of the Afternoon Friendly Cake

There comes a pause in the middle of a productive afternoon when one person turns and asks the other, “Shall we have a friendly?”

A friendly is a moment of repose from study and work, accompanied by a friend and a cup of coffee. It’s my family’s version of afternoon tea (apart from my ridiculous spelling quirk, it’s about as British as we get).

Alternatively, as my favourite Dutch-Kiwi auntie taught me, a friendly can be called a “gezellig” and held in the latter part of the afternoon, right before dinner. Then it is accompanied by a frosty glass of shandy, that counter-intuitive but delicious beer-sprite mixer.

Whether you are Team Friendly or Team Gezellig (which is Dutch for “all things cozy”), this cake is the perfect thing to build a new afternoon ritual on.

Pears and dates and almonds, oh my!

We’re talking earthy natural palm sugar. Nutty spelt flour. Yogurt for a delicate crumb. And orange zest and juice to perfume the cake to perfection. It’s chock-a-block full of bits and bobs, and frankly, it’s a delight to nibble at any time of day.

There are a few ingredients on this list that are probably not sitting on your pantry shelf. But go out and get them anyway! It’s a work in progress chez moi, too, and I can’t tell you how exhilarating it is to try new alternatives to old-regime ingredients. I’d be pleased as punch if you’d join me in phasing refined sugar out of your life. That said, palm sugar has a very dark, pungent flavour, so if you find that it’s not to your liking, feel free to switch it out for another sweetener.



100g (3/4 cup) solid coconut palm sugar, very very finely chopped

3 medium eggs

80 ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil

150g (3/4) cup full-fat yoghurt

Juice of 1 big orange, about 80ml (1/3 cup)

Zest of half that orange

125g (1 cup)spelt flour

100g (about 3/4 cup) wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 crisp medium-sized Conference pears (about 500g), roughly chopped

200g (about 1 cup) pitted and roughly chopped dates

100g (about 1 cup) roughly chopped almonds


Turn on your oven to 180 C/350 F. Whisk the palm sugar, oil, eggs, yoghurt, orange juice, and orange zest together. Combine the spelt and wheat flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in another bowl, then add to the wet ingredients. Stir like the dickens. But not too hard. Fold in the pears, dates, and almonds until just combined.

Turn into a greased and floured cake tin, and bake for about 1 hour, until the top is a dark brown and an inserted knife comes out with moist crumbs. Let it cool in the tin. (As pictured above, this recipe can also make 6 giant muffins)

The pear and yoghurt make this cake quite, quite moist — almost custardy, really. Which is precisely how we like it.

Have at it, kids!



I’ll be AWOL for the next few days due to manic deadline chasing, but I’ll be back by the time you finish that tin of cake. In other words, I’ll be back soon. (: