Monday 24 October 2011

A cake for Robin...and ending an era...

One of my favourite things about blogging is the amazing people you 'meet' through it. I have made so many new friends...foodies,restaurateurs, hoteliers, creative whizzes, authors, poets and all round sweethearts! And I was particularly thrilled to find the blog of actor/writer, Francophile & wonderful cook Robin Ellis... Robin has been a hero of mine since he starred in the 1970's drama 'Poldark' which captured my mind and heart when I was about 10 and has stayed there ever since. A fabulous swashbuckling saga of love, shipwrecks, tin-mining & treachery in late 18th century Cornwall....made in the days when TV drama serials developed the storyline properly, over 3 months or so...leaving the viewers with a cliffhanger each week and something to look forward to and anticipate on Sunday evenings. Robin played the male lead, Ross Poldark - a dashing, non-conformist maverick of noble birth. Unforgettable!
He & his wife, Meredith, now live in a beautiful part of south western France where they enjoy a somewhat quieter life! Robin was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 12 years ago and has managed to control his blood sugar levels by changing his diet to a healthy, Mediterranean based one and increasing the amount of exercise he takes. He devises many of his own recipes and recently published a book of them: Delicious Dishes for Diabetics. I have a copy...even though I'm not diabetic, the recipes are suitable for anyone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle and there are some great ideas in there.
Inspired by the book, I have created a no-sugar Banana Date Cake...based on a recipe my Grandfather (who also had type 2) gave me years ago. I've adapted it slightly, and it will be on my Farmer's Market Stall tomorrow. I find that there are more & more people suffering with diabetes...also gluten & wheat allergies. So I try to offer something for them, too, on the stall. Why should anyone miss out on cake?? My youngest nephew, William, adores this - and my sister is happy for him to eat plenty as there are only good things in it!

Banana Date Cake
150g dried, chopped dates
450g very ripe bananas (peeled weight)
2 eggs, beaten
200g spelt or wholewheat flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g ground almonds
300ml buttermilk or plain yoghurt

Grease & line a 23cm round tin with baking parchment & preheat oven to 175c

Put the dates in a small bowl or measuring jug & cover with hot water (from the tap is fine) Leave to soak for about 10 mins, then drain and squeeze out the excess water (I use my hands for this!) to leave a thick paste.
Mash the bananas well in a large bowl and stir in the dates, along with the eggs. Fold in the dry ingredients and then finally stir in the buttermilk or yoghurt. Turn into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 45mins-1 hour. It will be a lovely brown on top and pulling away slightly from the sides of the tin when ready. Cool in the tin before turning out. It's even better if you make it the day before you eat it...the banana flavour intensifies and the dates get stickier! It keeps very well for a few days in a tin or wrapped in foil.

This week is bittersweet for me. Saturday will be the last time, after almost 8 years, that I make my daily delivery to The Coffee Tree. The current owners, Barry & Sandra and Sue & Roy have decided to retire...and I shall be leaving with them. I feel sad already! This morning was my last has all been such a big part of my life for such a long time. But everything moves on - and change is good. I will miss it, them and the customers (who have become friends) very much, though. Next Monday will feel very strange!
I am delivering Old Favourites this week.. I've had.many requests for cakes & pastries that I've made over the years, so watch for that update next week. I'll still have plenty to occupy my time - including a book to finish!
And there have been some recent creations, of course:
Cinnamon Apple Cakes...filled with creme fraiche and home made apple sauce (from local Bramley apples)

delicious (though I say so myself...)

Plum Cake, with a damson jelly glaze (which looks quite bright in the flash - but it's just pure fruit, honestly!)

and my favourite Florentine Bars....

chewy fruit & nuts in a maple caramel on a shortbread base.....

And Brownie of the Month on the stall tomorrow will be....

ta daaaa....Peanut Butter Swirl. I used no sugar wholenut peanut butter, which contrasts beautifully with the very chocolatey brownie...and plenty of roasted peanuts too.
It should be a good day on the stall...I hope the weather stays the way it is today - sunny, mild and blustery. Perfect!

Enjoy your week xoxo


  1. Do you suppose 3rd times a charm? This is the 3rd post I have written...;( love all your cakes...recipe looks delicious ..will find conversion table (American you know) smile...

    Have a blessed day!

