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
Heat the oven to 350º and butter and flour a nine inch round cake pan.
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).
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla.
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).
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes – until a toothpick or small knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
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.
Remove the cooked cake from the oven and poke holes all over with a toothpick. Pour the warm sauce over the warm cake and leave to soak in for ten minutes or so.
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.
why is there as much water as in the whole recipe?
I used the full amount of water to cover the dates in the pan I used for simmering – which is a wide and shallow pot I use mostly for braising. I used THAT pan to have extra room form the foaming action after adding the baking soda (I’ve had some issues making pretzel rolls). Feel free to scale back the water, and I’ll make a fresh cake soon and report on the results in a Parfait! post.