Sticky Date Cake

4.60 from 10 votes
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My Sticky Date Cake recipe is rich with caramel sauce, a very moist crumb, and simple to make. This cake is ideal for making in advance, and a favorite for special celebrations. Just the best cake that everyone loves (don’t tell them it has dates!!).

A wedge of brown sticky date cake covered with glossy caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream
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Remember the poke-and-pour cakes of another era, using colorful gelatin and white cake? We’re poking and pouring here too, but with a brown sugar caramel that echoes the flavors of the moist date cake it infuses. Even the wariest of date-eaters will spoon this cake up with abandon! I developed this recipe for my first cookbook (page 154) and thought it time to bring it to the web site as well because it’s such a special favorite here.

Why I love this recipe

Several reasons I love this recipe: luscious dates, which equal caramel flavor and a moist cake, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. The recipe calls for simple ingredients but yields an incredibly unique and lush result. Plus the most important flavor that sets my recipe apart: orange blossom water in the caramel sauce. Orange blossom water is one of my favorite flavorings (I love it in my mamoul recipe), but paired with caramel, it’s heaven! There’s no going back from this next level goodness. You’ll want orange blossom water in all of your recipes that include a caramel flavor, forever more….

Sticky date cake in the pan with glossy caramel glaze over the top

What is date cake?

Date cake is one of those surprising recipes that is nothing like the name may suggest, especially to people who may think they don’t like dates! I think of dates on their own and in any recipe that includes them as a way for natural caramel-like, brown sugar-like, toffee-like flavor to come alive. The look of this cake suggests a cake with warm spices, with its deep brown hue and incredibly moist crumb. Those cakes are often loaf cakes such as date walnut cake. But there is no spice flavor in my recipe at all; this is in the family of sticky toffee pudding. The flavor profile is caramel, brown sugar, toffee and we get there with the natural sweetness of dates, brown sugar, and just a few other basic ingredients. Finish by serving each piece with a drizzle of toffee sauce and dollop of whipped cream, and your eaters will swoon.

Ingredients for date cake

For the cake:

Butter

Chopped Pitted Dates. Get a 12 oz. package of pitted medjools available in most grocery stores in the produce section.

Baking soda, which lightens the cake batter and contributes to the cake’s light, moist crumb.

Salt

Brown sugar. My recipe calls for light brown sugar, but you can’t go wrong with dark brown sugar as an alternative. Don’t substitute granulated sugar–we need this one for flavor and moisture.

Eggs

Vanilla extract

All Purpose Flour, baking powder

For the caramel sauce:

More butter

Salt

Heavy Whipping Cream (don’t substitute lighter creams here)

Brown sugar

Orange Blossom Water. This is the game-changing flavor that is unique to my recipe, a glorious compliment to caramel always.

For the whipped cream:

Heavy whipping cream, cold for better loft when whipping

Granulated sugar

What kind of dates are best for baking?

Dates are an important part of Middle Eastern eating: we nibble them as is, fill them with nuts or cheese, or bake with them. The natural rich sweetness and soft texture make dates very versatile in baking. They break down easily in hot water, which is key in cake batters like sticky date cake. 

There are many varieties of dates, but the most ubiquitous (thank you Nature’s Delight!) are medjool dates. Find them in the grocery store in the produce section, near other dried fruit and nuts. 

The other commonly available date is the Deglet Noor. These dates are not as sweet, soft, or rich as Medjool dates, but a decent substitute if you can’t find Medjools. 

How to make sticky date cake

Make the Cake:

Prepare the pan. Be sure to coat the pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper, then coat that with butter too. This will ensure the cake will easily release from the pan. 

Cook the dates. The dates soften, break down into date puree, and become a cohesive part of the batter. First cook them with boiling water. Add the baking soda once the dates become a paste.

Make the cake batter. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the date mixture and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients just until it’s mixed in. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread the date cake batter evenly.

Bake the cake at 350°F for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, make the caramel sauce glaze.