  2. Rachel, your inspired banana date cake looks fabulous! My M-I-L was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Your cake would be perfect for her.
    I am sorry to hear that you won't be baking for the Coffee Tree any longer. I too, feel bittersweet about it. I will miss seeing all of your fabulous creations. But, change, although difficult sometimes, is necessary. It brings new opportunities to life and will mean more time for YOU and your writing.
    Wishing you a wonderful day and great weather for tomorrow's Farmer's Market.

    Sending love and hugs, Rosinda xo

  3. Thanks Rosinda! Maybe you should buy Robin's book for Nuno's mum? It's published in US next month - v good value & lovely recipes plus other useful information! have a great day sweetie xx

  4. As always, your blog is a feast for the eyes...and the heart. Thank you for the lovely story and delicious sounding recipe. xo I'll have one of the Cinnamon Apple cakes..well, maybe two.

  5. I'm so sorry to hear about Coffee Tree retirement. I always fantasize that one day I'll go there and see your treats on display and have some like one of the locals.

    From what I know about diabetes, it's not just refined sugar. They can't eat so much fruit either. Every carb has to be regulated because all affect the blood sugar. My dad had it later in life.

    But all the cakes look fantastic as ever!

  6. I've grown so used to thinking of you baking your wonderful treats for The Coffee Tree (I can picture your customers agonizing over which delicious thing to choose and then lingering over the last morsel). I'm sure it will seem strange not to have that daily routine now, but also liberating, and it will free you up to do other wonderful things.

    The Banana Date Cake looks scrumptious. I'm always happy when I see you making something for diet challenged people. Believe me, it's appreciated. I feel absolutely gleeful when I go somewhere and find a gluten free option that I can enjoy. xoxo

  7. Hi Rachel,
    What a beautiful blog! Your banana date cake sounds delicious. I'll try it.

    Robin has a piece of very dark chocolate and a dried fig after dinner but I have a square of chocolate and a dried date! (We have a good source for Medjool dates.) We have a lot of walnuts, so I might try adding them to the recipe....

    Thanks for the nice things you wrote about Poldark and Robin!


  8. Wow, Meredith - thanks so much for the lovely comment! It has made my day. I wouild love to think of you trying the all sold out on the Farmer's Market today. I made an 'icing' for it too: medjool dates finely chopped in the processor & stirred into a tub of Quark. Delicious! Let me know how it turns out...walnuts sound a great addition. Actually, you could grind some and use them instead of the almonds? Anyway...great to hear from you x Rachel

  9. You know an actor? Cool! A professional actor who played in a TV series as well? Double cool!

    I will repeat myself: this looks so delicious!

  10. Dearest Rachel.....
    The banana date cake is delectable---what a wonderful addition and so thoughtfully added by the conscious effort to meet so many needs. I have to agree with Janie that I am THRILLED when I find a gluten free choice that is delicious. Just today, I was in the mountains and drove a few extra miles to get a pumpkin muffin that is gluten free----I savored every morsel of it!!
    Now, the Coffee Tree story is quite sad. 2011 has been a year of just a few too many changes....I know you're being so positive about it, but I can 'hear' between the lines that this parting is difficult. I wish the owners great joy in their new plans and I hope that the new owners are wonderful to all of the current customers.....
    And for YOU? You continue to amaze and delight me and all of your readers with your beautiful creations....all from your talented soul!!

  11. How I would love to bake the banana cake, unfortunately I'm not rich enough! when our bananas come down from $10 per kilo, I will give it a go! I so remember how much you loved Poldark! xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  12. Oh, honey, I am sorry for the Coffee Tree closing. But one chapter ends, and another one begins...All your baked items look so delectable and I will definitely bake the banana date cake. We are spoiled here in SoCal with fresh fruit, nuts, and dates, too (raised out past Palm Springs in the Indio area). I was sorry to be absent from your delightful blog for so long, but am so happy to read all the past entries! Love and hugs, Sherry xxxx

  13. Although I have never been there; I am also sad about the Coffee Tree closing. But, on the other hand, I think it is great that the owners close because they retire (and not because of other reasons).
    As the Christmas season is a busy one for you I guess there won't be much gap that needs filling and I hope you find plenty of time to realize many great gingerbread houses, biscuits and other Christmassy stuff. Oh, and you will have much more time for travelling - Salzburg is great in November and December :-), spending a few weeks in Australia, time on the boat in spring, ... Happy belated birthday!

  14. Oh my, just had to stop by and comment on those wonderful Florentine Bars! They look and sound so yummy- just the kind of thing I love to eat. Have a wonderful day :)


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