Even if this cake had wood chips in it (it doesn't) I would have made it. The name alone was enough. I've long harboured not-so-secret fantasies about living in a cabin in the woods. Recently, I was lucky enough to realise this dream during a six week writing residency in New Hampshire, working and sleeping in a wooden cabin surrounded by tall trees, falling snow and the brightest of bright stars. I had a fireplace, a rocking chair and deer grazing outside my windows. Unlike a lumberjack, however, I had a lunch basket delivered to my door each day, along with clean linen and a ready supply of wood for the fire. Not to mention central heating, running (hot) water and a grand piano. Not that I'm complaining. My hands were not made for hewing pine, but for tapping on a keyboard and, clearly, making this cake.
So what does a lumberjack put in a cake you might ask, if not wood chips? Well, pantry staples like dates, flour and sugar for a start. Little luxuries like a single egg (they're not for wasting), one apple or pear (whichever you might have come by in your travels), and butter (a fair whack of it to be honest, but who ever heard of a vegan lumberjack?). The wildcard ingredient, the one you really wouldn't expect though, is coconut. Just half a cup of snowy white flakes, enough to give the cake a bit of added interest, something to contemplate while enjoying a slice with a cup of black coffee after a morning's work in the forest, or on your laptop.
Recipe from Frances, a restaurant in San Francisco, via 7x7 and The Wednesday Chef
This cake is amazingly moist and light, yet robust in its texture and taste. By necessity (you're a lumberjack - you have no refrigeration, you live alone, you can't be making cakes constantly!) it keeps well, even improves with time - the flavours deepening by the day.
Makes a 9-inch cake
1 cup water
1 cup pitted dates
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 1/2 oz) butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (50g) coconut flakes
1 pear or apple, peeled and medium-diced
- In a saucepan, bring water and dates to a boil, and then whisk in baking soda. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, cream butter, sugar, vanilla and egg. Slowly add room temperature date mixture until incorporated. Then slowly add dry ingredients until blended, careful not to overmix. Fold in coconut and pears/apples with a large rubber spatula.
- Pour mixture into a greased springform pan, and bake at 350 deg F for 45 minutes. Rotate pan in oven, and then continue to bake for 10 minutes. Insert a clean toothpick into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, rotate pan and continue to bake in ten minute increments.
Cabin pictured above left by American artist Robert Connell.