Not so long ago, I read this recipe on Francesca’s blog Almost Italian and I knew, instantly, that I was going to try it. There are only five ingredients: egg whites (how I love to find a use for my ever-expanding freezer collection), sugar, chocolate, walnuts and dates. With those ingredients, how could it not taste Absolutely Fabulous? Then, whilst reading the comments on the post, I was fascinated to note that Sandra from Please Pass the Recipe had also posted the recipe on her blog. That got me thinking. From all those years studying statistics, I knew it could not be by chance that they had both come up with the same recipe. So where did it come from? Such a question is usually quite easy to solve with the help of Google – you can find anything on the web or, as it turns out, just about anything.
My first hit led me to the blog Balaboosta, written by Ronnit who, with a little bit of delving, I figured was from Victoria. She described the cake as her go to cake for Passover. Mmmm, Victorian and Jewish.
A bit more delving took me to Niki’s blog Esurientes (though she used almonds rather than walnuts). She described the cake as her friend’s long time family recipe. Mmmm. Then, funnily, she advised she lost her copy of her friend’s recipe and when she went searching for it, or a similar recipe, she found it (minus the walnuts) in Stephanie Alexander’s The Cooks Companion which was published in 1996. I was excited now. I then had the brain wave: maybe Stephanie added walnuts in the second edition of the book? Alas, no.
Mmmm … Ronnit is from Melbourne, as are Niki, Sandra and Francesca AND… so is Stephanie Alexander. Clearly, this recipe has been doing the rounds for a long time in Melbourne. Interestingly, in their book, Cooking from the Heart, A journey through Jewish Food, Gaye Weedon and Hayley Smorgon include a version – there is that Jewish connection again AND both women are from Melbourne. My guess is one of the local papers published the recipe by Stephanie Alexander. She must have added the walnuts to jazz it up.
There are piles of versions of this recipe on the web: without nuts – and with walnuts, pistachios, macadamia or almonds If you know a source which is earlier than 1996, I would love to hear.
Now I have bored you into a coma with my own obsessive compulsive behaviour, here is the recipe. It will take you all of five minutes to make. Francesca suggested you could chop the chocolate and walnuts in a food processor, rather than chop them by hand. I decided to chop them by hand because I thought they would be better a bit chunky but, in retrospect, I think chopped in a food processor would be fine, if not better. My cake was very chunky. As the dates are sticky, you will need to chop them by hand.
I would, normally, have dusted the cake with icing sugar (for the photo) but the icing sugar was in Bridgetown and I refused to buy another packet just for a photo.
Thanks to Francesca for the inspiration. I am giving Stephanie Alexander the nod for the original but if you know better, let me know.
Several sources suggest that the cake is best made the day before. Stephanie Alexander suggests leaving cake in the tin overnight to soften.
- 6 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 200g dates, chopped
- 200g dark chocolate, chopped
- 200g walnuts, chopped
- Preheat your oven to 180°C or, if it is fan forced, 160°C.
- Line the base and sides of a springform tin.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff.
- Slowly add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
- When all the sugar has been beaten in, gently fold in the chocolate, dates and walnuts. (Make sure the dates are not all in one big clump.)
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for one hour. Francesca mentioned that it may need a bit longer, so I baked mine for one hour ten minutes but I think one hour may have been enough. Just tap the top and if the meringue has set, it will be fine.
- Leave the cake in the oven until cool.
- Serve with lots of cream.