Sticky Date Cake
Dec 15, 2023
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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!!).
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.
Table of Contents
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. What heaven in this pairing!! 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….
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:
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.
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.
All Purpose Flour, baking powder
For the caramel sauce:
Heavy Whipping Cream (don’t substitute lighter creams here)
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The cake will be a bit less moist and not as exciting without the glaze.
Yes, add walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped, to the batter for a nutty addition.
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
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Sticky Date Cake Recipe
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
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.