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Bookish Bites : Burglar Bill walnut and date cake

“That’s a nice walnut and date cake with buttercream filling and icing on the top – I’ll have that!”

Well, here we are with our second outing from Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Burglar Bill. It was bound to happen, so many delicious nibbles to choose from and after last week’s rather sugary Bookish Bites, we thought we ought to cook something with some fruit in that’s possibly a little healthier. If you ignore the icing that is. Not sure how you can ignore icing, it’s smack bang on the top of the cake and tastes great… but well, yes. Anyway let’s go!

Our first Burglar Bill Bookish Bites was the gingerbread biscuits and cocoa a few weeks back. They were yum. The walnut and date cake really feels like it’s fitted the rather chilly weather this week. A comforting, homely bake.

We started by reading Burglar Bill.

What I love about this page is the idea that firstly Burglar Bill has a homemade walnut and date cake in his house. Did he bake it himself, did he steal it from someone’s house? And then, how does Burglar Betty decide to steal it – in her swag bag? Surely it would get all squished. I hope she was intending to carry it home on a cake stand. Carefully.

For this, we used a trusty Mary Berry recipe. Her date and walnut traybake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

I’m loving Mary Berry a little bit at the moment. Probably has something to do with The Great British Bake Off being on telly at the moment. And the fact that her cakes are always tasty and always work out lovely. We did adapt it slightly so it was a round cake in an 8inch tin. You don’t need to alter the ingredients, just the tin and the cooking time. A little longer in the oven and check a few times (at the very end of the cooking time, never before or your cake will sink) to ensure that your knife’s coming out clean. We also didn’t use the icing suggested to opt for Burglar Bill’s buttercream filling and topping.

Spooning the dry mixture of flour, muscovado sugar and ground almonds into the mixer where you’ve already got your dates and butter mix.

Add the walnuts.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin.

Does anyone else have the problem that their oven cooks predominantly on one side. Recently this seems to have gotten a bit worse. Waiting for your cake or biscuits to turn golden brown is all very well, but what if they just do that on one side. Honestly.

I cut the cake in two and sliced the top off (we froze the top for future nutty, fruity trifle making). One layer looks a bit wonky, but this is just because it’s falling off the back of our chopping board. We mixed up some lovely buttercream to use as filling and to ice the top. Then used some remaining walnut halves to decorate, toasted.

This made a wonderfully, gigantic and hearty recipe. Really, a very, tasty moist sponge. The buttercream worked well though you don’t need a big slice (!) and it does look similar to how I’d imagine Janet Ahlberg might have drawn it had she chosen to (based on the pictures of the iced cakes in The Baby’s Catalogue). I do think that the icing that Mary Berry uses in her traybake recipe might have made for a less rich experience (icing sugar with lemon and lemon zest) with a bit more of a refreshing tang to it.

Milo’s verdict: Well, he was a bit suspicious of the walnuts oddly. He’ll eat them just fine on their own, but once inside a cake or bread these days he seems to be a bit less keen. So he ate around them. “I like walnuts mummy.” “Why are you leaving them then Milo?” “I’m saving them for later.” “Oh, okay… why?” “They don’t want to be eaten right now.” He never did eat them. I couldn’t get a face on picture of him as he didn’t want the camera to take a photo of him. Fair enough!

Yes, that’s my thumb in the shot.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a lovely cake! I admit to not having read Burglar Bill, but now I must look for it. And I fully understand walnuts not wanting to be eaten at certain moments :).

    September 21, 2011
    • natashaworswick #

      It is a nice recipe and Milo s very particular about when to eat walnuts! Burglar Bill is a great book and you absolutely have to read it out loud in the spirit of which it’s written. Definitely one of our favourites! Thanks so much for stopping by.

      September 21, 2011
  2. I have to say this combination is just about as bad as it gets in a cake for me. This and coffee & walnut! But your cake looks beautiful, as always :0)

    September 22, 2011
    • natashaworswick #

      Melanie I’m shocked! Less about date and walnut as I can imagine that’s not to everyone’s taste, but coffee and walnut!! That is surely one of the most wonderful of cake combinations ever invented. I LOVE coffee and walnut cake. So comforting, rich and yummy. What is it that you don’t like?

      September 22, 2011
  3. I love coffee and drink A LOT of it but cannot stand anything coffee-flavoured! I am not fan of nuts either, apart from peanuts and almonds at a push. This is thanks to a childhood episode involving a lot of throwing up after over indulging on hand-picked hazelnuts.
    :0(

    September 23, 2011
  4. natashaworswick #

    I’ve over indulged on hand-picked hazelnuts before (tree in my parents garden). It starts off so good… Walnuts are not something I eat unless they are in a cake or on top of food in some way. I am quite particular about nuts and how they should appear. If I’m in the cinema sharing a packet of Revels I sniff them before I eat them so I don’t get the peanut ones. I don’t really like peanut covered in chocolate that much. M&Ms maybe… but revels, not so much. Coffee flavoured things however, I love, through and through! Aren’t we all funny in our little things that we like and dislike! Milo used to love raisins. Now he won’t eat them unless they are in his daddy’s museli. Not his own museli. His daddy’s museli!

    September 23, 2011

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