With my fascination with dates still going strong and no signs of abating, I’m always on the hunt for creative ways of using them in sweet and savory cuisine. This wonderful, delectable fruit can be found in abundance throughout the Middle East. We’re fortunate to have access to dates grown locally here in the UAE, as well as many different varieties from places like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iraq (to name a few). Some dates are hard, some are soft, and some are sweeter than others – all equally delicious in their own right. A date isn’t just a pretty face; it acts as a nutritional powerhouse full of potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
This recipe for Date and Cinnamon mini cakes is one that I wrote and featured in this month’s column for Gourmet.
I generally use Sukkary Dates (meaning ‘sugary’ in Arabic) for this cake – a soft and sweet date with an almost caramel-like undertone from Saudi Arabia. Don’t be put off making this recipe if you can’t find the Sukkary variety, you can use pretty much use any other kind of date as long as it isn’t too hard. Mejdool or Rutab dates will work beautifully, and if the only dates you can find are a little dry, simply soak them in warm water for a few minutes before you use them. Be sure to dry them well with a tea towel before moving on with the recipe. Wherever you are in the world, you will find a variety of date that will work in this cake, have no fear!
As a bonus track, I’ve included my date caramel recipe that goes beautifully with this cake. It is by no means necessary (the cake is wonderful on it’s own) – but if you want to dress it up and make it just a little more celebratory, then by all means go ahead and make the caramel! A little softly whipped cream on top doesn’t hurt, either. The caramel is made using date syrup, which is similar in consistency to molasses. It can last for up to two weeks well sealed in the refrigerator (doesn’t mean it “will” last, someone in your house will get to it long before it reaches it’s expiry date). The caramel is wonderful over ice cream, or can be eaten with a spoon right out of a jar. Delicious!
Warning – I take no responsibility if you become addicted to the caramel.
Makes 12 individual cakes or 24 mini cakes
Ingredients (for the Date Cakes):
- 180 grams all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 50 grams soft brown sugar
- 125 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 250 gram dates, seeds removed and sliced
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius (350 F).
Generously butter and flour a 12 capacity muffin tin. If you want smaller mini cakes, you can use a 24 capacity mini muffin tin.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
Using an electric mixer beat together both sugars, and melted butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a few seconds after each addition.
Add the dates and vanilla extract. Mix well, making sure the dates are evenly distributed.
Add half the flour to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture, and stir until incorporated.
Pour into muffin tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are golden brown and cooked through. If using mini muffin tins, bake for approximately 15 minutes.
Ingredients (for the Date Caramel):
- 1 cup date syrup
- 1 cup cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
- 2 tsp unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the date syrup until it begins to boil. Let boil for two minutes, carefully swirl in the pan so that the syrup doesn’t burn.
Remove from heat. Slowly and carefully add the cream to the to the hot syrup, wisking constantly. Add butter and vanilla extract.
The mixture will thicken as it sits. You can eat it either warm or at room temperature.
Serve the caramel on top or alongside the cake.