Date and Ginger Cake

date & ginger cake in tin

I often feel as though I have an eating disorder. I seem to be thinking of food all the time, eating frequently. Sometimes, when I’m sleeping, I dream of taking a bite of some gluten-rich food, then I remember I shouldn’t be eating it and feeling horribly guilty while dreading the consequences. Sometimes I dream it is my doctor giving me the food, while at other times a family member will be present, ready to say: ‘See, I knew she was making it all up.’ And in the most recent of those dreams I was in a bakery, eating raw dough. Ugh. 

Last year around Easter I felt myself sink into a minor depression and I did not seem to be able to get out of it. This year it occurred to me that part of the drop in mood had been associated with the gluten intolerance and the realisation that I would not be able to eat my very favourite hot cross buns ever again. I had decided towards the end of last year that I would find out if I am eligible for the Coeliac diagnosis, and would eat those hot cross buns for three weeks, then have a blood test. Two events over Christmas caused me to change my mind. During the last week of the year I had some of the digestive symptoms return, and I briefly went into a state of anxiety and dread, wondering what food allergy I had acquired. It was only when I finished the box of chocolate truffles that I read the label and discovered they contained wheat (and later research uncovered the exact truffle that contained the gluten, the variety I didn’t share, so I had eaten two of them over the week).

The other factor in my decision was the eczma on the backs of my hands. It was mild but persistent. I could not think of what was causing it. It was not the sun block, as I was using that on all exposed skin, not just my hands. I had not changed any of my soaps or handcreams. Huh! The handcream contained wheat, and within a week of discontinuing use, the eczma cleared up and my skin has returned to normal. And now I realise I need to read even more labels as carefully as possible, glasses on my forehead, packaging near my nose. So, to overcome the disappointment of not eating the hot cross buns, to alleviate that sense of deprivation, I made myself a cake, a new recipe.

I decided to make a cake that I really wanted to eat. I looked through my handwritten book of favourite recipes, and found I could not decide between a date slice and a ginger cake. I realised both recipes began with the melting of butter and sugar, then the addition of sodium bicarbonate. So I combined the recipes. The ginger cake recipe came from a series of ‘Two Fat Ladies’, and was a long time favourite. The date slice had been passed on by a favourite aunt. But here is the combined cake, with flour substitutes, and could be made with regular flour instead, just not for me. The buckwheat flour is just what I had hanging around after making pancakes, otherwise I would have used just almond meal. It was an excellent cake. It cheered me up. I needed the intense ginger flavour (most people would probably want to cut back to, at most, half the quantity).


I made this as a tiny square cake for one person to consume over a week, but feel free to double the quantities and bake it in a loaf tin. The cooking time will remain the same.

In the original ginger cake it was brown sugar, in the date slice caster sugar. We now use ‘LoGIcane’, which looks like raw sugar, but does not affect the behaviour of the sugar-sensitive in this house.

If gluten is not an issue, just use 3/4 cup regular flour.

If gluten is a problem, use whatever flours or nut meals you prefer, adding them slowly until the cake’s consistency looks right – the flour part of cakes does not need to be as precisely measured as the baking powder and such (active ingredients).

date & ginger cake slice


Quantities for 10 cm square cake tin, double for loaf tin. This won’t affect cooking time.


60 g butter (1/4 of 250 g)

1/4 cup (60 mL) sugar 

1 Tab golden syrup

1 Tab treacle

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3/4 cup chopped dried dates

1/4 cup almond meal

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

2 tsp ground ginger

sprinkle of other spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, tiniest bit of cloves)

1 egg, beaten


Melt butter sugar and syrups in saucepan over low to medium heat while stirring.

Add bicarbonate, stir, mixture should ‘whoosh’.

Stir in dried dates, allow to soften for a few minutes, then remove from heat. 

Allow to cool. Good time to turn on oven: 160*C fan or 180*C regular, and to prepare cake tin.

Add flours, nut meals, spices, stir in. 

Add beaten egg, stir in well (don’t want scrambled egg in the cake).

Transfer mixture to cake tin. 

Bake for 35 minutes. 


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