From the Great British Bake Off
Adapted from a recipe by “The Great British Bake Off” contestant Tamal Ray.
You’ll need an 8-inch springform pan and an instant-read thermometer. We tested this with all-purpose flour and more baking powder, rather than the self-rising flour called for in the original recipe.
Make Ahead: The unfrosted cake can be baked and tightly wrapped in plastic 1 day in advance.
Tested size: 16 servings; makes one 8-inch layer cake
FOR THE CAKE
About 2 cups (9 ounces) Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
Generous 1/2 cup (4 ounces) dried figs, chopped
Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) prunes, chopped
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons, plus the juice of 1 1/2 lemons (1 tablespoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
Scant 1/4 cup (1 ounce) flour for coating the fruit, plus 1 3/4 cups (9 ounces) for the batter
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
FOR THE TOFFEE SAUCE FROSTING
3/4 cup (9 1/2 ounces) date syrup/molasses (see headnote)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus scant 1 tablespoon 4 1/2 ounces total) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
FOR DECORATION (OPTIONAL)
Scant 3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
For the cake: Combine the chopped dates, figs and prunes with the lemon juice in a bowl. Stir in the 1/4 cup of flour, then the lemon and orange zests.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease the inside of the springform pan with butter, then line the base with parchment paper. Place a small plate in the freezer.
Combine the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time on medium speed, beating well between each addition. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups of flour, the baking powder and the dried-fruit mixture; beat on low speed just until incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly. Bake (middle rack) for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until nicely browned and fragrant. A tester inserted into the center should come out clean. (If the top of the cake begins to brown too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil.) Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan. Discard the parchment paper on the base of the cake; transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the toffee sauce frosting: Combine the date syrup, butter and heavy cream in a large saucepan over low heat. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring often, until smooth and bubbling (the temperature of the mixture will register about 240 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). To test whether it is ready, remove the plate from the freezer and put a teaspoonful of the hot sauce in the middle. Leave it for a minute, then test the consistency: It should be spreadable and not runny. Transfer to a bowl; let it cool and thicken to a spreadable consistency, 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissipate the heat and keep it smooth and glossy.
Once the cake is cool, cut it in half horizontally. Place the bottom half on a serving plate and spread some of the toffee sauce on top. Sandwich with the top half and spread more toffee sauce neatly all over the sides and top of the cake.
For the optional sugar decoration: Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat; once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring to form a rich, amber-colored, translucent caramel that registers 350 to 360 degrees on the thermometer.
Remove from the heat; let it cool just enough so the liquid sugar begins to thicken a little bit; this will ensure that it holds its shape. Here’s where you can have some fun. Experiment with the mixture in different shapes — drizzle it over a rolling pin covered in parchment paper, stretch it into thin threads to form a “nest” or drop small bits onto parchment or a silicone mat to form beads.
Once the sugar decorations are cool (the sauce should be set well on the cake, too), arrange them on the cake however you like.
The cake can be served right away. To make clean cuts, you may want to use a serrated knife, dipping it in a glass of hot water and wiping it off between cuts.