I've talked before about the difficulty of finding recipes which use enough maple syrup to justify putting the ingredient name into the title, especially if you're looking for a plain, everyday kind of cake. There are plenty of gateau-type cakes, with maple flavoured frosting, and plenty of cakes which use only a tablespoon of maple syrup, yet still thinks this is enough to add a maple flavour. It isn't, believe me!
Eventually, I found a suitable looking recipe for a Pecan Maple Loaf, and adapted it a little to make this Date, Maple and Pecan Loaf. I did a very rough conversion of the ingredients to metric weights, then rounded up to produce a recipe which looked right to my experienced eyes. I also added 100g of roughly chopped dried dates.
200g SR flour
180g softened butter or baking spread (see note)
100g caster sugar
3 large eggs
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
75mls maple syrup
100g roughly chopped dried dates
50g roughly chopped pecan nuts
Note - I used non-dairy spread, suitable for baking, as I had a tub to use up. I also left the tablespoon of milk out of the recipe to make this suitable for a dairy-free diet - the batter was very loose, so I couldn't see the point of adding the milk. Interestingly, I watched a TV programme (The Icing on the Cake - Nigel Slater) earlier this week, where the food scientist Peter Barham explained that baking spreads often make better risen cakes than butter because the water content is higher than that of butter. This turns to steam during baking and helps give a bigger rise to the cake, as it is trapped within the setting batter.
Prepare a 2lb loaf tin. (I lined the base and long sides of a non-stick tin with baking parchment). Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
Rub the fat into the flour and stir in the sugar.
Whisk together the eggs, maple syrup and lemon zest. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mix, but do not over-mix.
Fold in the dates and pecans.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and bake for 70 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean. Cover with foil if the cake seems to be browning too quickly (mine needed covering after 45 minutes).
Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
The optional frosting would probably have been very nice, but I didn't want to add extra sugar to an everyday cake, and it was fine without!
This was a delicious and light-textured cake, although the raw batter was very wet, and I worried needlessly that the dates and nuts would sink during baking. The maple syrup and lemon together gave a lovely flavour and was a good background flavour to the dates and pecans. The crumb texture wasn't super-fine, but I think that came from the rubbing-in method, which left little lumps of fat in the batter. A creaming method might have given a tighter texture.