Nola’s Brandy Tart

This – like most baking recipes – is a multi-process event.

Nola's Brandy Tart
Photo: Dylan Swart

To make Nola’s Brandy Tart, you will need:

  • 700g chopped dates
  • 1½ teaspoons bicarb
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped pecan nuts
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder


For the syrup

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup brandy

We begin with the dates. The first intervention is to remove the pips – with care! It takes just one date pip to crack a molar and ruin a meal. Place the de-pipped dates in a bowl and pour a cup of boiling water mixed with the bicarb over them. Let the bowl and its contents stand until cool. Stage two: place the three teaspoons of butter and the cup of sugar in the bowl of your electric mixer. Rev this until the contents have creamed. Lower the revs and add the eggs, one at a time.

Follow up with the chopped pecans and mix until all ingredients are evenly combined. Switch off the mixer. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a sifter and sift them into the mixing bowl. Running at low revs, let the dry ingredients mix thoroughly with the contents. Switch off and add the chopped dates, stirring them in by hand with a spoon. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Decant the mixture into two ovenproof pie dishes and bake them for 20 minutes. At this point, reduce the temperature to 180°C and continue the baking process for a further 20 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and place on a rack.
Now for the syrup. Select a medium saucepan and into it pour the two cups of sugar and a single cup of water. Bring this to the boil for five minutes, keeping a careful eye on the process.

Swiftly stir in the butter, vanilla essence and the brandy, and boil briefly to drive off the alcohol. Pour this fragrant syrup over the warm tarts immediately prior to serving. Timing is something of a big deal here, especially if you want to retain the enticing aromas of vanilla and brandy.

Of course, you need not restrict yourself to the indifferent experience of industrial vanilla flavourings. A real vanilla pod, while not cheap, brings considerable clout to this confection. It also raises your social standing with other serious cooks who will be awed by your finesse. Finally, whipped cream. For the novice cook, knowing when to stop is all part of the learning process. Whip just long enough for air to enter the mixture and so thicken the cream. Allow the guests to add the cream personally.

Thanks Nola!