Mariahuset’s festive cake with dates, walnuts and teff

Sponge cake with teff, dates and walnuts, topped with whipped cream

The last weeks and months I have explored how the ancient Ethiopian grain teff works in cakes. Teff flour is highly nutritious, with a high content of fiber, proteins and minerals, it is the staple food of Ethiopians, and most importantly here, teff is naturally glutenfree.

In my book “Free cakes. The art of baking super-yummy cakes without milk/wheat/egg/sugar” (so far only available in Norwegian), I deliberately only used ingredients that were easily available in (Norwegian) food stores and that also have alternative uses in the kitchen. Thus all the gluten free cakes in my book are made using maize starch, potato starch, chickpea flour or various nut flours.

Teff is now gaining popularity also outside of Ethiopia and can be bought online from several sources. Here I have tested how teff works in one of my favorites from “Free cakes”, Mariahuset’s festive cake.

Mariahuset is an ecumenic community in Oslo, where people with and without disabilities live together. Celebrations are part of community life, and at such occasions a sponge cake with dates and walnuts is always served. The nutty flavor and dark shade of toasted teff pairs nicely with the dates and walnuts.

The recipe is for a small spring pan, 18 cm in diameter. If you use a spring pan of 24 cm in diameter you will need to double the amounts (if you do not have teff, see comment at the end of the post):

70 g white teff flour

200 g pitted dates

40 g walnuts without shells

2 eggs

1/8 tea spoon salt

100 g sugar


3 dl heavy whipping cream (35-40 % fat) (eventually dairy free)

1-2 tea spoons of sugar

Heat the oven till 180 gC. Place the teff flour in a heat proof pan and toast it in the oven at 180 gC for 15 minutes. After 10 minutes, take the pan out of the oven, and use a spoon to stir the flour so it is evenly toasted. Put the pan back into the oven for another 5 minutes of toasting.

Line the bottom of the spring pan with a circular sheet of baking paper. Distribute the pitted dates and the walnuts in the bottom of the pan.

Whip the eggs, salt and the sugar in a steel or glass bowl by using a handheld electric mixer until the eggs are airy and the mixture flows slowly from the whips. Sift the toasted teff flour over the egg mixture and use a spatula to fold in the toasted flour. Do not mix more than necessary to avoid loosing any air from the egg mixture.

Pour the egg mixture with teff on top of the dates and the walnuts, and smooth out the surface with the spatula.

Bake the cake for 30 minutes at 180 gC, and leave on the bench to cool.  Carefully release the cake from the sides of the spring pan by passing a knife between the walls of the spring form and the cake. Remove the walls of the spring pan.

Place a sufficiently wide cake plate atop of the cake, and with your two hands, keep the cake between the top cake plate and the bottom of the spring pan and turn the cake upside down onto the cake plate. Remove the bottom of the spring pan as well as the baking paper.

Serve the cake as is, or topped with a solid dollup of whipped cream:

Place the ice cold whipping cream in a steel or glass bowl. Add the sugar, and whip the cream using a hand held whisk (no electricity needed here) until soft peaks forms. It will take 4-5 minutes if everything is cold.

This cake is gluten free. If it is topped with milk free whipped cream it is also dairy free. If you do not have teff available, you can use 45 g maize starch and 30 g potato starch in the place of the teff flour, and skip the toasting step of the flour. Toasting is only relevant for the more complex teff flour.

Blog post by Anne Spurkland, posted 24th  January, 2019

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