From Samantha Seneviratne’s The New Sugar and Spice, a wonderfully spiced sticky apple date cake recipe with fresh ginger and a salty sweet stovetop caramel sauce. Jump to recipe.
I have a list of beloved recipes for fall, the holidays, and beyond, and pretty much stick to them, especially when things get busy. Also, I don’t like change. Even so, sometimes an idea or book comes along that changes my ways and pushes me to re-imagine even my very favorite things. Samantha Seneviratne‘s The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking is just that kind of thing. In it, Sam moves beautifully between engaging family stories and insights into baking, spices, and the history of how such far flung ingredients made their way into our kitchens. It’s also overflowing with perfect recipes. Just enough sugar to be delicious and with an admirable restraint – rather than the typical cinnamon/clove/nutmeg/ground ginger wall of flavor, Sam achieves culinary splendor by thoughtfully highlighting just a few ingredients in each dish. Think of it as the anti-pumpkin pie spice.
I’ve bookmarked nearly everything in The New Sugar and Spice, but standouts include black pepper, dark chocolate, and sour cherry bread; cakes for both true and new love; roasted peach and buttermilk pie; chocolate chip cookies with coconut, pistachios, and sea salt; and cardamom cream-filled sugar donuts.
The New Sugar and Spice is the kind of book you’ll want to keep close – to help with that,
I’m giving away a copy! To enter, just leave a comment below sharing your favorite baking spice (and why you love it). A winner will be selected at random on Thursday, October 22nd at noon EST. (Contest open to US residents only.) Giveaway closed!
Now, about this sticky apple date cake: it’s the best. The cake’s made with fresh dates and ginger, tart apples, and drizzled (or smothered) with an easy stovetop caramel. Fresh ginger and dates make for a wonderful crumb – hints of sweetness and heat, all suffused with a rich, perfectly salted, caramel sauce.
Update: because a few commenters have mentioned it, I should add that even with a full six tablespoons minced fresh ginger, this cake is surprisingly mild. Older ginger can be spicer, so find the freshest you can. The cake has a mild, incredibly flavorful heat. Both my daughters ate their pieces gladly and didn’t find the cake too spicy at all.
From 'The New Sugar and Spice,' a wonderfully spiced sticky apple date cake recipe with fresh ginger and a salty sweet stovetop caramel sauce.
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter , at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 10 ounces fresh dates , pitted and chopped (1 1/2 cups)
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Brand kosher salt
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs , room temperature
- 6 tablespoons peeled , minced, fresh ginger
- 2 smallish sweet-tart apples such as Pink Lady or Braeburn , peeled, cored and cut into a 1/4-inch dice (1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Brand kosher salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter either a 9-inch springform pan or 2 6-inch cake pans. (If using a non-springform pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper buttered on both sides.)
In a small saucepan, bring dates and water to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until dates start to soften, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and immediately stir in baking soda. Set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy 3 - 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then add ginger. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in date mixture and fold in apples. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40 - 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining the brown sugar, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted and the sugar's dissolved – about 3 minutes. Stir in cream, bring mixture to a gentle simmer, and then turn heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened, 5 - 7 minutes. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.
Cool cake for 15 minutes, then remove sides (or flip out of cake pan) and set on a serving plate. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over cake. Pour half the warm sauce over the cake. Slice, and serve warm cake with a generous drizzle of sauce. Leftovers will store well wrapped at room temperature for 3 days.
Disclosure: Giveaway copy of The New Sugar and Spice was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions expressed here are my own.
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says
This cake certainly looks like it’s the best!! I really love all those dates in there – so delicious!
Laura W. says
My favorite baking spice is garam masala–it gives traditional baked goods a new and intriguing flavor.
By the way–six tablespoons of fresh ginger in this cake!? Absolutely.
I love garam masala too! Have you ever made your own, Laura? (And you know, I thought the 6 tablespoons of ginger in the cake was going to pack a wallop of heat but it was surprisingly mild and very delicious.)
My favorite baking spice is cinnamon, I just love the way it smells and tastes!
That cookbook sounds intriguing, I think I’m going to pick up a copy. Thanks! And that Apple Date cake looks crazy good. Might be too spicy for my family but that could be a good thing because I wouldn’t mind eating the whole thing myself.
I love adding a dash of nutmeg whenever I’m baking, especially during the colder months! The rich, nutty and earthy flavor adds that extra bit of comfort and depth!
