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November 14, 2009

Tummy Huggin' Nutty Toffee-Date Cake

When the weather turns chilly and the days get shorter, it's the time of year that calls for a warm, soul-satisfying dessert. No one can deny that cookies right out of the oven or a bowl of hot apple crisp does job well, but sometimes you want a warm confection that's both elegant and unique. This dessert delivers on both accounts! Not only does this recipe look beautiful, taste heavenly, and travel well, but it's completely unexpected. Its cozy flavor and hearty texture is sure to make everyone happy; it's like a big bear hug for your tummy!

The secret to this fabulous cake is the use of Medjool dates. Their flavor and texture is what really makes this cake unique but they can be a little tricky to find sometimes depending on where you live. I have found them in both the bulk and produce sections of grocery stores. If you can't find them locally (Trade Joe's sells them!), then I'd encourage you to order them online. While you can find dates in the grocery store in the dried fruit section, they are almost always something other than Medjool. Those nameless varieties lack the necessary flavor and moisture needed to make this cake correctly.

Since this cake is very dense and rich, you can cut the slices smaller than normal. But, because the cake is SO good, everyone will want seconds, so be prepared.

Tummy Huggin' Yummy Nutty Toffee-Date Cake
Yield:  Two 6" cake pans and each cake yielded about 5 servings each.
adapted from Kate Neuman

10-14 Medjool dates (7 ounces), pitted
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon full flavored unsulfured molasses (if all you can find is mild-flavored, it will do just fine)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/2 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons corn syrup

Toffee Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan or two 6-inch rounds. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper.In a small saucepan, simmer the dates in the water over moderately low heat until the liquid is reduced by half and the dates are very soft, about 10 minutes. Scrape the dates and liquid into a food processor. Add the molasses and puree. Let cool.
In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the dry ingredients. Beat in the date puree. It won't look like it's much batter, but you'll have plenty!

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack. Peel off the parchment paper and return the *paper* to the pan - clean side down.
Meanwhile, spread the walnuts and pecans in a pie plate and bake for about 9 minutes, until fragrant and golden. Let the nuts cool slightly, then chop them very coarsely. In a small bowl, stir the corn syrup with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Scatter the nuts over the parchment in the cake pan and drizzle the corn syrup mixture on top. Carefully return the cake to the pan (the same way it came out) and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then invert the cake onto a plate, replacing any nuts stuck in the pan.
Toffee Sauce
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and sugar and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring. Off the heat, add the cream. Return the sauce to a boil and cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt and let cool slightly.

Drizzle some of the toffee sauce over the cake and serve, passing the rest of the sauce on the side.

Note: You can make this cake up to three days in advance, being sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap and storing at room temperature. I think the flavor actually improves with age! However, right before you're ready to serve the cake, microwave it with the plastic wrap for 2 to 3 minutes on low power or until it's between being warm and almost hot. Keep the toffee sauce covered and at room temperature too and microwave that as well until it's back to being thick but drizzly or just wait and prepare the toffee when you're close to serving the cake.


  1. Looks and sounds amazing! Everytime I've seen those sticky toffee cakes I've want to try making one. This one looks even better with the addition of yummy toasted nuts! Thanks for sharing!

    Hope all is well with Julia!

  2. I've never tried baking with dates before! This cake looks and sounds fantastic.

  3. This cake looks fantastic. I love cakes with dates, and the addition of toffee! Please, send one my way.

  4. Damn Trader Joes..I dont have one ANYWHERE near me..not even one in Florida.
    The cake sounds amazing

  5. Your cake looks so pretty. I usually shy away from cakes with nuts, but this looks delicious!


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