Saturday, December 13, 2008

Date Cake

I just put my first batch of date cakes into the oven. Mother always made date cakes at Christmas time. She gave one to each of her close friends (the Bridge Club), one to the preacher, one to the dentist, one to Dr. Jameson and later Dr. Dedman, and one to anyone else she thought was important enough.

For a long time she baked them in a tube pan. One recipe would make one cake. She later discovered that each recipe would make two small loaves, and that cut her date cake baking in half.

Before she had a blender, she cut up the dates with scissors that were dipped into water so that the dates wouldn't stick to the blades. I think she used the same pair of scissors she used for sewing. In fact, it's the only pair of scissors that I remember in our house. Later on, the blender made date cake baking a much faster process.

Sometimes my job was to break up the pecans. Pecans always were broken by hand and never chopped in the blender.

I have carried on the date cake tradition, and each year I give one to some of my friends. For years, however, I have been making my date cakes in the food processor.

The recipe calls for 8 ounces of chopped dates. You can't use the ones that come already chopped because they are too dry. Mother always bought Dromedary dates, which came in 8 ounce packages. I haven't been able to find Dromedary dates in Birmingham. Sunsweet dates are packaged in 10 ounce containers. Sometimes I just throw in the whole 10 ounces, and sometimes I try to guess at 8 ounces. If I am going to be baking a whole bunch of date cakes, I can get five recipes out of four packages of dates.

I chop the dates in the food processor and then transfer them to another container to soak in the boiling water. Mother, of course, boiled the water on the stove. I nuke it in the microwave.

While the dates are soaking, I blend the margarine, egg and sugar in the food processor until the margarine is smooth. I have been tempted from time to time to use an entire stick of margarine instead of 7 tablespoons, but I never have. Sometimes I use the leftover margarine to grease the pans, and sometimes I just add it to the butter dish in the refrigerator.

After the margarine mixture is smooth, I add the flour and date mixture. Finally I add the flavoring (Mother always used rum flavoring) and a handful or two of pecans. No need to chop the pecans ahead of time since the food processor will do that for you.

Here's the recipe if you want to try it. You can use Mother's method or mine or make up one of your own. It's good served warm with whipped cream or spread with cream cheese. I also like to eat it for breakfast. Spread a little butter or margarine on it and toast it lightly. Yummmmm.

Date Cake

1 (8-oz.) pkg. whole dates, chopped
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. boiling water
1 c. sugar
1 egg
7 T. margarine
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. chopped pecans
1 tsp. rum flavoring

Mix dates, soda and water and set aside. Cream sugar, egg and margarine. Add to this the date mixture alternately with flour. Stir in pecans and flavoring. Pour mixture into two 7 1/2 x 4-inch loaf pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Note: If you want to use a tube pan, you will need to extend the baking time to 1 hour.


Baumbastic said...

Yum, spread with cream cheese - as my mother would say, I could eat almost anything spread with cream cheese. And this sounds really good and very much like Christmas.

Sarah Frost said...

Kathy--I love reading your blog and this time I just HAD to respond! You have brought back one of the best Christmas memories! My grandmother made date cakes! Instead of date cakes my mother would always make an orange slice cake that had lots and dates and pecans. It is just not Christmas without our date and orange slice cakes!!
Have a very Merry Christmas and make even more wonderful memories!! Love, Sarah

Mar Mar said...

Well, you may have liked Date Cake, but I always thought it was disgusting! Give me Sissy's pralines anytime!