Intro

 

They say a good friend listens, lends a shoulder to sop up tears, is trustworthy and dependable. Yeah, yeah those are great but this week I’ve seen that a good friend will also schlep a caramel cake from San Francisco to Seattle in her carry-on for the sole purpose of sharing it with you. Now that is a good friend.

I bit into that cake and reveled in its deep caramel flavor. Not one for baked goods that are cloyingly sweet I fell in love with its bitterness and mourned the last bite.

By the next morning I still couldn’t shake the taste. Not knowing yet what to bake but just that I needed to, I turned on the oven. I flipped through a few cookbooks but when the flavor I craved couldn’t be found I hung my head and nearly turned off the now hot oven while trying to rid myself of longing for more caramel cake. In desperation I picked a simple baking book that I admittedly didn’t reserve much hope for. As I scanned the pages the words, “Date Bread” jumped out at me and just like that I was dreaming of dates and caramel together in one tender loaf.

In a pan I swirled flakes of white sugar until it puddled and melted, bubbled and spurted before becoming a pool of a molten deep copper liquid. Smoke rose from the pan and lifted with it a scent of a nearly burnt sugar – my favorite place to bring caramel. Hot water was added and then chopped dates. I held my breath as the cake no longer held any association with the original recipe except that there were dates involved.

The batter was the most unusual and brilliant rust color – the same that stops me as I walk past Fall leaves that have just turned.

I sat by the oven with the light illuminating the cake hoping for lift, for edges that gently pull from the sides and for the bitter caramel to permeate the entire loaf.

“Success!” I declared as I pulled the cake from the oven. While warm I poured more caramel on top which then proceeded to harden and crackle – which was not exactly the plan. We didn’t let the first cake go to waste but the next day more cream was added and butter melted in until a deep glaze filled out the cake beautifully.

Ivy and I eagerly ate a still-warm piece and she too declared it a success by licking her plate and saying, “Dis is yummy, mama!”

We shared with the boys before I wrapped up a little piece for my friend. While I didn’t have to travel to San Francisco and back to share this cake with her I think she still appreciated it all the same.

 

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Salted Caramel Date Loaf

adapted to the point of being unrecognizable from Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood

 1 cup sugar

1 cup (about 6 ounces) chopped and pitted dates

1 cup hot water

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the glaze:

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

 

1/4 teaspoon (or so) good sea salt, for finishing

 

Cake:

 

Grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2 ” loaf pan and pre-heat your oven to 350*F.

 

In a medium sauce pan melt the sugar until deeply caramelized and just starting to smoke. The caramel should be deep amber in color and smell sweet with a bit of bitterness. Stir the sugar around gently until it all is melted and caramelized. Turn off the heat and carefully add the water, chopped dates and butter. Stir everything together until well combined. If the caramel hardens just return the pan to low heat until it all melts. Let this mixture sit for 15 minutes.

 

Add the caramel mixture to a large bowl. To that add the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir until just combined before adding the egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.

 

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

 

While the cake is still warm and in the pan make the glaze by melting the butter and the brown sugar together in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once the sugar and butter have melted add the cream and stir until combined.

 

Using a skewer or a toothpick poke holes all over the top of the still-warm loaf. Pour the hot caramel glaze over the top.

 

Let the glaze settle into the cake for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan and letting it cool on a wire rack.

 

Top the glazed cake with a sprinkle of sea salt – any nice crunchy salt will do.

 

As with most cakes this one is best the day after baking.

68 Responses to “Salted Caramel Date Loaf”

  1. Sarah

    Wow, this looks like a lovely wintery treat. It’s very similar to a traditional sticky toffee pudding from the brits (here in Australia we call it sticky date). But with a salted caramel twist. Beautiful, I will have a slice!

    Reply
  2. Ashlae

    I’ve been waiting for this recipe since I saw the sneak peek on instagram – so beautiful! And what a sweet friend you have. Good friends who bring cake are the absolute best.

    Reply
  3. Julie

    Oh yes, please. Love the colour and flavour combination – especially from my couch, wrapped in a blanket against the winter chill!

    Reply
  4. MikeVFMK

    What a lovely loaf. The dark rich colour has me swooning. And dates and caramel are two of my favourite ingredients. Beautiful.

    Reply
  5. Ella

    I am intrigued by this loaf. I am going to make this soon and can hardly wait! Looks scrumptious.

    Reply
  6. Kathryn

    Since you posted a sneak peek on instagram, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. Such a wonderful combination and I love those sticky pockets of date running through it. Going on the must try list.