Make the Caramel Sauce:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

Add salt, cream, brown sugar, and orange blossom water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Keep the sauce warm to glaze the cake.

Glaze the Cake:

While the cake is still hot from the oven (and still in the pan), poke it all over with a toothpick or skewer. Be sure to poke all the way out to the edges and into the center.

Spoon a tablespoon or two of the caramel sauce over the top of the cake, spreading it to allow it to seep into the holes. Repeat this, then allow the cake to rest for 15 minutes.

Turn the cake out onto a platter. Poke the top (which was the bottom in the pan) with a toothpick or skewer all the way out to the edges. Spoon and spread the caramel sauce the same as you did on the other side, using a few tablespoons total. Set aside the remaining caramel for serving with the cake. Serve with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea to balance the sweetness of the cake.

Variations for date cake

Add-ins for different flavor combinations are delicious with this cake. 

For a nutty take, add ¾  cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter at the end of mixing. 

For chocolate date cake, stir in ¾ cup chocolate chips at the end of mixing the batter. 

Coconut makes another delicious addition; add ¾ cup desiccated coconut to the batter at the end of mixing.

Serve Sticky Date Cake with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla or caramel ice cream.

Make ahead and Storage

This is the ideal make-ahead cake because it stays moist and delicious for at least a full day before serving. Refrigerate, uncovered to avoid marring the beautiful glazed top surface, and bring the cake to room temperature before serving. 

Store sticky date cake at room temperature for up to 4 days (isn’t that something?!). Store the caramel sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat the sauce in the microwave or over low heat just before serving.

You can freeze sticky date cake, wrapped in plastic and then in an airtight container or in foil, but the look of the glazed top may not appear as lovely as it does fresh. 

Sticky date cake on a white plate with caramel sauce drizzled on top and whipped cream dollop on the side

FAQs

What is the history of date cake?

Date cake enjoys its history in several cultures, from English to a host of Middle Eastern cuisines. Because dates are such an important element of Lebanese and other Middle Eastern cuisines, it is natural that they star in all kinds of savory and sweet recipes, including cakes.

Does date cake need to be refrigerated?

No, date cake stores at room temperature for up to 4 days. The texture and flavor remain moist, tender, and delicious–an advantage of baking with dates!

Why are dates good for baking?

Dates are good for baking because of their soft texture, which breaks down easily when cooked, and because of their natural caramel-like, brown sugar-like flavor.

What does date cake taste like? 

This sticky date cake has a caramel toffee flavor, rich with dates flavor that is amplified with brown sugar. Other date cake recipes are spice cakes, with warm spice flavors such as ginger, clove, cardamom and cinnamon.

Is the sticky date cake still good without the caramel glaze? 

The cake will be a bit less moist and not as exciting without the glaze. 

Can I add nuts to the cake recipe?

Yes, add walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped, to the batter for a nutty addition.

Can I make this cake dairy free?

The cake includes heavy whipping cream and butter, without which the cake will not work. Substitutions are possible but not tested for this sticky date cake.

More Cake Recipes You’ll Love

Olive Oil Cake

Lemon Bundt Cake with Raspberry Rose Glaze

Apricot Upside-Down Cake

More Date Recipes You’ll Love

Sitto’s Date Ma’moul

Date-filled Ka’ik

Date Nut Bread Recipe

A wedge of brown sticky date cake covered with glossy caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream
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4.60 from 10 votes

Sticky Date Cake Recipe

My Sticky Date Cake recipe is rich with caramel sauce, a very moist crumb, and simple to make. This cake is ideal for making in advance, and a favorite for special celebrations. Just the best cake that everyone loves (don't tell them it has dates!!).
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients 

For the cake:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more to coat the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cups (12 oz.) chopped pitted Medjool dates (about 20)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
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Instructions 

For the cake:

  • Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch cake pan with about 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment (cut an 8-inch circle or purchase pre-cut rounds). Coat the parchment with 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
  • Heat the water in a medium saucepan over high heat to boiling. Add the dates, and bring the mixture back to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the dates, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda (the mixture will foam up a little). Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Use an electric mixer to beat the 1/4 cup butter and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl mid-way through beating. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and stopping to scrape the bowl as you go.
  • Add the date mixture and vanilla, and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture on low speed and thoroughly combine.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched in the center.

