Bring a large kettle of water to a boil—you’ll need 1-1/2 cups for the cake batter and about 2 quarts for the steaming pan.
Position one rack in the center of the oven and another beneath it in the lowest slot. Set a 10x15x2-inch baking pan or Pyrex dish on the lower rack and fill the pan halfway with boiling water. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat two 9x2-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment. Apply another light coat of cooking spray to the parchment.
Prep the ingredients:
Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt into a large bowl. Stir to combine. Put the chopped dates in a small bowl with 3 Tbs. of the flour mixture. Pull apart any date pieces that may be stuck together and toss to evenly coat with the flour.
Crush the coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Alternatively, seal the seeds in a zip-top plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them finely.
Mix the batter:
Put the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter on medium speed until very soft and smooth. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the molasses and beat again on medium speed just until evenly incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about 10 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed between additions. The batter will look broken.
Measure out 1-1/2 cups boiling water. Turn the mixer to very low speed or, if you prefer, do all remaining mixing by hand. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the boiling water in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until each addition is incorporated, as overmixing will lead to a tougher cake—it’s fine if the batter looks slightly lumpy. Stir in the reserved date-flour mixture, crushed coriander seeds, and chopped walnuts. The batter will be quite loose.
Bake the cakes:
Divide the batter equally between the two prepared cake pans. Set both pans on the center rack and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 40 to 55 minutes. Let the cakes cool in their pans about 10 minutes and then invert them onto cooling racks and peel off the parchment paper. (Allow the water-filled baking pan to cool in the oven until it can be safely moved without spilling hot water.)
Serve the cakes warm or at room temperature. Cut each cake into 8 to 10 slices and serve each piece with 2 to 3 Tbs. of Eggnog Crème Anglaise.
Make Ahead Tips
Though the steaming process leaves it deliciously moist straight from the oven, I prefer this cake one or two days later, after the spices have had a chance to meld. If baking ahead, wrap the cakes tightly in plastic while they are still slightly warm to the touch. (Any trapped steam will condense, adding moisture to the cakes.) Store the cakes up to a week at room temperature. To reheat: Remove the plastic, put the cakes on a cookie sheet, and cover them loosely with foil. Heat them in a 300°F oven until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes. You can freeze the cakes, wrapped in plastic and then foil, for up to two months.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on 20 servings;
Photo: Scott Phillips