Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to Bake Moist and Delicious Date Cake

This cake is moist and rich like a brownie, easy to make and keeps well, too. Whether you serve it plain or ice it with something like a chocolate ganache, it is sure to please everyone! You can play with it, too. Try replacing 1/2 cup flour with cocoa powder or add some cinnamon. You can serve it warm, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or serve slices plain with a cup of tea on the side. There is really nothing plain about this cake. It's rich and delicious and the best part is you don't have to be an accomplished baker to make it.
I don't know who Mrs. Day is but my grandmother credited every recipe so I am simply copying what she wrote. Mrs. Day most likely would have been someone from my grandmother's church or a neighbour in Woodstock or Kitchener, Ontario.
This is one of those recipes I remember from very early childhood and one I associate with chilly weather and warm hugs.

Date Cake: Mrs. Day

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 package of dates
  • 10¢ walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon soda in 1/2 cup of hot water
Bake 1-1/2 hours in slow oven.

Explanation and Method:

Preheat oven to 300 F.
Butter an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan or you could do this in the 8-inch round pans if you like. I don’t recommend a loaf pan. Batter will rise so don’t overfill.
The package of dates is a 1 pound (500g) package of pitted dates. I particularly like the walnut measurement of 10¢ worth. I’ve found these measurements a few times in this notebook and have marveled at how prices have changed and in another respect, how dear certain ingredients were back then. As for the 10¢ of walnuts, just assume it is 1 cup. I also add a bit more vanilla, maybe 2 teaspoons when I make this. The teaspoon of soda is a teaspoon out of your drawer and gently rounded.
Chop the dates.
If you are doing this by hand, dip a sharp knife in water as you chop to make sticking less of a problem. In a separate cup, dissolve the baking soda in 1/2 cup boiling water and stir into chopped dates.
If you are using a food processor, dissolve the baking soda in boiling water and add to dates in the processor. Pulse until dates are chopped fairly small but not mush.
Chop the walnuts.
Cream butter and sugar until light. Add room temperature eggs one at a time and beat well after each one. Mixture will be nice a fluffy. Add vanilla and beat again. Add flour alternately with the dates and water mixture, beginning and ending with flour and mix until blended. Do not over-mix! Doing this part by hand works best. Add the chopped walnuts by folding them in gently. The batter will be much thicker than a regular cake batter. Spread evenly in pan. Bake for 1-1/2 hour or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

A truly great kitchen mixer

Since I have been rediscovering the joy of baking, there is one essential product that makes all the difference in the world and that is my KitchenAid mixer. I've had it for more than 20 years and it works as well now as the day I bought it. If you are a bread baker, then I highly recommend the Professional 600 series. It easily handles dough for three loaves at a time. Both the Artisan series and the Classic also handle dough but they have a slightly lower capacity so with a three-loaf recipe, you'll be kneading the last cup of flour in by hand. If you are thinking of purchasing a mixer, now is a good time to buy. I posted these from Amazon because they are some of the lowest prices I have ever seen. 

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