New recipes and updates

Get new recipes
in your inbox

Cuisine Fiend

Find a recipe by ingredient

Honey cake with dates and apples

Sat, 5 November, 2022

Dates, apples and honey – autumnal flavours don’t get better than that. And in Nigella Lawson’s cake recipe all three are in perfect, sweet harmony.

honey cake with dates and apples

Seasons for cake

Nobody dare tell me cakes aren’t seasonal! They are too, very much so unless you only ever eat brownies.

Summer is all about berries for instance: swathed in pillows of whipped cream or baked in buttery batter.

In winter all we want is Christmas bakes: mince pies, ginger cake and those opulent Italian confections like panpepato.

Spring means we’re on the weight loss regime so less is more: a biscuit or very light sponge every now and again.

Autumn is the best cake time. Berries and stone fruit are out of the way, apples and pears are in. Apple pies! Sticky pear cakes! Strudels and dried fruit studded cakes, fragranced with comforting cinnamon, exotic cardamom and cool heat of ginger.

honey date and apple cake

Date cakes

The classic of all, sticky toffee cake is in fact a date cake, except often renamed ‘pudding’ and drowned in toffee sauce.

Dates are a fabulous caking material because, with a little help of bicarbonate of soda, they dissolve into sweet, sticky pulp.

You need not splash on them either: Medjool dates are fantastic and well worth paying for when you purchase them for snacking or breakfasting. But ordinary no-name dates, pitted or not, are perfectly fine for cakes.

You chop them up and briefly boil anyway so even if really hard and shrivelled, they’ll swell up and serve the cake well.

nigellas honey cake with dates

Apple cakes

There are two main types: cakes with apple filling and with chunks of apple folded into the batter.

The classic example of the former is apple pie, beloved of Americans on par with pumpkin, I think. Norwegians also like their apples to feature abundantly and distinctly atop a sponge called epplekake.

The other type is, for instance, the old fashioned apple cake or the easiest autumn cake with apples, brown cake. And apples in the latter two bakes can easily be swapped for pears or firm plums.

date and apple cake

What apple variety for cake?

Traditionally, so called cooking apples (Bramleys) are advised to be used in baking. I personally suspect it’s only because they are not so very nice to eat, rather than having some magical properties that awaken only in cake batter.

Nigella in the original recipe recommends Braeburn but frankly, whatever you get cheaply or off your own tree, if applicable. They will be cooked to a mash anyway.

How to make the honey, apple and date cake

No mixer! It’s all done by hand which is always a bonus. The batter is mixed in a saucepan – make sure you grab one large enough for this.

Cored, peeled and diced apples are cooked on the hob with a little olive oil and orange juice until tender. Dates cut into small pieces join in and cook to soften, for everything to be eventually mashed into lovely, fragrant pulp.

cooking apples and dates

While that puree cools, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients: all the liquid ones (oil, honey, eggs and the orange blossom water) stirred together with dark brown sugar in a jug or bowl, until it looks precisely like treacle.

The dry ones, flour, ground almonds, cocoa, salt and bicarbonate of soda should be stirred in a separate bowl.

dry and wet ingredients

And then it’s short work: adding the liquid ingredients to the apples and dates in the pan, then folding in the dry ones until everything is combined and smooth. A generous addition of walnut chunks ends the job.

cake batter

The cake bakes in just under an hour and when out, you can happily leave it unadorned. But you won’t be sorry if you do make a small effort to cook down a little honey and orange juice for a glossy glaze.

baking and glazing cake

The cake is divine

I cut the amount of sugar from Nigella’s original 100g down to 80g because I always try to reduce sugar content. It is still plenty sweet, dense and wet thanks to the olive oil (it makes cakes moister than butter would) but not stodgy.

The walnut crunch, the deep brown colour and the apple aroma all make it the perfect autumn dessert.

With a scoop of crème fraiche, it’s irresistible.

honey cake

More apple recipes

Apple cider bread with chunks of apples in the dough. This delicious recipe makes easy apple bread using sparkling apple cider in the dough.

Apple and cheese scones are really tasty, made with Cheddar cheese and Bramley cooking apples. A quick, rewarding, minimum effort recipe for apple cheese scones.

Apple marmalade, thick and gorgeous spiced apple preserve with natural pectin. If it’s never jam today, perhaps we can have some marmalade, eh?

More date recipes

Sticky toffee cake topped with nuts and drizzled with toffee sauce. Dates and dark brown sugar are key to a sticky toffee deliciousness.

Tamarind paste added to a date cake gives it a wonderful tang. This tamarind date cake with cardamom icing comes from Dan Lepard.

Dates are not just for Christmas: featured here in a wonderful dessert that must be cut into small squares or bars - it is divinely rich.

nigella lawsons honey cake for rosh hashanah

Honey cake with dates and apples

Servings: 12Time: 1 hour 40 minutes


  • 325 – 350g Braeburn apples (3 large apples)
  • 1 large orange
  • 125ml (12 cup) plus 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 75g (12 cup) pitted dates
  • 150g (12 cup) honey plus 50g (3 tbsp) more for glaze
  • 80g (12 cup) dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 200g (123 cups) plain flour
  • 50g (12 cup) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 14 tsp salt
  • 100g (34 cup) walnut halves
  • 112 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 112 tsp hot water


1. Peel, core and finely dice the apples into about 1cm/½ inch pieces. Place them in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan with a lid.

2. Zest the orange into the apples and juice it, add 3 tbsp of the juice to the apples and the 1 tbsp olive oil. Cover with the lid and place over medium heat. Cook for 7 minutes until the apples are softened.

3. In the meantime finely chop the dates. When the apples are soft, add the dates with another 1 tbsp orange juice and continue cooking with the lid off, for 3 minutes until you can mash the apples and dates to rough puree with a potato ricer. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C no fan/350F/gas 4. Line a 20cm (8 inch) cake tin with a disc of parchment and butter the sides.

5. In a jug, whisk together the oil, honey, dark brown sugar, eggs and the orange blossom water.

6. In a bowl stir together the flour, ground almonds, cocoa, salt and bicarbonate of soda.

7. Coarsely chop or break up the walnuts.

8. Pour the liquid ingredients into the pan with apples and mix to combine.

9. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined and no dry flour can be seen; stir in the walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

10. Remove the cake from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack.

11. Stir the 50g honey with 3 tbsp orange juice in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute, pausing if the mix foams too madly.

12. Brush the hot cake with half the glaze, leave it for 10 minutes and then brush on the remaining glaze. Cool completely in the tin.

NEW recipe finder

Ingredients lying around and no idea what to cook with them? Then use my NEW Recipe Finder for inspiration!

Recipe Finder

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published

Characters left 800
Recipe rating
Email address*
Web site name
Be notified by email when a comment is posted

* required

Cuisine Fiend's

most recent

About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


Sign up to receive the weekly recipes updates

Follow Fiend