At this time of year, a flood of heart-shaped boxes, roses and freaky-looking smiley pink bears stare me down in almost every shop I enter.

The image of the bears laughing and throwing chocolates and roses at me stays with me when I close my eyes, keeping me awake some nights. Kind of intimidates me a little.

Personally, I feel much more comfortable at home, making something from the heart rather than buying one. And as much as I love chocolate, I thought it would be nice to have an alternative that can be enjoyed for more than one day.

Although the days are getting longer, it’s still cold, so it’s nice to have something that warms your body and energizes you to go out and do something.

This Medjool Date, Almond and Orange Cake was designed to be put together by men and women who are looking to impress their dates without working too hard to get there. It takes minimal time and effort to make, and it lasts for days without going bad.

You can serve it warm with the sauce, or enjoy it cold wrapped in foil for one of your road trips or for a sweet nibble on the cross country ski trails.

The addition of ground almonds and dates makes it interesting and addictive. Make sure you use Medjool dates – which are large, soft and sweet – for this recipe.

So this year, rather than bringing your sweetheart a stuffed bear that haunts people in their dreams, do the right thing and make something from scratch.

The rewards will be worth it, trust me!

Medjool Date, Almond and Orange cake with sticky toffee sauce

Serves six to eight


For the cake

3/4 cup butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing the tin and baking parchment

1 cup sugar

4 medium eggs

3/4 cup white or whole wheat flour

3/4 cup ground almonds

1 heaped cup Medjool dates, chopped

Zest of 3 oranges

For the sauce

3/4 cup butter

1 1/2 cup soft light brown sugar

200ml 35 percent cream


Heat the oven to 170C/325F. Lightly grease a 22cm x 5cm loose-bottomed spring form cake tin or a 20cm x 20cm square pan, line the base with baking parchment or wax paper. Use butter on the pan to make the parchment stick, then butter the parchment.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat it in well, then beat in the remaining eggs one at a time, along with a spoonful of flour.

Add the almonds, the rest of the flour, the chopped dates and the orange zest, and stir together gently until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over the top using a spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to stand on a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before releasing the tin.

While the cake is cooking, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cream, and stir to combine. Simmer for five minutes until thickened.

If serving hot, place a wedge of the cake on a plate and pour over the hot toffee sauce.

Jeffery Mickelson, a professional chef, wild food fanatic and “offal” good guy, shares his passion for cooking with What’s Up Yukon readers