Date And Walnut Cake

Date And Walnut Cake

Old Photographs And Documents

This date and walnut cake recipe was discovered in the archives! I went to my parents house recently to help them ‘declutter’ and to sort through some old photographs and documents. I knew I would enjoy doing it and loved to hear some stories my Mother would tell of relatives and friends from long ago as she picked through the images, captured all those years ago.

This could be the best ever date and walnut cake recipe – from my Grandmother’s recipe book. It is really easy and delicious. Good old-fashioned baking!

Amongst the documents found was my Great Grandfathers apprenticeship contract which included clauses about him not gambling, or visting pubs or marrying during the duration of the training which lasted for 5 years. Rather different from an apprenticeship agreement today, thank goodness!!

He must have obeyed, or at least not got caught for any breaches, because he did successfully complete his instruction and went on to have his own blacksmith business.

Two Young Ladies

There is also this wonderful photograph of my Grandma and my Auntie walking down the street in Scarborough – full of energy and fun! It is a picture of its time!

The old car in the background helps to date it – and the lack of traffic!

They seem to be wearing matching suits too. I wonder where they were off to!

I don’t know why I love old photos quite so much. I guess it is all part of knowing who you are and where you came from. I Suspect we all like to discover our links to the past every now and then

Grandma’s Handwritten Cookery Book

Perhaps the most wonderful, and unexpected thing I found, was the handwritten collection of recipes in a notebook which was my Grandmother’s. Inside the notebook as well as the carefully copied cooking instructions -(didn’t people have good handwriting 60 years ago?), were newspaper and magazine cuttings and even some awards from WI competitions.

Grandma's Handwritten Recipe Book

It is a true treasure of family history and a record of the time. There are austerity recipes following the war (Mock Cream, Almond Paste without almonds – flavoured with almond essence) and traditional recipes such as malt loaf, gingerbread, brandy snaps – and Date and Walnut cake. Coconut features in quite a few recipes. I don’t know if it was used a lot in baking – or may be my Grandmother just liked coconut! There are a lot of recipes using dried fruit too.

What strikes me about the book is that the recipes are straight forward and no nonsense. This is real, normal day to day cooking, like, well, our Grandmothers did. It’s amazing that there are so many baking recipe books always being published, as if its something new! Of course there are always endless variations on recipes that people want to share and there are fashions in cooking like the present love of Cupcakes.

Recipes – A Link To The Past

These basic recipes have been around for a long time and will be repeated by my descendants. But what I did love when baking this really simple and delicious cake is the connection I felt to my Grandmother through the books and the recipes.

I had read about people feeling that before but had never really experienced it. It was strange thinking I was following an exact recipe that she had many, many years before. It made me think of her, and the time I spent with her as a child. I was lucky enough to know her well into my twenties.

As a child I remember traditional tea times with a real fire and a tea of sandwiches, ham, malt loaf and cakes – may be a date and walnut cake.

Slice Of Date And Walnut

I remember staring into the fire as the adults talked and imagining other worlds – far away from this mundane scene. I don’t ever remember cooking with Grandma – I don’t think she considered herself much of a baker. This sort of cooking was just run of the mill normal in those days.

My main food memory is teatimes and going done the garden to forage some peas grown by my Granddad, with my sister. We were allowed to pick some and eat them straight from the pod – how sweet and delicious! I remember the tomatoes too – I expect that is where my love of tomatoes came from and why I value home grown or organically grown rather than some of the tasteless supermarket offerings

Easy Date And Walnut Cake Recipe

This date and Walnut cake is so easy to make – it just takes minutes to prepare. It uses surprisingly little fat too! Whilst not the cheapest cake to make it is very tasty and has lots of goodness in. It probably costs about £3.50, depending on where you buy your dates and walnuts. It makes a tasty, wholesome addition to the lunch box or is lovely at teatime or an elevenses snack!

