Spiced sticky date, caramel and star-anise cakes
• 2 cups (360g) fresh dates, pitted and chopped • 1½ cups (375ml) boiling water
• 1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of (baking) soda • 150g unsalted butter, chopped
• 1 cup (170g) brown sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1½ cups (225g) self-raising (self-rising) flour • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons mixed spice
• 11/3 cups (400g) store-bought dulce de leche • star-anise, for decorating Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Line 2 lightly greased 12cm round cake tins with non-stick baking paper, allowing an extra 2cm of paper to overhang at the top of each tin. Place the dates, water and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to soften slightly. Place the date mixture, butter and sugar in a food processor and process until well combined. Add the eggs, flour, cinnamon and mixed spice and process until just combined. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins. Cook for 55–60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Trim the top off each cake and place each on a cake stand. Using a small palette knife, spread the dulce de leche around the top and sides of the cakes. Decorate the tops with star-anise+. Serves 6–8. + Remove the star-anise before eating.