Date Cake

Yassi’s As-Moist-As-a-Pudding Date Cake

Yassi sits on her stool in the kitchen kneading the glossy détrempe for la pâte feuilletée; puff pastry.

There is no beurre sec, but Lurpak will do.

Her silver and black hair is in short waves and immaculate as always; her pastel kurta is starched.

Yassi’s slender, milky fingers are bare as they push the dough back and forth, like a potter with her clay.

Her mother’s vintage ring bearing three overlapping leaves in rose, yellow and white gold removed and placed in the porcelain Wedgewood jewelry jar given to her by her daughter-in-law.

She looks at the granite counter, “It would be lovely to have a cup of champagne resting there for small sips while the dough rests,” she thinks.

But she is no longer in her Paris kitchen, she is in Karachi.

Champagne is now reserved only for special occasions.

To her daughter-in-law who visits once a year, everyday is a special day in Yassi’s home.

For lunch, sheets of la pâte feuilletée are sliced into rectangles; delicately sautéed chicken and julienned carrots are folded in; the pastry sealed, brushed with egg white and baked till ballooned and brought to table.

Served with a tomato chutney.

For tea, Yassi’s fruit cake, a small, thick slice, filled with currants and orange peel soaked in brandy.

One slice. Two, ah, maybe another one for her daughter-in-law.

For supper a gratin de courgettes with grated parmiggiano, with a dense, spicy lentil and goat curry for the chili-heads in the family.

Some caramel custard for pudding; lacquered on top; tender and creamy from inside.

Or maybe a quiche- her son’s favorite. During their courtship, Yassi’s daughter-in-law would get jealous when her son would talk about his mother’s “most fabulous quiche“.

Hmph. And what about my crêpes?” she would ask him under her breath.

But a part of the family now, enamored by Yassi and her effortless elegance and perfection, her daughter-in-law knew she could only wish to be like her.

Knead the détrempe like her.

Yassi the only person who can say the phrase, “oh how lovely” five times in a conversation and not sound the least bit affected.

Yassi serves her daughter-in-law a date cake, between meals.

Oh, you’re on holiday, you must enjoy it,” she tells her, while dropping thick, heavy spoonfuls of double cream on a slice of the cake in her daughter-in-law’s plate.

A recipe passed down to Yassi by her own mother.

A recipe older than her marriage; even older than her son.

A dense, dark, earthy cake moistened with the gooeyness of dates, almost like a steamed pudding.

As I said, everyday is a special day in Yassi’s home. You can have that cake, and eat it, too.

NB For a gluten-free version, you can use a combination of gluten-free ‘flours’, for the recipe, please refer to the Gluten-Free Goddess’ website here.

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Date Cake

Author: Shayma Saadat

Equipment

  • 10-in springform pan (If you use a pan with a smaller diameter, the cake may remain raw from the middle and cooked from the sides, so please do use a 10 in pan.)
  • parchment paper

Ingredients

  • 250 g plump dates with seed (If using stoned dates, you'll have to adjust/decrease the amount)
  • 250 ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 100 g butter, unsalted, brought to room temperature
  • 180 g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 175C / 350F.
  • Place parchment paper on top of the springform pan base and trace a circle. Line pan with parchment circle and butter and flour the sides.

Prepare the date mixture

  • Deseed your dates by gently tearing them open from top to bottom.
  • Chop dates fine.
  • Bring 250 ml of water to a boil (I boil it in my kettle and then measure out 250 ml to be exact).
  • Pour into saucepan, when water starts to boil, add baking soda, (it will froth).
  • Add chopped dates and stir the mixture for 2-3 minutes.
  • The date mixture should be on the thick side, not watery.
  • Take off the stove and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Prepare the batter

  • Whip butter with sugar till light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs slowly; they may curdle at first but keep whipping, the mixture will come together and become smooth.
  • Slowly fold in flour and baking powder and keep whipping/mixing.
  • Add in date mixture, with a spoon/spatula and gently stir.
  • Batter will seem slightly thin, but since we're using a pan with a wide base, don't worry, the cake will cook through. Remember, this is a moist, pudding-like cake.
  • Pour into Springform.
  • Bake for 35 minutes, test to see if the toothpick comes out clean after 30 mins; I like this cake moist and goeey, please don't overbake it.
  • Allow cake to rest half an hour before taking out of Springform pan, or serve by the spoonfuls immediately, like a soft pudding, with double, triple or clotted cream on top.

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69 Comments

  1. Delicious – it sounds almost like a sticky toffee pudding…only not as sticky! I’ve never been one for dates but they are lovely in cakes.

