This past Christmas a good friend of ours brought us some dates back from his recent trip to Algeria. I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I thanked him and then proceeded to hide them away at the back of my baking cupboard. I’ve had a thing against dates that goes back to childhood. My mother and grandmother would always sneak them into various sweets and desserts or try and get me to eat them straight-up. It was torture. Just the look of those dark brown sticky LARGE looking raisins really made my stomach turn.
But I’m happy to announce that at 39 years old I’ve finally matured and realised that dates aren’t all that bad actually. I’m still not interested in eating them straight-up but can admit that added to certain dishes they can really enhance the taste and texture (including a mind-blowing Lamb and Date Tagine we ate in Morocco).
So a few weeks ago I dug in the back of my baking cupboard and got out the box of Algerian dates. I decided I wanted to try to make a fudge chocolate cake and thought the dates could be a perfect way to intensify the flavour (and make it a little bit healthier?). And the result was delicious. And keeping with family tradition I did not tell my kids the secret ingredient in the chocolate cake they were so happily enjoying.
This recipe seems quite fussy with all of the different steps and bowls that have to be used but it really is quick to make and so worth it. The addition of cinnamon with the chocolate and dates makes it a really deep and rich cake. I’ve proclaimed my love of the chocolate and cinnamon combination here in the past when I made these Chocolate and Fresh Cherry Cakes with Cinnamon.
Fudgy Chocolate Cake with Dates
(adapted from original recipe here)
250g coarsely chopped dates (approx 25-30 dates)
250ml water (1 1/4 cups)
1 tsp baking soda
200g flour (2 cups)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
150g softened butter (1 cup)
150g brown sugar (1 1/4 cups)
2 tsp vanilla extract
150 grams high quality dark semi-sweet chocolate melted and cooled (1 cup)
50g chocolate chips or chunks (1/3 cup)
1. Preheat oven to 165C (330F) and grease a loaf pan (I used a 12cmx30cm pan). If not using a springform loaf pan it is advised to also line it with cooking paper.
2. Add dates and water in small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for about 3-5 minutes to let the dates soften and the liquid slightly reduce. Take off heat and add the baking soda. Mixture will foam. Make sure to stir well and set aside.
3. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix well.
4. In another mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the two eggs one at a time and making sure to mix well in between. Add the vanilla and cooled down melted chocolate.
5. Fold in half the flour mixture, the entire date mixture and mix. Then fold in the remaining half of flour mixture and the chocolate chips/chunks.
6. Pour mixture into loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden skewer comes out clean and the loaf starts pulling away from sides of tin. Turn out onto cooling rack.