Today is the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. This makes her the world’s oldest reigning monarch and the longest reigning monarch in English history. Queen Victoria was the previous record holder with her 63 years and seven months.
I was looking for a recipe in honor of this special day and happened to come across the curiously-named Queen Elizabeth Cake. This is a sheet or tray cake made with finely chopped dates and walnuts and finished off with a caramel glaze and topped with coconut.
This is a cake with quite an interesting story. The tale goes that Her Majesty used to enjoy dabbling in home baking from time to time, and would make this recipe herself, in the Buckingham Palace kitchens, to be sold for charitable purposes. In fact, this was the only cake she would make. With this sort of regal endorsement, I just had to try this recipe.
Queen Elizabeth Cake
Ingredients for the Cake
- 175 grams soft dates, finely chopped (I like to use soft, pitted dates from Seeberger) here
- 240 ml English breakfast tea (I like to use loose leaf tea, such as the one from my local tea merchant TeeGschwendner (here)
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 200 grams soft light brown sugar (such as light Muscovado sugar, available online, at Asian shops or your favorite British shops)
- 120 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or use 1 tsp. organic vanilla bean paste, I like Taylor and Colledge)
- 1 egg (L), free-range or organic
- 140 grams plain (AP) flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 60 grams walnuts, freshly cracked and chopped (at this time of year, I like to use French walnuts)
Ingredients for the Glaze
• 75 grams soft dark brown sugar (such as dark brown Muscovado sugar)
• 75 grams double cream (I like to use 35%)
• 25 grams unsalted butter
• a good pinch of fine sea salt
• 30 grams desiccated coconut (I like to use organic coconut from dennree)
Preparation of the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 175° C (300° F).
- Line a 23 x 31cm (9 x 12 inch) rectangular baking pan with greaseproof paper.
- In a heatproof bowl, mix the chopped dates, bicarbonate of soda and hot tea and set aside.
- In another bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla or vanilla bean paste until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and mix well, then carefully fold in the flour and baking powder until just combined.
- Then fold in the walnuts and the cooled date mixture (the dates will have absorbed most of the tea, but the mixture will still be rather wet).
- Stir briefly with a light hand until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until the top is dark golden brown and an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean.
- Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Preparation of the Glaze
- While the cake is baking, make the glaze – put the sugar, cream, butter and salt into a small saucepan, and keep stirring until the mixture comes to the boil.
- Remove from the heat and put aside until cold.
- To finish the cake, cut in two equal slabs.
- Spread half the cooled glaze onto one piece, then place the other on top of it.
- Spread the remaining glaze on the cake and sprinkle with the coconut.
- Trim the edges for a neat finish and cut into pieces - if you find this too difficult and the cake layers too soft, place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes before procceding with the icing and decoration.
The cake has a lot of dates in it, but rather than just throwing them in, I decided to brew a strong English breakfast tea and let them soak in the tea in the tea together with the bicarbonate of soda while proceeding with the remainder of the recipe. The soda, in addition to helping the cake to rise, gives the batter a bit of pleasant saltiness which combines with the sweet dates to enhance their flavor. The overall result is light, airy and delicious. With the caramel glaze, it probably makes you think of sticky toffee pudding.
This is a straightforward recipe that results in a rich, moist cake which cuts easily. Perfect for afternoon tea and birthday parties.When it comes to the coconut, I would go for the white stuff rather than the golden toasted coconut. Nothing to do with flavor really, but the white untoasted coconut looks quite elegant against the dark brown caramel.
If Her Majesty were to be coming round for afternoon tea, I don’t think she would refuse a slice.