  2. sounds totally delicious, like your mother in law. i may nick your recipe shayma and make it to camera. will let you know, and of course will credit you if i do. x

  3. What a wonderful post. I can almost see her.

    My British mother in law taught me to make a date and walnut cake, which I’m very fond of. Probably mostly because of her.

  4. Brilliant, both the lovely story about Yassi and the recipe you’ve posted. Have some dates at the back of my storecupboard, can’t wait to try this – one for the weekend methinks 😉

  5. Lovely images came welling up behind my eyes while i read that piece. Your food writing is really anchored in place and time which can only enhance the enjoyment.

    It’s a fine recipe too and has been bookmarked for future cooking. Delicious is rapidly turning into my new recipe file.

    “You can have that cake, and eat it, too” – wonderful!

  6. fabulous shayma!!! really really easy to make, took about 15 mins to conjure up the mixture and voila…into the hot oven…came out moist, rich, heady, absolutely heavenly…sigh..oh for some clotted cream!!!

  7. Have a date and act as a nut is what one knows, but a date cake, wow!!! I love dates but having them in a cake is my dream. How come the gooey stuff does not collapse?

    Love your stories which build up an appetite for more.

  8. Oh, this cake looks really delicious! 🙂 Even though I’m not a big fan of dried dates I’d love to taste it. And what a nice pictures you made. I like the story.

  9. Just couldn’t stop reading 🙂 Your writing is, well, lovely! :-)) (and I definitely bookmark this cake for when I’ll get back! 😉

  10. @Su-Lin Oh, perhaps you should try the ripe-dried dates, they are almost like a fresh fruit. There are so many varieties, perhaps I can give you some of the nicer varieties if you come to visit. Thanks for your lovely words.

    @Zurin You are most welcome, thanks for your kind words.

    @Anissa Thanks very much. Yes, please do, it would be an honour; after all, you *are* the Julia Child of the Levant.

    @Azita Joon, Thanks, as always. x s

    @Maninas Thank you. Food is always more delicious when we can related it to someone or some place, isn’t it?

    @Scandilicious Thanks so much, Chef. x s

    @MsMarmiteLover Thank you, always a pleasure to hear from you, dear Priestess of the Underground Restaurant.

    @Mathilde Thank you. I have to admit, I have a soft spot for all puddings, especially the sticky toffee pud’. Bring on the cream!

    @Eman Then come and visit soon! We’ll have lots of cake, promise. Thanks so much. x s

    @TheGrubWorm You’re very kind. I can’t seem to talk about food without relating it to a personal story. I’m sure you know that feeling. Btw, my friend has also told me about Delicious, I have to start using it.

    @Sabrina Sabs, thanks for the support and the phonecalls today. Loved hearing about how you made it at home. Next time come over, I’ll have the clotted cream ready. x s

    @Gourmand Gosh, Gourmand, you’ve got me there! I just followed the recipe as I was told. I am not a pro at baking and am just very lucky it did not collapse. Serendipity, perhaps? The baking soda definitely keeps it elevated. Thanks, as always, for your wonderful comments, I love them.

    @Sarka Dear, perhaps you’ve been having some ‘dehydrated dates’ which are tough and dry. The ones which you should buy should be ripe and plump, like a fruit. When you bite into them, they should melt, (and not be tough). I used dates from Iran, called Piarom, they were soft to the touch. If you live in London, you could go to the Edgware Rd, there are gorgeous Tunisian dates to be found there, ripe and plump. Thanks for your lovely comment.

    @Sigrid My dear, thanks so much for visiting. I hope you’re having a lovely time. Sending you best wishes across the vast oceans. x s

  11. wow this looks GREAT! i have just bought some dates, this recipe sound sperfect for me to make :O) thank you for sharing!

  12. I’m cooking this tonight for my mum as the start of our Mother’s Day weekend. I can’t wait to try it.

  13. @Mothership Lots of goodies to be had in her home. Hope you can come and visit for some tea and cake. x s

    @Betty Why thank you so much, Betty. I hope the dates are ripe and plump.

    @Gluttonforlife Thanks, so much, dear L. This girl has a really amazing blog about gluten-free baking, have a look. http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2007/01/cooking-baking-gluten-free-tips-for.html She combines different gluten-free ‘flours’ to get an optimal one. Maybe smthg for your pantry? You may have to play around with it a bit since this is already a very moist cake. Thanks for the question, I have now added a link to this post, for a gluten-free version. x s

    @Cat That’s lovely-it shall be made with lots of love. Don’t forget the clotted or triple cream 🙂

  14. Thank you Shayma for the tip! I’m sure I’ve only eaten those dehydrated dates. I have to try those you recommended.

  15. Dear Shaima,

    If there is one thing I love on this earth is dates; I ADORE them (in spite of extra kilos) When I go to Morocco on vacation, I just cant stop eating them…so your cake is an absolute must for me. Thank you !!!