If you have any old recipes which connect you to your thos who have gone before you, do write in to share the recipe and the memory

Date And Walnut Cake Recipe


  • 250g (8oz) dates, chopped
  • 125g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 55g (2oz) butter or margarine, cut into small cubes
  • 170ml (6 fluid oz) boiling water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 55g (2oz) chopped walnuts
  • 250g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)

Cooking Directions

  1. Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees C

  2. Place the dates, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and butter/margarine into a mixing bowl

  3. Pour the boiling water over and mix to melt the fat

  4. Allow to cool a little

  5. Add the egg

  6. Add the walnuts, flour and vanilla essence if using and mix to a smooth batter type consistency

  7. Grease and line two small or one large loaf tin

  8. Bake in the oven for about 75 minutes or until firm

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  1. Tony says

    I made this loaf today. I chose the recipe because I was taken by the back story you gave about your gram. I really loved the loaf. The method clearly works, though my main difficulty was lining the loaf tin. The crust was perfect, crispy but not overdone. The load was lovely and moist. It was slightly crumbly in the middle. Any thoughts why? I will make this regularly. Even my wife, who doesn’t like fruit cakes/loaves loved it.

  2. Nadia says

    Hi Penny, thank you for posting this lovely recipe – when mixing does it matter if you use an electric mixer? I know with some recipes your not supposed to mix with an electric mixer,but rather a
    wooden spoon?

    • says

      I think this recipe is best down with a spoon rather than an electric mixer because of all the dates and walnuts. The mixer might break them up too much. I would welcome any comments from other people on this, though – if anyone has tried it with an electric mixer

  3. Dee says

    Hi Penny, this is Dee from Cape Town here. I was looking for a good date loaf recipe & yours jumped out. I will be trying it today. It looks deelicious!

  4. Bea says

    I bought an expensive date and walnut cake last week. What a waste of money. My best friend is coming to lunch tomorrow and if I can persuade her to stay for tea as well hubby and I will treat her to a slice of proper D&W cake.

    PS I live quite near Scarborough. That photo took me back.

  5. Jackie says

    Just can’t praise this enough, and neither can anyone I offer some to. It is now a monthly treat for my family and friends – I have to make 3 at a time to keep up with demand ! Never thought I would get such high praise for something I made.

  6. Deb says

    The best date and walnut cake I have ever made. Lovely crispy top with a moist filling. Delicious. Thank you.

  7. Anne says

    Mr mother-in-law (89 yrs old) was impressed with my offering which is praise indeed! Son 2 has already eaten most of his cake and Son 1 has demanded I make another for him and his family. I think this recipe will be adopted by our whole family. A great big Thank You!

  8. Marilyn Hogan says

    Date and Walnut cake, The first recipe I used from your site, gorgeous, hubby really enjoyed it, looking forward to using more recipes

  9. ros says

    I’ve just read your lovely blog and will bake your Grandma’s recipe this afternoon. You’ve taken me down memory lane and described exactly how I remember my own family tea times, particularly the Sunday family get together. and festive gatherings. I’ve had a tear or two as well. Thank you so much for sharing this precious recipe. xxxxx

  10. Jackie says

    On asking my father what he would like for his 80th Birthday next week – he replied a date and Walnut cake like the 1 you made before Christmas. It was this one ! Obviously a winner :-)

  11. Diana says

    Lovely cake. I was out last week at a local tea rooms and along with my pot of tea I ordered a slice of their date and walnut cake. It was dry and they must have thrown the dates in a mile away ( I couldn’t see or taste any ).
    I came home, put my computer on and saw this recipe. I cooked it the following day, left it 2 days before eating AND………………………..I have a good mind to make another, leave it on the tea rooms doorstep with a note saying
    ” Eat me, then throw your so called Date and Walnut cake in the bin.”
    Thank you for this recipe.

    • says

      Thank you for your lovely comment – and for making me smile! Delighted you love the cake so much! I think I am going to have to go and make another one now – you have made me want a slice!

      • Robert Muckett says

        Dear Penny
        I have been looking for some time now for a date and Walnut cake recipe like my grandmother used to make.
        I remember my grandmother cooking and baking all sorts on a Sunday and loved to be there we would also collect home grown vegetables and eggs from the garden I am now 61 and at last this looks like the cake I remember I cant ever remember my granny ever having a recipe book, I will be making this cake over the weekend and can’t wait to try it one bite will tell me if it is like my granny’s but I am sure it will be.
        All I have to do after that is to carry on my search for her farmhouse cake which was to die for as a small boy

  12. Gail East says

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I’m going to try making it for my Dad. My Mum died suddenly last year and always made him a lovely date and walnut cake in a large loaf tin. He has so missed her cakes and this one looks just like the one she used to make.

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