For the caramel sauce:

  • While the cake bakes, make the caramel sauce. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the salt, cream, brown sugar, and orange b lossom water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer, whisking constantly until the mixture is combined and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for serving.
  • While the cake is still warm, poke it liberally with a toothpick or skewer, all teh way out to the edges and into the center. Spoon a few tablespoons of the caramel sauce evenly over the surface of the cake, using the back of the spoon to spread the caramel around while it is absorbed by the cake. Let the cake rest for 15 minutes.
  • Turn the cake out onto a platter with the bottom side facing up, and poke this side liberally with a toothpick or skewer, again out to the edges and into the center. Repeat with spreading the caramel over the cake a few tablespoons at a time to allow it to absorb. Let the cake rest for 15 minutes or up to several hours, uncovered, before serving.

Make the whipped cream

  • Using an electric mixer, beat the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form. Chill the whipped cream until you are ready to serve the cake. If the whipped cream becomes runny, beat it again with a whisk or mixer.
  • Reheat the reserved caramel sauce before serving. Cut the cake into wedges and serve each piece with a spoonful of the caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 10
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12 Comments

  1. Layla says:

    5 stars
    just made this. added some cinnamon when cooking the dates down + the zest of one orange to the batter alongside eggs + some zest to the sauce — soooooo yummy. actually cannot stop eating. will be making again!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Ohhh cinnamon and orange zest in the mix sound divine! Thank you!

  2. Angela says:

    5 stars
    This cake is amazing! It was just what I was looking for, and I’ve made it three times this Ramadhan. It never lasts for long in my house. Thank you!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      SUCH a delicious cake isn’t it!! A real treat. Thank you Angela!

  3. Janis says:

    Maureen, my cake came out of the oven a bit dark, and smelled a bit burnt. I haven’t tasted it yet, though, as it’s still cooling. Checked it at 30′, then removed at 35′ (I was looking for the “bounce back”). Anyway…returned to your website and see that your cake pan is different…mine is dark… 🙁
    I suspect I should have adjusted the temperature/time with the dark pan. Can you recommend an adjustment for that?
    On another note, the caramel sauce is to die for! Oh my goodness, I need to make another batch of that just because. I was out of Orange Blossom Water, and sent my husband to the store for some, and he returned with Rose water, lol. Oh well, I just added some vanilla and rolled with that.
    I’ll follow up with how it tastes tomorrow. Also, we are making the fig jam baked brie in pastry tomorrow for our appetizer!
    Happy New Year!

    1. janis says:

      Hi Maureen, update on tasting the cake (we couldn’t wait ’til today!), it was moist and delicious as described! It was, however, slightly dark/burned tasting (and a tad dry) on the outer edges, presumably from my dark pan. If you will, please provide a tip on temperature and timing for using a dark, nonstick pan (mine is Chicago brand). Otherwise, I’ll need to purchase a different pan. Thanks so much! 🙂

      1. Maureen Abood says:

        Janis thanks so much for your comments and your question about the dark pan! That’s important info that I will include once I test it, but for now bake at 325°F for about 40 minutes rather than as directed for a standard metal pan.

        1. Janis says:

          Thank you so much! Everyone LOVED it!!

          1. Linda says:

            I didn’t make this cake but a friend of mine did and I was lucky enough to receive a piece! WOW!!!! Hoping to make it for Easter Dinner at a friend’s!!!

          2. Maureen Abood says:

            I really is WOW!, thank you Linda! You’re inspiring me to bake it for Easter too!

  4. Fiona says:

    This cake sounds lovely Maureen!
    It reminds me of our Scottish Sticky Toffee Pudding , which is also made with dates. Lovely served with vanilla ice cream.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Your Scottish Sticky Toffee Pudding sounds sooo good Fiona! With vanilla ice cream too.