I had about a half pound of nice dates leftover from making date bars – not enough for another batch o’ bars – but EXACTLY enough to make a half batch of this incredibly rich and tasty cake. Tho’, ermmm, I stuck to a FULL batch when it came to making the toffee sauce – and it was a GOOD thing!
First things first. I was watching barefoot contessa one day when she had a friend, Laura Donnelly – the pastry chef, not the actress… ermmm, or any of those OTHER Laura Donnellys – MAN! there’s a lot on da Google – jus’ sayin’ – OK, where was I – OH! Yes – she made this cool looking cake topped with a simple toffee sauce. A quick search on the internets, and the recipe was tucked into my ‘stuff to try’ folder for a time when I had dates and the desire or the need to bake a cake.
Enter the holiday weekend and planned gatherings with friends – a perfect time for a chocolate and nut free (for those with chocolate and/or nut issues) dessert! Alas, I only had that half pound of dates – it was time to make the cake. Even though the original recipe makes two cakes, this isn’t something you stack and frost, so cutting it in half was easy – and, as a side note, this is ONE. RICH. PUPPY. So, unless you’re planning a feast – one cake will easily cover you for six to eight moderately hungry folk.
•1/2 lb dates
•3-1/2 cup water
•1 tsp baking soda
•4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, softened
•3/8 cup sugar
•1/2 tsp vanilla
•1-1/4 cup flour
•1/2 tsp salt
•1-1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking powder
•1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
•1 cup brown sugar
•1/2 cup heavy cream
•1 tsp vanilla
Pour the water over the dates in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring every so often to break up the dates.
Let simmer for one minute, then remove from heat and stir in the baking soda (stuff will bubble up a bit).
Add the flour and salt, then mix until you have a lumpy dough. Add the still-warm date mixture to the dough in two batches, then stir in the baking powder (the original recipe said this would bubble up a bit too, but I didn’t notice any great foaming action).
Now for the sauce! Recall; even though I only made one cake (1/2 the original recipe), I made the full amount of toffee sauce called for, and I think it was just about perfect. You do what you like.
Bring the butter, brown sugar, cream, and vanilla to a boil in a medium sauce pan and simmer gently for a minute or two until it is well blended and thickened.
Turn the cake out onto a serving platter (I then quickly flipped mine to get the toffee on top) and serve; plain (very nice), or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Full disclosure: I added a drizzle of warmed jarred butterscotch sauce over the whipped cream when I served mine, but you really don’t need it – this is one fine cake just as it is.