Again with these loaves. Miss Fats has been baking up a number of quick breads lately and hasn’t been documenting them for you because they tend to fail pretty miserably in photo form. Despite the fact that they are often filled with tasty moist wonder, loaf cakes more often appear to be boring brown logs on camera. Case and point above: hey brown square, you look real lame and why would anyone want to eat you? Oh yeah that’s because you’re the perfect balance of sugar and salt and soaked in an insanely good caramel sauce. Who says the camera reveals?
But Miss Fats couldn’t help but review her new favorite loaf cake recipe from Not Without Salt (her new favorite blog name: they get her.) The Salted Caramel Date Loaf was a spontaneous recipe she tried out one night when a sudden bout of stress baking hit her hard. She had about an hour to make some baking happen before a friend arrived for dinner. This recipe was ideal: simple, 1 pot, 1 pan and very little work.
This recipe takes the basic dump loaf cake to a new level by simply caramelizing the sugar in the cake batter. Miss Fats has very recently gotten over her fear of caramel and all forms candy cooking, so she was ready to face this head on. And for those of you who might still be skeptical about sugar-cooking skills, this cake is the ideal way to begin your steps toward recovery. Whenever you read a recipe with sugar caramelization there’s always warnings about sugar crystals and temperatures etc. But none of that really matters here: all you’re really doing is getting that smokey burnt sugar flavor. The cake’s texture will be handled by all that butter and date action.
So the real magic of this cake comes from the caramel glaze. And now you’re probably saying: what? I have to face my caramel fears twice to make this cake happen? It be worth it. Miss Fats should clarify: this glaze does not approach the difficulties of a well executed caramel sauce. Instead, Not Without Salt has brilliantly used brown sugar and butter to counter any of the problems involved with white sugar crystallization nonsense. Instead the glaze just goes for the full on fat of heavy cream and butter getting all warm and tasty with brown sugar’s molasses. Miss Fats added a little extra salt to the glaze to enhance that sweet-salty flavor combo (she wanted to make sure some of that action got down into the loaf). Then you get to dump all that gooey glaze over top the hot cake and watch it sink in while you fantasize about just how good that pocket of caramel will be when you stick it in your mouth. And it’s topped with salt. What’s better? Probably nothing.
Miss Fats has now made this loaf a couple of times and its proven to be the perfect weeknight dessert, indulgent breakfast, or giftable treat. The second time she made the cake, Miss Fats added a bit of ground ginger to the batter to play up the dates. She’s sure this cake could be taken in a number of festive directions depending upon the time of year (family, welcome to your Christmas present). Miss Fats will deem this one the brown square of mystery. Despite its lame appearances, there lurks a salty-sweet moment in its (lamely) photographed portrait. Now go out and discover it.