Old-fashioned cake with a modern twist

The tart, fresh fruitiness of Granny Smith apple offsets the gooey sweetness of dates in this moreish cake. With its sweet-sharp date and apple base and crisp coconut and oat topping, this is quite an old-fashioned cake.

I think apple cakes and puddings almost always have a comforting, warm-kitcheny feel and this one does not disappoint.

There are many recipes for lumberjack cake. I have adapted this one considerably - it's a lighter version, using much less butter, sugar and coconut. I've also added an ingredient or two.

Orange flower water adds an exotic edge to the apples' refreshing flavour and it combines beautifully with cinnamon. The result is an intensely flavoured cake, moist and utterly delicious.

I have specified Granny Smith apples because of their tartness, but, at a pinch, any eating apple will do. As the cake bakes and cools, the topping becomes firm and remains in place as the cake is removed from the tin.


Lumberjack cake
Makes a 22cm cake(16-18 slices)

Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Photo by Gregor Richardson.

200g pitted dates
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
350g Granny Smith apples (2 medium)
60g butter, softened
160g brown sugar
1 large egg, size 7
250g standard flour
¾ tsp ground cinnamon


20g butter, chopped
¼ cup milk
50g brown sugar
½ cup coconut thread (40g)
⅔ cup rolled oats (90g)
2 tsp orange flower water or 1 tsp vanilla essence



Preheat the oven to 170degC.

Lightly oil the sides and line the base of a 22-23cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper.

Place the chopped dates in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the boiling water over the dates, add the baking soda and stir. Peel, core and dice the apples quite finely. Add to the date mixture, stir well and set aside to cool a little.

Beat butter, sugar and the egg until pale and fluffy. It will probably curdle but this does not matter. Combine the flour and cinnamon.

Then add half the flour and cinnamon to the apple and date mixture, alternating with the butter and sugar mixture. They just need to be combined, do not overmix. Tip into the prepared tin, smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the topping. Combine butter, milk and brown sugar in a small saucepan and stir over gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the coconut and rolled oats and stir to combine. Remove from the heat, add the orange flower water or vanilla and mix well.

When the cake has finished baking, remove from the oven and spread the topping evenly over the cake. Return to the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin. Slide a knife between the side of the tin and the cake to loosen it. Invert on to a plate and remove the baking paper. Turn right side up.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place. The cake will keep for 4-5 days.


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