I was in Wellington last Sunday night and we had dinner at a friend's place. She said that she was nervous to cook for a cook, but I told her that was silly because having a home-cooked meal on a Sunday night is pretty much my favourite thing ever. We had a great fish pie, and a fennel and radish salad, and our chef friend who was there too did these sticky date cakes for dessert.

It's such a simple combo - the date cake with the caramel and cream - but one that gets me every time. They're bound to impress, they're easy to make in advance, and so I pestered him for the recipe and here they are. Thanks Theo. Poached tamarillos are my other favourite dessert at this time of year - they go with icecream, or cream, and a simple crumble topping keeps things slightly lighter than a traditional crumble. The crumble would work with any poached fruit, and the tamarillos themselves are great on porridge for breakfast, if there are leftovers.

Sticky date cakes

270g pitted dates, chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60g unsalted butter
185g self-raising flour
125g soft brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten

In a small saucepan, put dates in 250ml of water. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat, and add baking soda and butter, and stir until melted.


In a separate bowl, sift the flour and stir in the sugar. Make a well and add the date mixture and the eggs. Stir to combine. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 180C for approximately 20 minutes. Makes 12.

Serve with cream and butterscotch sauce.

Butterscotch sauce

2 cups soft brown sugar
250ml cream
50g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and gently heat on a medium-low heat. Once sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted, stir a couple more minutes and set aside until ready to use. Will keep in the fridge about a week.

Poached tamarillos with coconut crumble

Poached tamarillo and coconut crumble. Photo / Doug Sherring
Poached tamarillo and coconut crumble. Photo / Doug Sherring

Serves 3-4

For the tamarillos
6 tamarillos
2 cups water
¼ cup brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick, or ½ tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, then poach for about 15 minutes. Set aside, and carefully remove the skin of the tamarillo, leaving the stalk intact if you can. Serve warm with the crumble topping and cream. They will keep in the fridge, and can be eaten cold. They're great on porridge too.


For the coconut crumble topping
Add any nuts or spices you want to
1 heaped Tbsp oats
1 heaped Tbsp brown sugar
1 heaped Tbsp coconut threads
1 tsp butter
Small pinch sea salt
Small pinch cinnamon

Heat the butter in a small saucepan, then add all other ingredients. Stir constantly on a medium heat until golden brown. Serve immediately, or will keep in an airtight container.