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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

caramel date cake with pecans

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caramel-date cake with pecans

I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong, but this cake is always ugly.  I've made it four times now, and every time I, this is uuuuuuuuuuggggly....but it's so delicious, and it smells so incredible that I keep making it.

And I still don't like dates.  I still think they look like cockroaches and completely refuse to eat them in an un-baked, un-chopped state.  They aren't quite as bad when they are chopped.

caramel-date cake with pecans

Anyway, I got this recipe from a great cookbook called Quinoa 365 (fabulous, fabulous, fabulous...loads of recipes including whole quinoa, quinoa flakes and quinoa flour; I've tried many of them and they've all been really good).  However, in reading my recipe, you'll notice that I don't make it with quinoa flour...not that it isn't good that way (I've made it with the flour before and it turned out exactly the same), it's just that I have a really hard time finding quinoa flour in stores, and it's been a while since I made a Bulk Barn run to stock up on it.  SO, rest assured, you can make this recipe with or without the quinoa flour.

But you really should make it; it comes together quite quickly, and despite its humble appearance, you could serve it to anyone, and they would be suitably impressed by the flavour.  AND, there's no reason that you could just keep the caramel sauce separate and pour it over the served pieces of cake, but I like the all-in-one factor of this dish.  And you really don't notice the bits of dates in the finished product.

Last, make sure you buy pitted dates.  1 3/4 c of chopped dates doesn't seem like a whole lot until you have to pit each and every one of them.  Then it seems like waaaay too many dates.

caramel date cake with pecans
stolen and slightly modified from Quinoa 365
caramel-date cake with pecans

1 3/4 c chopped pitted dates
1 c boiling water
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour (OR 1 c AP flour, 3/4 c quinoa flour)
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 t vanilla

3/4 c 18% cream
1 c packed dark brown sugar
1/3 c butter
1/2 c chopped pecans
fleur de sel/coarse salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.  Get all your ingredients ready.

caramel-date cake with pecans

2. In a medium bowl (I use a 2-cup liquid measure), combine the dates and boiling water and set aside so the dates absorb the water.  NOTE: Depending on how soft/fresh your dates are, they probably won't absorb all the water.  What I do, is pour off the excess water into a little pitcher.  If, upon mixing the dates into the cake, I feel the batter is really dry, I'll add some of this excess water.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

4. Cream the butter in a large bowl (ideally with an electric mixer; handheld is perfect for this).  Add the brown sugar and cream until fluffy.  Add the eggs & vanilla and beat well.  Add the flour mixture and continue to mix until well-blended (a couple of minutes).

caramel-date cake with pecans

5. Fold in the (lightly strained) dates.  You can see I had about 4 oz of the liquid left, because my dates were really soft and fresh.

caramel-date cake with pecans

Your final batter consistency should be thick, but not dry (if it's pulling away from the sides of your bowl, like a muffin batter, then it's too dry; add some of the water).  It should be liquid, but definitely not thin or soupy.  This s what mine looked like, for reference.  Pour the batter into the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.

caramel-date cake with pecans

6.  Meanwhile, combine the cream, sugar and butter in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and stir constantly (or not so constantly, lol), until the mixture is a thick caramel sauce; about 15-20 minutes.

7.  Remove the cake from the oven and pour the caramel sauce over top.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans and fleur de sel (just a bit!).

caramel-date cake with pecans

Bake for an additional five minutes.  Cut into 9 pieces and serve warm.  It's so sweet and caramelly and delicious.

And also kind of ugly.

caramel-date cake with pecans

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