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Author Notes: My mother, Lila, died 27 years ago just 13 days shy of her 53rd birthday following a valiant five-year battle with breast cancer. I still miss her every day. She was an exceptional home baker and it is undoubtedly from her that I inherited my passion for baking. I think she’d be proud to know that I earned a professional Pastry Cook’s certificate in 2007. I have vivid childhood memories of baking at my mother’s side when I was as young as four or five years old (more than 50 years ago!). When I left home to make my way in the world, I copied down my favorites of her recipes in long hand on loose leaf paper using a medium-point red felt tip pen. I still work from those recipes, the paper long since yellowed and stained. The most comforting of these is her Date & Nut Bread which, in truth, should really be called “cake.” But she baked it in #2 cans to make little loaves and then sliced it into thick, delicious rounds and always called it “bread.” To this day I can see her heading to the cupboard where she kept her stash of cans. The joy of baking with her, the sweet aroma from the oven, the taste of the warm bread slathered with melting cream cheese warmed my heart then. And it warms my heart and soul still. About the photos - that first one is my mother and me in the Catskills, Summer 1955; the next is her in the Summer of 1950 and the third is on her honeymoon in Miami in January 1950. —Maui Bonnie
Serves 6 small loaves
- 6 #2 cans, empty, clean with tops cut off completely and labels removed
- 1 cup dates, rough chopped
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup walnuts, rough chopped
- 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Grease the cans and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
- Combine the dates, raisins and walnuts in a bowl. Pour the dissolved baking soda over the mixture. Let stand while you make the batter and then drain well.
- Mix the sugar and eggs until well blended. Sift together the flour and baking powder and then add it to the sugar and egg mixture. Add the drained fruit and nut mixture and mix well.
- Pour the batter into the cans until half full. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Let cool and then gently shake the "loaves" out of the cans. If you simply can't wait, you can shake them out when still warm.
- Slice and spread with butter or cream cheese. For the ultimate in comfort, serve with chocolate milk or hot cocoa.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for The Best Recipe or Technique Your Mother Taught You