Date night. You have to have date night.  So say the ‘how to protect your marriage’ dossiers crammed into questionable corners of the internet, as if it was a fragile duckling that needed to be cosseted. I also should floss my teeth, pay some attention to my pelvic floor, put all of the insurance paperwork in a neat concertina folder and send photocopies of my will to those who are listed as secondary executors.

We promised ourselves that once we had small fry we would still make time for friends- and beyond that, each other. We would make an effort, at least once a month to get dressed nicely (what do you mean yoga pants aren’t appropriate all day, everyday wear?). We would go out and be real grown ups. Sit at a table. Eat a few courses.  Talk about real things.

Yet the paperwork for the will is still in the study. The insurance is buckled into various manilla folders. And date night? In fifteen months of parenthood we’ve managed it four times.

The first was just shy of my birthday last year. I was clutching onto sanity by a slim thread. Back then a 12 week Will had settled into  waking only every three hours. I had just sent off the first draft and rattled through the photo shoot for Cut the Carbs. We went to my mother’s. We had planned on taking advantage of her babysitting services and having dinner at Rick Stein’s Bannisters at Mollymook, just 40 minutes further down the coast. Except half way there we realised in a sleep addled haze I’d told The Hungry One the wrong restaurant. He’d booked Bells, at Killcare- which is a four hour drive in the opposite direction. We considered throwing in the towel completely, but then scrounged a late table at The Wharf in Nowra. We settled Will in with my mother. I drank two glasses of wine, found myself stunningly drunk and ate squid stuffed with morcilla. Will then rewarded me by waking every 40 minutes for the duration of the night.

At Easter we tried again. This time we ventured to the lovely South in Berry. We drank a good portion of a bottle of Shiraz, ate roast lamb and tried to find the people who once sat across from each other at restaurant tables with ease. It was like a first date.

We’ve had two attempts since we moved north. One at Pilu at Freshwater for The Hungry One’s birthday and the second, a proper effort at date night. That afternoon I scrambled about preparing food for the babysitter and writing out Will’s bed time routine. I threw make up in the general direction of my face while I fed Will meatballs and a red lentil puree. I put away the yoga pants and squeezed into my old black jeans. I met my husband as he came off the ferry. We shared a platter of brisket at Papi Chulo, then sloshed our way through a nightcap at The Stowaway.

But since then we let it slip. Because more often than not by the time 6. 45 pm rolls around and I’ve nestled Will in bed, the prospect of getting out the door is a bridge too far. Making it to the city is three bridges too far (two real, one metaphorical). It’s just too easy to drift into another night of dinner, two glasses of red wine, an episode from some box set and bed. It’s something of a slippery, stagnant slope.

So we’ve had to start making our own rules. They involve turning early mornings into dates. At least one morning of a weekend we do the beach walk with Will. First thing in the morning while entertained with a portable breakfast he’s pretty chilled in his stroller. It’s almost like we’re alone (though holding hands while pushing a pram takes some practice).  We go out for coffee and when the sun is out, it’s pretty sublime.

And the other is to make more of an effort at home. I’ll set the table properly, start with cheese and wine and work from there. Sometimes friends will join us. And sometimes it’s just us two.

The below is exactly the sort of torte you want in your repertoire if you need a few more dates in your life- both real and metaphorical. I’m not sure I can rave about its merits quite enough. Let’s start by what it doesn’t have. There’s no added sugar, just the caramel sweetness of dates. There’s no flour, just the plush density of ground almonds. It’s rich with chocolate flavour, but there’s no faffing about with double boilers. This is the sort of cake you can make in a blender, or a food processor while shockingly hungover, or replying to emails with one hand, or while a 15 mth old tries to pull every single pot out of the bottom drawer and screams because he’s got the colander stuck on his head, again.

Just preheat the oven and boil the kettle. Make a cup of tea for you and pour the hot water over the dates with some bicarb, to help soften the dates and give the torte some levity. Add some butter, blitz. Add some eggs, blitz. Add some cocoa, ground almonds and a little salt for balance. Blitz. Pour. Bake. Finish your tea.

Serve it warm with cream, or ice cream at the close of an intimate meal for two (or four) or slice it cold from the fridge where it will keep happily for up to five days. It’s nice, but not too naughty, elegant but terrifyingly easy.  This is one date that you’re definitely going to want to make time for.  And if you want to eat it while wearing yoga pants, that’s also just fine.

Easy (and Flourless) Date, Almond and Cocoa Torte

Shopping/foraging

275 grams of seeded dates (plus a few extra to serve)
1 cup/250 ml boiling water
1 tsp bicarb soda/baking soda
75 g unsalted butter, cut into pieces the size of playing dice
3 eggs
50 g cocoa
generous pinch of salt
150 g ground almonds
1 handful of blanched almonds, diced, to serve.

Creme fraiche, cream, or ice cream to serve.

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and grease and line a 23 cm cake tin with baking paper.

2) Place the dates, boiling water and bicarb soda in the body of a food processor or blender. Allow to stand for five minutes.

3) Add the cubes of butter and blitz to combine into a sweet slurry.

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4) Add the eggs and blitz again to combine.

5) Add the cocoa, ground almonds and salt and blitz to combine.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

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7)  Top with a few diced dates and chopped almonds. Eat either warm, or at room temperature.