Date Cake

Yassi’s As-Moist-As-a-Pudding Date Cake

Yassi sits on her stool in the kitchen kneading the glossy détrempe for la pâte feuilletée; puff pastry. There is no beurre sec, but Lurpak will do. Her silver and black hair is in short waves and immaculate as always; her pastel kurta is starched. Yassi’s slender, milky fingers are bare as they push the dough back and forth, like a potter with her clay. Her mother’s vintage ring bearing three overlapping leaves in rose, yellow and white gold removed and placed in the porcelain Wedgewood jewelry jar given to her by her daughter-in-law. She looks at the granite counter, “It would be lovely to have a cup of champagne resting there for small sips while the dough rests,” she thinks. But she is no longer in her Paris kitchen, she is in Karachi.

Champagne is now reserved only for special occasions.

To her daughter-in-law who visits once a year, everyday is a special day in Yassi’s home. For lunch, sheets of la pâte feuilletée are sliced into rectangles; delicately sautéed chicken and julienned carrots are folded in; the pastry sealed, brushed with egg white and baked till ballooned and brought to table. Served with a tomato chutney. For tea, Yassi’s fruit cake, a small, thick slice, filled with currants and orange peel soaked in brandy. One slice. Two, ah, maybe another one for her daughter-in-law. For supper a gratin de courgettes with grated parmiggiano, with a dense, spicy lentil and goat curry for the chili-heads in the family. Some caramel custard for pudding; lacquered on top; tender and creamy from inside.

Or maybe a quiche- her son’s favourite. During their courtship, Yassi’s daughter-in-law would get jealous when her son would talk about his mother’s “most fabulous quiche“. “Hmph. And what about my crêpes?” she would ask him under her breath. But a part of the family now, enamoured by Yassi and her effortless elegance and perfection, her daughter-in-law knew she could only wish to be like her. Knead the détrempe like her. Yassi the only person who can say the phrase, “oh how lovely” five times in a conversation and not sound the least bit affected.

Yassi serves her daughter-in-law a date cake, between meals. “Oh, you’re on holiday, you must enjoy it,” she tells her, while dropping thick, heavy spoonfuls of double cream on a slice of the cake in her daughter-in-law’s plate. A recipe passed down to Yassi by her own mother. A recipe older than her marriage; even older than her son. A dense, dark, earthy cake moistened with the gooeyness of dates, almost like a steamed pudding.

As I said, everyday is a special day in Yassi’s home. You can have that cake, and eat it, too.

NB For a gluten-free version, you can use a combination of gluten-free ‘flours’, for the recipe, please refer to the Gluten-Free Goddess’ website here.

You will need a 10-in (25 cm) Springform pan and some parchment paper. (If you use a pan with a smaller diameter, the cake may remain raw from the middle and cooked from the sides, so please do use a 10 in pan.)

*250 g plump dates with seed. (If using stoned dates, you’ll have to adjust/decrease the amount)
*250 ml boiling water
*1 tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
*100 g butter, unsalted, brought to room temperature
*180 g granulated sugar
*2 eggs
*150 g flour
*2 tsp baking powder

*Preheat your oven to 175C / 350F.
*Place parchment paper on top of the springform pan base and trace a circle. Line pan with parchment circle and butter and flour the sides.

Step 1: Prepare the date mixture:
*Deseed your dates by gently tearing them open from top to bottom.
*Chop dates fine.
*Bring 250 ml of water to a boil (I boil it in my kettle and then measure out 250 ml to be exact).
*Pour into saucepan, when water starts to boil, add baking soda, (it will froth).
*Add chopped dates and stir the mixture for 2-3 minutes.
*The date mixture should be on the thick side, not watery.
*Take off the stove and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Step 2: Prepare the batter:
*Whip butter with sugar till light and fluffy.
*Add eggs slowly; they may curdle at first but keep whipping, the mixture will come together and become smooth.
*Slowly fold in flour and baking powder and keep whipping/mixing.
*Add in date mixture, with a spoon/spatula and gently stir.
*Batter will seem slightly thin, but since we’re using a pan with a wide base, don’t worry, the cake will cook through. Remember, this is a moist, pudding-like cake.
*Pour into Springform.
*Bake for 35 minutes, test to see if the toothpick comes out clean after 30 mins; I like this cake moist and goeey, please don’t overbake it.

Allow cake to rest half an hour before taking out of Springform pan, or serve by the spoonfuls immediately, like a soft pudding, with double, triple or clotted cream on top.



  1. OMG this was absolutely divine! I made it yesterday and my family is begging me to make it again today haha.

  2. Hi there! I love this recipe. I made it this evening for and although it tasted great, it was much more like a cake than a pudding. I’m not an avid baker, I had to use some conversions to cups and also doubled the recipe for two cakes. This could be a reason for the density…any other ideas? I’d love to try it again and hope for a different outcome. Thanks!

    • Dear Nazia, Perhaps the moisture level was low. It may also have to do with doubling up of the recipe or converting it into cups. Did you use moist, gooey dates? That also may be a factor…Hope this helps. All best, Shayma

  3. the baking soda smell and taste was too overpowering . can anything be done abt it? Otherwise a lovely cake

  4. Hi, of course this post is really good and I hav learned lot of things from it on the topic of blogging.

  5. made it…tasted grt

  6. Hi,

    Thank you for the recipe. 1st time I made it and it came out delicious! 2nd time i think i did something wrong, my dates turned into a dark greeny colour after i boiled it! :/

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  8. Hi
    I made this today while trying to get rid of those dates in the fridge. Much to the looks of both my daughter and wife, the cake turned out perfect. Just had a bite while its cooling and was yummy. Will try to make a variation with walnuts next time around.
    Thanks so much..


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