  16. @Kitchenbutterfly Thank you. Oh, I so do hope you could change your mind about dates! We bought a set of those tiny bowls many years ago, from a Japanese ceramics store in NYC. I kept it as part of my trousseau; am putting it to good use 🙂

    @Cristina I adore dates, too, have grown up eating them, the real, lovely, plump ones. I hope you enjoy making the cake as much as I did.

  17. @Tasteofbeirut Thanks, as always.

    @Sabiha Aunty, thank you. I will try to do a conversion this weekend for you (to cups), but I find when I have done that in the past (with cakes and other baked goods) some further tweaking has been required. I bought a Salter scale from Bed, Bath & Beyond and it’s one of my fave things in the kitchen 🙂 x s

  18. OMG I have just made this for some friends and it was eaten within minutes. Delicious. I’m not sure that they would have realised that it was made from dates if I hadn’t told them. Sticky toffee taste. Loved it, thank you 🙂

  19. @Sarah Lovely of you to visit and share your experience with me. I love hearing about how the recipes turn out in other people’s kitchens. Thank you.

  20. Shayma,
    I did thank you few times for your great recipes, but I guess this would be more official 🙂
    I baked this wonderful date cake and it turned out fantastic! Most importantly, it is incredibly easy to prepare and it tastes superb.
    thank you very much again.

  21. I love that you reply in person! I did make it for Mother’s Day and it went down very well. It was completely delicious. And naturally, we had it with lots of cream! 🙂

  22. I am not into sweet stuff but the story and pictures have made me change my mind 🙂 beautiful and well done!

  23. Hi! yummy looking.. just what i’m looking for!does the recipe call for white or brown sugar though?

    i love the MIL relationship around the cake.. you’re so blessed!

    thanks

  24. Hi Shayma
    Love love love your blog and recipes. Could you please state the amount of dates in cups? I’m working with a packet of seedless brick of dates. Also would the recipe work if I half it?

  25. @Rutab Thank you so much for the kind words. I apologise, but I have absolutely no idea how many cups of dates this would amount to, that’s very tricky to say. Next time I make it I can make a note of it and send you the information. I would not half the amount of dates though.

  26. I made this cake today and I have to say thank you; it was much, much better than I had even begun to imagine – dark, deep, moist, just the way it looks in the picture and yes, almost a pudding. Brilliant. No cream; served it with vanilla icecream. It was a huge hit, everyone wants the recipe and I am now going to slowly and steadily proceed to try most of your recipes, provided I have the ingredients, because this one was a fabulous experience!

  27. I found your blog a few months back and had bookmarked this recipe. Made it today. Turned out wonderful thou cooking the dates with soda did give them a scary look. Served it with breakfast cream.I must try other recipes as well from your blog now. Thanks for the recipe.

  28. hello
    I am Afghanistan.But I have spent 14 years in Pakistan. I found your blog while searching for Afghani recipes and I couldn’t stop myself from reading each and every recipe.your childhood memories took me back to my childhood.
    I will surely try the recipes that I don’t know. I think now I will be looking in your blog more often.

  29. Can’t wait to make this….specially in the cold of winter, dates warm you right up!!what do you think about adding cinnamon also?I’m a cinnamon addict!!

    1. @Bahareh My humble suggestion would be to not add cinnamon- dates have their own caramel-y flavour, and I feel the cinnamon would not add much to the cake. x s

  30. I came across this fantastic blog last week. Since I had dates in the house and everything else, I made your date cake. I love it! And, it’s even better the day after. Being a 62y old retired guy loving to eat and cook, with a watchful doctor breathing down my neck, I didn’t use the heavy cream for serving.

    1. @ChrisB You are very kind- thank you very much. The heavy cream is not mandatory at all. With a nice cup of tea or coffee, this will go down just as well – cream or no cream.

  31. Hi,
    I do not have a springform pan. Do you think I can bake this in a regular loaf pan?
    Thanks,
    Annie.

    1. @Annie I am sorry for the late response, things have been busy with the baby 🙂 I would not use a loaf pan because this cake is quite dense. Instead, I would use a round 8-in pan.

  32. Hello, Thanks for the lovely cake tips. I’m new to baking and I would like to understand why do we need to add baking soda in the date mixture? What happens if we don’t do it?

    1. @Meiyi Hi Meiyi, from what I understand, baking soda makes the cake tender – I personally would not omit it. Hope that helps?

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