Date and Walnut Challenge Cake

I created this cake when I challenged myself to bake something tasty while only using a relatively limited range and amount of ingredients. It’s not a gluten free cake (but it could be); it’s not a nut-free cake (but it could be); it’s a cake that totally fulfils what I hoped to achieve. For details of the challenge see below and then have a go.

The challenge is to make a tasty two-layer 20cm (8”) round cake using only the following ingredients

For the basic cake

  • Up to 225g/8oz sugar (white, golden caster or light brown)
  • Up to 225g/8oz butter or baking spread
  • Up to 225g/8oz plain flour + 2 tsp raising agent OR 225g/8oz self raising flour + 1 tsp raising agent
  • Up to 3 medium eggs
  • Pinch of salt if required

Allowable extras (read carefully, there are options.)

  • 1 tsp liquid flavouring (e.g. vanilla extract, almond, coffee, orange etc.) OR 1 tsp dry flavouring (e.g. cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg etc.)
  • 2 other ingredients up to a combined weight of 400g/14oz (e.g. desiccated coconut, dates, figs, nuts, apricots, chocolate, ground almonds)
  • 1 Tbsp milk, water or fruit juice if required to loosen the final mixture.
  • A light dusting of either icing sugar or cocoa powder to garnish the top.

And here are my chosen ingredients

  • 225g/8oz caster sugar (175g/6oz in the cake, 50g/1¾oz in the dates)
  • 250g/9oz dates
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g/7oz Morrisons “Spreadable” butter + some for greasing the tin
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g/3½oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of fine salt
  • 150g/5½oz walnut halves
  • A light dusting of icing sugar

Serves: 12 slices

Time: 30 – 40 min preparation, 40 – 45 min baking + cooling time then 10 min to assemble and decorate.

Level: Quite easy

Tins: 1 x 20cm/8” loose bottomed round cake tin


1. Cut the dates into small pieces. In a medium bowl, dissolve 50g/1¾oz sugar in 125ml/4½oz hot water. Pour the water onto the dates and stir in 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda. Stir well to create a paste-like consistency (use a potato masher if necessary) and set aside. Reserve 15 walnut halves for decorating and grind the rest into small pieces.  (Step 1 could be done the night before baking the cake.)

2. Preheat the oven to 170°C / fan 150°C / 325°F / Gas 3. Grease and base line the tin, then dust lightly with flour.

3.  Sift and weigh the flour, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and 175g/6oz caster sugar. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract.

5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Also add 1 tsp of the measured flour mix with each egg, to avoid curdling.

6.  Add in the rest of the flour mixture plus the ground walnuts. Fold these dry ingredients into the wet mixture using a large metal spoon. (I actually put about 2 Tbsp of the nuts into the date mixture to give it more texture. It was a last minute impulse that worked well, I think. It’s a good option.)

7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Level the surface then bake for about 40 – 45 minutes. Check by inserting a skewer into the middle of the cake. When it comes out clean the cake is done. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

8. Cut the cooled cake horizontally into two halves. Combine the two halves using the date mixture. Add 12 walnut halves around the top of the cake with 3 in the middle then sprinkle lightly with icing sugar before serving.

Preparation Gallery

I hope you have a go at this challenge and make a lovely cake. If you do, I’d love to hear about it. Or just go ahead and make the Date & Walnut cake. And here are a few other totally different bakes that may interest you.

Strawberry Sponge Cake

Cheddar and Parsley Scones

Coconut & Lemon Drizzle Cake

Garlic Boxty Bread

Happy Baking