Essential Workplace Sustainability Initiative #5 | Baking

6 Mar

An alternative title would be: how to encourage your co-workers to like you as a person, rather than only as a professional.

What possible uses would a professional have for cake?

Surely in this day and age, giving other people sugar is irresponsible, isn’t it?

What merit is there in spending one’s personal time, outside of work, to bake some sugary goodness to bring in to work?

Image stolen.

Image stolen.

I will now attempt to answer the last of those ridiculous questions.

In the present time, there seems to be an unspoken understanding of one’s work community to be a type of family away from one’s personal family. This could be especially so when one is in the situation of employment where one is spending several hours for most of one’s week, and when one has to work intensively with other people on projects of a collaborative or combative nature.

It is not uncommon for many employees (and employers) to spend in excess of 40 hours per week at work. Presumably some, if not most of this time would be spent interacting with colleagues or clients. That is a sizeable portion of one’s 168-day week.

Hence the things that one does to make working life that much more pleasant, or enjoyable, or easy, would hopefully not go unnoticed by one’s colleagues. While families generally seem to argue over dinner, they tend to help one another out.

Specific to the baking of cake, whether to mark a colleague’s birthday, or to mark the start of the week, I offer the following rationale:

  • While the communal consumption of food (think: lunch with your workmates) is always social, it is somewhat more personal to share food that one has cooked, with others.

Should the act of making food for one’s co-workers be impractical, an alternative would be to procure some kind of sweet or savoury treat from a business.

Note: it can become very tricky to select something appropriate to buy or make if anyone you work with has an allergy or is on a diet.

Now that I have dealt with those technical matters, it would seem appropriate to share a recipe with you. One that I tried recently, with some success,* with my own employment family.

I digress, here is the recipe.


Electric mixer (or alternatively, a whisk and lots of patience)



Small saucepan

Large mixing bowl

Baking paper

Medium-sized baking tray or cake tin



200g pitted dates, coarsely chopped (should one not have access to an electric mixer, it may help to cut the dates finely)

1.5 cups of boiling water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 eggs

1 cup self-raising flour

Fresh strawberries – for serving

Even more optional: cream or ice-cream – to serve

Butterscotch sauce

200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar

300ml cream

180g butter

Optional: 1 tsp vanilla essence

Other aspects

Environmental sustainability – in making the cake, you will most likely not produce much waste, especially if you give slices to as many of your co-workers as possible. Many of the ingredients come packaged in non-recyclable plastic, which is unfortunate – that simply goes to landfill. Recently I’ve heard that a large supermarket chain are offering recycling of plastic bags and the like. That’s a step in the right direction, in my personal view. Professionally, I admire that business for taking some leadership in the resource recovery sphere.

Time – it takes about three hours to cook – 2.25 hours to prepare the ingredients and bake the cake then another 15 minutes total for the butterscotch sauce. Procuring the ingredients may take some time – say 15 minutes wandering the aisles of a grocery store or supermarket.


  1. Line a high-walled baking tray or cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Place dates and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil.
  3. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
  4. Stir in the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until almost smooth.
  5. Add the eggs and flour in instalments. Mix the contents well after each addition. Mix until just combined. Sometime during this stage you’ll want to turn on your oven so it reaches the desired temperature. Pour mixture into baking tray or cake tin.
  6. Cover tray or tin with foil and bake for 30 minutes in a fan-forced oven at 160 degrees Celsius. (To cook evenly, otherwise the top may become burnt while the inside is still soft.)
  7. Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes in the same oven set to the same temperature.

Note: one could bake the mixture in a regular – that is, non-fan-forced – oven set to 170 degrees Celsius in 40-45 minutes, without using the foil.

Sources that I plagiarised the recipe from are available below.

Australian Good Taste – the picture and part of the recipe.

My Year 8 Hospitality class recipe. It still works a treat.

Best wishes for your own cooking. Note however that I take no responsibility for the results of any of your cooking exploits, including how they are received by your colleagues.




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