Notes on Tea | Georgia says
Freshly grated nutmeg! Also, vanilla beans. Does matcha count?!
Wow! You’re cake sounds phenomenal it hits all my fave notes,..dates, ginger and carmel. I adore spices and use many for sweet and savory dishes.
For fall baking I might be a bit addicted to cinnamon..love cinnamon rolls and pumpkin..apples..haha.
Stephany Ma says
My favorite baking spice is ginger! It always adds a depth of flavor to most baked goods like banana bread!
Michelle Damiani says
Man, that cake is making me hungry. My favorite baking spice is cardamom. For some reason, it makes everything taste like Christmas. I love cardamom so much, I put it on chicken (okay with other spices like paprika and ground ginger and fenugreek).
This looks delicious—and the cookbook looks wonderful! It’s so hard to choose a favorite spice, but I might have to settle on nutmeg.
Brian @ A Thought For Food says
I’m right there with you. I have my holiday favorites (I always make a cranberry-apple tart that is a huge hit) and it’s hard to get me to stray from those… but then a cake like this comes along and changes everything. So glad you shared it… and I think this book would make a nice addition to my collection.
Ah…. so favorite spice. That’s a tough one. I mean, cinnamon is pretty versatile, but I would go with nutmeg or cumin. All three of those are pretty wonderful though.
Congrats, Brian! You’re the cookbook winner! I’ll be in touch with details.
Dave Cooper says
I’m no baker, but appreciate the baking of others. Haha! My favorite spice for baking is cinnamon. It’s good in small doses in so many recipes—even hearty ones on occasion.
Sydney | Modern Granola says
What a stunning cake! I love the pockets of apple slices throughout. The cookbook looks like a treasure, and this cake sounds incredibly delicious. Yum!
Cardamom is definitely my favorite baking spice. Made cardamom short bread cookies with an espresso butter cream last Christmas – so good!
CINNAMON!!!! I’m probably a overly enthusiastic because it is fall, but the smell and taste bring me nothing but feelings of warmth and joy. My knowledge about baking spices is also fairly limited, any suggestions for expanding a beginners spice repertoire? Great recipe and beautiful photography.
Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous) says
i’m going to be boring and say cinnamon! it works in everything, and i love that it gives a bit of warmth without overwhelming anything. i probably use it the most frequently for my morning oatmeal, but i love it most in baked apple pancakes and (even though this isn’t quite baking) tagines.
With a Norwegian husband, cardamom is de rigeur around here!
I love using fresh cracked black pepper in my baking, adds a little kick!
such a beautiful post! I’ve been wanting her cookbook since it came out. specifically want to make her hand pies and blackberry clafoutis! my favorite spice must be nutmeg, because it works in both sweet and savory applications. love using it during these colder months!
I’m a sucker for cinnamon!
Cinnamon! It’s the essence of a warm kitchen and freshly baked goods. And it tastes so nice with coffee.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
Cinnamon! I love that it can be sweet, savory, even spicy!
Allspice! Because why does it get shelved for everything except apple pie?
Kath the Cook says
probably cinnamon. but love lots of other spices as well
Most often used is vanilla; my favorite variation to use is the vanilla bean. Most favorite spice is cardamon, as it means the Christmas baking season is back. I use it in a Scandinavian cookie tart recipe my husband’s family has passed down through the generations.
Debbie G says
Pepper…just adds something special, even to sweet things.
Nutmeg is my favorite spice. It provides just a hint of New England in my baked goods, which the husband loves.
I love cinnamon. It just lends that warm, comforting flavor to so many things.
I like to add a pinch of cayenne to my baked goods because I’m a fan of the sweet & heat!
This cake… so warm, inviting, and cozy. love the warm spices and dates for sweetness! My fave baking spices- cinnamon in the fall, lemon in the summer. (maybe lemon is not technically a spice, but I love it in all summer baked treats!)
Recently added Garam Masala to a peach pie and the flavor it brought out of that fruit was to die. I’ve been sneaking it into every thing since. Marshmallows, blueberries, cookies. Nobody can identify the unique flavor but everyone finds it swoon worthy.
Joan Kubes says
My favorite baking spice is cinnamon, Whenever I bake something with it my whole house smells wonderful.
my favorite spice for backing is cardamom as it adds a warming earthiness.
