This post is the second one in this series of spotlighting foods or ingredients that I saw last year in Israel. Since I am of a Christian faith, I celebrate Christmas. So, Israel holds a special place in my heart, it being the home of Jesus.
The Bible often refers to honey, with the phrase “land flowing with milk and honey” being common. Our Israeli guide told us that it is probable that references to honey in the Old Testament were often regarding dates or date honey, a sweet, thick syrup made from dates.
My favorite dates are Medjool. They are large, soft, and are by far the sweetest fruit I have ever eaten. As a matter of fact, I find them so sweet that I can generally eat only one. For me, Medjool dates are the ultimate sugar rush. Whew! Usually Medjools appear in the grocery stores here in Utah around Thanksgiving and are found in the produce section. About the latest that I can find them is through January.
Initially when I was planning a post on dates, I had thought I would use a delicious sounding recipe for date nut cake. It was a tasty cake, but ultimately was not quite what I wanted. Last year (yes, I have actually been thinking about this for a year!) when I was looking for date recipes, I had come across a recipe for Sticky Date Pudding. It looked and sounded outstanding, although the recipe seemed a bit confusing to me. Maybe it was the metric measurements or maybe it was the difference in the written presentation, but it took me a while to get things figured out. I’m so glad that I took the time to finally make this dessert. In the end it was pretty simple to make and the accompanying butterscotch sauce was a cinch! Although this is referred to as a pudding (not the same kind of ‘pudding’ as we think of with a creamy, smooth texture), it is more like a super moist cake.
As I stated previously, the measurements were in metric; specifically they were weights. Technically, weight measurements are much more accurate than are cups and yield more consistent results. If you have a good digital kitchen scale, you might want to try the weight measuring method. Some of the weights convert to some funky English measurements such as in the butterscotch sauce it called for 180 grams firmly packed brown sugar which = 3/4 cup + 2 teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar. That just doesn’t work for me, so I used 3/4 cup and skipped the 2 teaspoons. I’m giving both versions of the measurements, you get to pick which one is best for you.
NOTE: If you choose to use the English measurements, please spoon the flour into the measuring cup. Do NOT use the scoop method because scooping has a tendency to pack the flour which means that you are actually adding more flour than is called for in the recipe AND you will have a heavy product.
For a quick read tutorial on dates, date palms, care and harvesting see http://www.dateland.com/Tutorial.html
For a rich dessert, sweet, dense and moist date cake is bathed with homemade butterscotch sauce. Be sure to plan ahead—this is not a difficult dessert to prepare, but it does take planning.
Recipe adapted from Exclusively Food Australia
For the pudding/cake
- 1 1/2 (packed) cups pitted dates—I used Medjool dates
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces (shape does not matter)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
- 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
For the butterscotch sauce
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1/4 cup butter (this is more butter than the original recipe used)
- Place dates and water in a small saucepan. Stir. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and butter. The baking soda will get a tiny bit foamy and the butter will begin to melt. Set aside for about 25 minutes to cool.
- While the date mixture is cooling, prepare the baking pan. (The original recipe called for an 8-inch springform pan, but I only had a 9-inch springform pan. It worked fine–the cake was not quite as tall as it would have been in an 8-inch pan and also the cooking time was somewhat decreased.) Grease the pan well (I used shortening). Line the pan with parchment paper. To do this, I traced the bottom of the pan onto the parchment paper, then cut out the circle and placed it in the bottom of the pan. For the sides, I cut a strip of parchment paper an inch or two taller than the pan height of the pan edge, then pressed the parchment around the inside perimeter of the pan. See the pictures below for a tutorial. Set prepared pan aside.
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Adjust the oven racks to the lower third of the oven so that the top of the pudding will be in about the center of the oven.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and brown sugar. When mixed with flour, brown sugar has a tendency to form lumps. Press the brown sugar lumps with the back of a spoon to break them up. I often use my fingers to do this; it’s just easier. Set bowl aside.
- Put the cooled date mixture in a food processor or blender. Pulse a few times to break down the dates–this will form a thick, somewhat chunky date paste.
- Add the eggs and the vanilla to the date mixture. Blitz until smooth.
- Add the date mixture to the flour/brown sugar mixture. Fold together gently just until combined.
- Pour into prepared springform pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until it springs back when lightly pressed in the center.
- Prepare the butterscotch sauce about ten minutes before pudding/cake has finished baking. Put all butterscotch sauce ingredients in a small saucepot and stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a simmer. Lower heat to low and continue to cook, stirring as needed, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Using a skewer, randomly pierce pudding/cake in multiple places. Pour 1/2 cup of the butterscotch sauce over the pudding and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Most of the sauce will be absorbed in the pudding/cake.
- Remove cake from pan, slice and serve with remaining butterscotch sauce. If desired, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
- Any leftover sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to one week.
Metric measurement for Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce
For the pudding:
- 270 grams pitted dates
- 312 mL water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 25 grams butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspooon vanilla extract
- 188 grams self-rising flour
- 150 grams firmly packed brown sugar
For the butterscotch sauce
- 180 grams brown sugar
- 300 mL cream
- 25 mL golden syrup, corn syrup, or agave
- 25 grams butter
If the dates are not pitted, be sure to take the pits outs. You’ll be very sorry if you don’t!
Put the pitted dates into a small saucepot.
Add the water…
Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.
Add the butter…(like I said, I put extra).
And the baking soda./
The baking soda will foam a little.
Because the recipe called for the springform pan to be lined with parchment paper, I traced the bottom of the pan onto the parchment paper, then cut it out with scissors.
Grease the pan well.
Place the parchment paper inside of the pan. I cut the pieces that go around the side of the pan about 2-inches above the pan. To tell you the truth, I’m not so sure that the pan needs to have the parchment paper. I’m thinking that the cake won’t stick if the pan is well greased.
After the date mixture has cooled, pour it into the blender or food processor.
Blitz it into a chunky, thick puree.
Add the eggs…
In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour and the brown sugar.
Sometimes brown sugar has a tendency to clump when it is mixed with flour. Work out the clumps either with the back of a spoon or by breaking the clumps between your fingers. Obviously I prefer the using my hands.
Pour the date mixture into the flour/brown sugar mixture.
Fold together gently, just until combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Smooth the mixture so that it is evenly distributed. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350-degrees until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or until the pudding springs back when lightly touched.
Poke holes randomly all over the pudding/cake with a wooden skewer—or whatever hole pokey thing you may have at your disposal.
Pour the prepared butterscotch sauce on the pudding/cake. No, I didn’t take pictures of preparing the butterscotch sauce. I was distracted by the BYU football game on TV. Amazing quarterbacking, by the way.
I hope that you enjoy this lovely cake, er pudding, as much as my family and I enjoyed it.This stuff is so very good and not too sweet. Sweet, but not overpowering.Try serving it with ice cream or a bit of whipped cream, if you like.I don’t have a picture of that either, mostly because I just ate the cake with some extra sauce poured over it. It was perfect.
Other posts from this Israel series: