Today I’m sharing a recipe for my healthy cake of the moment. We’ve been making this a lot chez Streets because I wanted my children to eat brain-boosting walnuts while they revised for their exams last term. And what better way than by offering them a slice of sticky toffee pubbing cake?
Sugar-free, packed with walnuts, dates, chia seeds and antioxidant-rich spices (and divinely more-ish) I can’t recommend this cake enough.
We know walnuts are food for the brain: studies suggest they include neuroprotective compounds including vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats and antioxidants. But recent research gives us another reason to eat more walnuts.
It appears that walnuts may also play a role in keeping our hearts healthy, reducing our risk of bowel cancer, and lowering our LDL cholesterol. According to the University of Illinois, walnuts do this as a result of their interactions with our gut. So, yes, walnuts are also the perfect fodder for gut health
The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that eating walnuts ‘increases microbes that produce butyrate, a beneficial metabolite for colonic health.’ In this study a daily handful of walnuts was all that was required. Blood and fecal tests were taken at the beginning and end of each three week period. After six weeks the study participants had a significantly greater abundance of three particular bacteria: Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, and Clostridium. Clostridium are thought to make butyrate, explained the study author, adding ‘There is a lot of interest in Faecalibacterium because it has also been shown in animals to reduce inflammation. Animals with higher amounts also have better insulin sensitivity. There is also growing interest in Faecalibacterium as a potential probiotic bacteria,… Our study provides initial findings to suggest the interactions of microbes with the undigested walnut components are producing positive outcomes.”
Last month, a study of mice found that eating walnuts reduced tissue inflammation, while a study of obese people found that walnut consumption resulted in lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol and raised HDL (good) cholesterol.
This cake is not only walnut-rich. It’s also packed with spices, including cloves (described by Dr Michael Greger as ‘off-the-chart amazing’ when it comes to anti-oxidants) and cinnamon. We wrote about the remarkable nutritional powers of spices here.
To boot, this cake is stickily and deliciously dense with dates. Hence it needs so sugar. Dates are the unsung hero (heroine?) of any pantry. So before we write them off because of their sugar content, it’s worth reminding ourselves of their many qualities.
Dates are rich in fibre (two slices of this cake provides roughly a quarter of your daily 30g fibre requirement). Two slices will also provide you with 20% of your daily potassium, 12% of your daily B6 and 15% of your daily requirement for Magnesium, Copper and Manganese. Perhaps most importantly, dates are high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids and phenolic acid as well as carotenoids which have been linked to improved heart health. You can read more on the nutritional benefits of dates here. If you’re watching your blood sugar, you should probably stick to a single slice, or reduce the quantity of dates and increase the amount of walnuts.
My children sometimes make a (sugary, buttery, entirely unhealthy) toffee sauce to go over this. It’s not conducive to ageing well so we won’t share it here, but a quick online search will throw up a recipe should you want one. Either way, the cake’s especially good served warm, straight and pudding-y, from the cooling rack.
You can make this without walnuts if you don’t like them or have a nut allergy. And if this isn’t quite what you fancy try some of our other Age-Well treats, like our fat-free, sugar-free Green Tea Cake or our Fruit and Oat Cookies.
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING CAKE
- 500g dates
- 450 ml water
- 100 g butter
- 100 g walnut (pieces or halves as you have/prefer)
- 3 eggs
- 150 g self-raising wholemeal flour
- 4 tbsp milled chia seeds (optional, but if not using increase the flour to 180g)
- 1 tbsp mixed spice (most blends include the anti-oxidant powerhouse, cloves)
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional but cinnamon is another powerhouse of antioxidants)
Grease and line a large loaf tin (roughly 22 cm x 11 cm) and heat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Roughly chop the dates and put in a large pain with 450ml hot water. Bring the water to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Turn off the heat, add the spices and butter and leave the mixture (which should be soft and mushy) to cool for a few minutes. Stir to ensure the butter is melted and has blended into the date mixture.
Add the flour and/or ground chia seeds and stir well. Add the three whisked eggs and ensure everything is well blended. Lastly, throw in the walnuts and give it all one final mix.
Scrape into the cake tin and bake for an hour.