the oven (life lessons by Frances).


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