Six nights until Christmas Eve
There is not too many days left in the countdown. The mornings are dark and I find that an extra hour of sleep would feel nice but the children get up easily when they know that it is their turn to peek into the advent calendar. Of course the older children do not believe in Santa Claus and elves anymore and the middle kids waver in between. They would like to believe but yet at the same time they have picked up on the fact that magical creatures live in the world of storybooks. Our four almost five year-old who told me that “Elves are magical creatures” also told me once that, “they are just normal people dressed up as elves” when I said the elves might be watching. I had been quite exasperated with him that day. Take that, Mom!
Little by little the holiday preparations are done. Some of them are done together like baking gingerbread and some are done by the elves late at night. The household is full of little mysteries and even the littlest ones wrap toys into blankets and bring me gifts. With bright shining eyes they wait for you to open their gifts of love and your exclamation of delight.
The date cake is perfect for the days of waiting. You may eat it on its own with a morning cup of coffee, or if surprise guests walk in the door, it can be easily dressed up with a dollop of equal parts of whipped cream and Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of caramel. My mother would make date cake when I was still living at home and it is a favorite. This recipe is slightly altered from the one found in the book, Hyvää Ruokahalua, kotikokin parhaat leivontaohjeet, edited by Anna-Maija Tanttu. It is the kind of recipe that needs no special equipment: a bowl, a pot, a wooden spoon and a bundt pan.
250 g/8.8 oz chopped and pitted dates
3 dl/1.3 c water
200 g/7 oz soft butter
2 dl/1 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 dl/1.7 c flour
Place the chopped dates and water into a medium sized saucepan or pot and allow to boil for about 4-5 minutes so that it thickens just a bit. Take off from the heat and stir in the soft butter. Add the sugar and vanilla next. Then add in the eggs mixing them in well with a wooden spoon. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Pour the warm date mixture into the bowl and combine with the flour. Pour into a greased and floured (I like to use wheat germ or wheat bran for the flouring) bundt pan and bake in the oven at 175 C/350 F for about 40 minutes or so that a test skewer comes clean when inserted in the middle. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before flipping the cake over onto a plate. The flavor of the cake improves with time, if it lasts that long and freezes wonderfully.
For the cream dollop, mix equal parts of whipped cream and Greek or Turkish yoghurt and sugar to taste. Drizzle with caramel sauce.
Hoping your holiday season is a peaceful and festive one.