Kitchen comfort from a classic fruit and nut cake

Derwent Valley Gazette
02 Jul 2024
Vintage cake tins

IT WAS one of those rare, delightful moments when the past and present intersect in the most unexpected ways. 

I stumbled upon an old, beautiful fruit and nut, you know the circular type tin – the kind we used to pack our traditional fruit and nut cakes in when I was an apprentice pastry chef. 

The sight of it immediately transported me back to those bustling kitchen days filled with the comforting aroma of baking cakes and the chatter of the team honing their craft. 
These cakes were a staple in our pastry repertoire. Made with rich, plump fruits, usually dates and a generous mix of nuts again usually walnuts, they were not only a treat for the palate but also a testament to time-honored baking traditions. 

There was something heartwarming about their simplicity and the way they could be stored for weeks, their flavors maturing and deepening with each passing day.
The secret to their longevity lay in the luscious fruits that were the star of the show. Their natural moisture kept the cake fresh and flavorful long after it had left the oven. 

And for those with nut allergies, the beauty of this recipe was its versatility – one could easily forgo the nuts without sacrificing any of its delicious charm.
Although a loaf tin could suffice, there is  an undeniable magic in using a circular tin, a tradition that added to the cake’s timeless appeal. There’s just something special about that round shape, echoing the festive joy and warmth these cakes bring, especially in the cold winter months.

With the recent weather being particularly dreary and rain tapping gently against the windows, I felt an irresistible urge to recreate this classic. As I prepared the ingredients and mixed the batter, I remembered how delightful it was  to savour a slice, slightly warmed, with a  blob  of  good tassie melting butter on top. The thought alone was enough to chase away the chill and fill the house with a cozy, inviting scent.

And so, I encourage you to revisit these old-fashioned cakes, each bite a journey back to simpler times. Don’t hesitate to experiment – perhaps a dash of allspice for a hint of warmth or a handful of different fruits and nuts to suit your taste.

Enjoy the process, let the kitchen fill with the aromas of nostalgia and joy, and on a cold, rainy day like today, treat yourself to the comforting embrace of a slice of traditional fruit and nut cake. Happy baking, and until next time, may your days be sweet and your heart light.


250 gram pitted dates
1 cup (250ml) boiling water
90 gram butter, melted, plus extra butter, to serve
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup (225g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup (60g) chopped walnuts, plus 2 tbsp extra


Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and line a 21cm x 11cm loaf pan.
Place dates in a large heatproof bowl. Pour over boiling water. Cover with a plate. Stand 5 minutes, until dates soften.
Stir in melted butter and sugar until well combined. Stir in vanilla and egg.
Sift together flour, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and a little salt. Fold into date mixture. Fold through walnuts. 

Spoon mixture into the tin and scatter over extra walnuts if using a lloaf tin.

Bake 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. If its in a round tin the cake will be ready at this time. 

Cool in panfor two2 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Slice and serve with extra butter.
This cake freezes brilliantly 

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Thanks for making contact, Cheers kirsten


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