My favourite baking spice is clove. I love the earthy, sweet flavour it gives just about anything – baked goods or rice! It”s also widely used in toothpaste in India so there’s that 😛
Sue Hegle says
oh my, that cake sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to try it! As for favorite spices, I have to say Cardamon. I love the smell when I am crushing it with my mortar, I love its flavor. It makes everything taste so yummy!
Cinnamon is the winner hands down for its versatility and ubiquity in fall cooking! Plus, there’s great research on its beneficial effects on blood sugar, so we don’t feel too bad about indulging in the sweets 🙂
Right now my favorite spice is cardamom. It gave my peach tart crust a little twist and helps give everything a little flavor bump.
Ginger is my favorite! I love to add a little to the crust of my lemon bars or fruit pies.
Sarah Leitner says
My favorite baking spice is lavender for summer treats adds a clean fresh kick to anything… and cardamom for winter treats adds a nice cozy feel to the treats!
I love cinnamon, just a classic, a twist of ginger and the sweet fresh fragrance of cardamom
Although I love most spices, I think my favorite baking spice is rosemary — it’s just unexpected enough in sweet baked goods to give you pause, but in a really good, intriguing way.
I’ve heard so many great things about this book; I’ll have to pick up a copy regardless of the giveaway.
This sounds delicious! After starting to use cardamom in a granola recipe it has become a favorite. I sneak it in everywhere
Jennifer R says
I love cinnamon! It has a warm flavor without burning my tongue. Supposedly it’s good for you too, which is a bonus!
My favorite spice is most definitely ginger in any form. I am partial to crystallized ginger from Penzey’s, as it chops incredibly fine but still has the ginger zing that sometime s you miss with powdered.
Nutmeg, for sure. I use it in baked goods but occasionally in savory dishes as well.
I am a nutmeg lover. That or cloves. They both have such a nostalgia element that I can’t resist them!
I love adding nutmeg to recipes, especially banana bread1
I am obsessed with cardamom lately – especially with apples!
I love allspice (as proven in my tendency to put it on and in everything)!
Hmm, that’s a tough question! Cinnamon probably wins for pure versatility and deliciousness, but I love nutmeg and cloves (especially during the fall and winter!) and I love to add a bit of heat and depth with cayenne. I just read that urfa biber (a smoky/sweet Turkish pepper) is great for that, too, so I’m going to add some to my next batch of brownies!
love love love cinnamon!
I love allspice! A little bit goes a long way though
Oooh yum! I can’t get enough nutmeg during the winter months. It warms my soul.
The cake looks amazing, and I’m in love with the dishes. Where, if I might ask, did you get them?
Sam @ Love, Cake says
Elizabeth! Thank you so much for this lovely post – and the giveaway! That’s so exciting. I’ve never been the prize in a contest before. : )
And this cake is one of my favorites in the whole book. I’m so glad you and the family liked it.
Your support means a lot to me.
dianne beech says
I would love this cook book. Nutmeg, Mmm I switched to grinding my own fresh each time I need some. I love the smell. Thanks, if I don’t win I’ll buy it.
Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land says
I know I’m anciently too late for the giveaway but DANG IT this cake is gorgeous! I forgot about Samantha’s book and I must look it up, thank you for the reminder! The book looks so lovely! (ps so cute that your daughters were into this cake! Do they eat everything you prepare or do they have pickier palettes? Just curious… trying to expand Teddy’s palette…)
Cake sounds lovely but unable to make it as you don’t provide metric measurements (or even imperial) measurements. Tut tut.
Hi Drew, I appreciate the feedback and can understand the frustration you may have with US standard measurements. My thinking on it is that this is a US-based blog and has a mainly US audience, and I try to provide measurements that will be the most accessible for the everyday US cook. However, I know that, especially with baking, listing ingredients by weight is much more precise. I recently purchased a kitchen scale and hope to eventually provide measurements in volume *and* weight in this space. As for a US conversion to the metric system, that’s out of my hands. Thanks for stopping by.
Judith de Haan says
I bought this cookbook for my Aunt Judy this summer. She is a baker of the finest stripe. She made it twice for me. Begging is so helpful. It was unbelievably light, complex in flavours and swoon-worthy. Oh my, yes!
I just made it this weekend using gluten free all purpose flour and it turned out a bit denser than hers. Still pretty darned good, though!
I made this cake last year for Thanksgiving dinner and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. I scored major points with the family for baking this. Thank you!