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Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Combine the dates, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. Place the date mixture in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the butter, brown sugar and eggs and process to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and fold in the flour to form a smooth batter.
For the topping, place the caster sugar and 125 ml of water in a large, deep-sided ovenproof 26 cm Ingenio frying pan and cook over high heat for 8–10 minutes until a pale caramel forms. Remove the pan from the heat. The caramel will continue cooking off the heat and will turn a deep golden colour. Being very careful, as the caramel is hot, arrange the apple quarters, peeled-side down, in the pan, nestling them into the caramel. Sprinkle over the shredded coconut and allow the topping to cool for 10 minutes before pouring over the batter. Bake for 30–35 minutes until the cake springs back when touched. Rest on the bench for 10 minutes to allow the caramel to sink into the cake.
To turn out the cake, while still warm, place a large plate over the pan and, with one hand on the plate and the other holding the pan, carefully flip over. If the cake has cooled too much and the caramel is sticking, place the pan over low heat briefly to warm up, then carefully turn out.
Recipe by Justine Schofield. Recipe image by Rob Palmer Photography.