    Reply
  7. Rebecca @ Pavlova's Dog

    I see another commenter has already noted how this must taste similar to sticky toffee pudding, and that’s what I thought too when I read it. But sticky toffee puddings are almost always made individually, and served hot. This loaf changes the serving style significantly, making it more informal (not cooked for a definitive number of people) and much more easily snackable. I might make this for the weekend, I can only imagine how my boyfriend would freak out over it!

    Reply
  8. Barbara Garneau Kelley

    Salted caramel is all around me these days and I love it! I was wondering how to achieve it. Thank you, I’m off to the kitchen to bake this. It just so happens I have a package of dates I didn’t use over Christmas.

    Reply
  9. Eva | Adventures in Cooking

    Dates have a wonderfully caramelly flavor and texture on their own, pairing them with a salted caramel sauce sounds excelllllent. And I agree, any friend who will shlep a baked good onto an air plane for you is a good friend indeed.

    Reply
  10. Laura

    Ah, I love the inherent caramel qualities of dates, but this! This is like caramel squared. Love that you pour a bit on post-baking to seep into the cake too. What a lovely friend, to bring you a cake AND a healthy dose of inspiration for a future treat.

    Reply
  11. Ashley

    Oh.ma.goodness. I don’t even really know what to say about this except, feed me now! This looks + sounds exceptional!

    Reply
  12. ahu

    amazing!!! this reminds me so much of one of my favorite desserts – sticky toffee pudding. definitely bookmarking this!

    Reply
  13. Danielle

    Is it baking powder or soda? In the ingredient list it says baking soda while the instructions say baking powder. Thanks!

    Reply
  14. Isabelle @ Crumb

    Simply gorgeous! Date loaf has always felt like such a stodgy old-fashioned sort of dessert, but the salted caramel glaze totally transforms it from dowdy to desirable. I’m half-tempted to swing by the store to pick up a bag of dates just so I can make one tonight!

    Reply
  15. Stephanie S

    This looks lovely! During the holiday season I do a lot of cooking and baking with dates. They are truly underrated amongst my friends and family and when I break out my sugar plums (a la Saveur http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Sugar-Plums), everyone understands my obsession. This will definitely be added to my date recipe repertoire. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  16. molly

    for the love of glazed cakes (and i LOVE glazed cakes, and always double the glaze, or soaking syrup, or delicious liquidy whatever), it has never occurred to me to soak a cake in CARAMEL!

    good grief. this is genius.

    Reply
  17. Amy P.

    I was so inspired by your recipe that I made it last night. It’s getting great reviews at work!

    Reply
  18. Needful Things

    I usually don’t comment but wow – I had to today.
    Your mouth-watering description of this cake along with the beautiful photos made me swoon when I saw this post in my reader.
    This sounds a lot like a certain date cake I’m addicted to a restaurant here, one that I’ve always thought of recreating at home but have not gotten around to it. Maybe your recipe will make a good launching pad.

    Reply
  19. Simon

    How on earth does a cake like this not get eaten in it’s entirety within hours of coming out of the oven….in my house, nothing lasts until the day after baking. What planet are you living on?

    Reply
  20. Regine

    Just letting you know that your delicious cake is now in the oven and smells so good. I can’t wait to have a slice tomorrow.
    I will let the flavors deepen overnight if I can resist temptation.
    I will let you know how I like it. By the way, I would also have
    thrown some bits of candied ginger but I did not have any. Maybe the next time I make it. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    Reply
  21. Dana

    As you know, I got to taste the SF version and have no doubt that yours is better. I’m sure yours had more salt which the SF one needed. This kind of reminds me of a sticky toffee pudding which I love. I don’t like dates but I love them in cake!

    Reply
  22. Averie @ Averie Cooks

    This is just a delish and stunning looking loaf! Earlier this fall/winter I made a date and molasses cake. It was dark and sultry and I’ve been wanting something like your loaf ever since! And the sauce, mmm!

    Reply
  23. Camille

    Thant happens to me, too — when I want something sweet, get all ready to bake, and then can’t find the recipe I want to make. Looks like the situation turned out fantastic for you this time around! Dates and salted caramel… excuse me while I make Homer Simpson noises. :)

    Reply
  24. Alizee Castel

    I made this cake this week end, and it taste AWESOME! I’m a huge fan! The glaze is also really good and takes the cake to the next level.

    How did you make the glaze go through the center of the cake? Even with poking it, I only had some glaze at the very top of the cake. Any tip for next time?

    Reply
  25. christina

    I made this without the glaze and it was AMAZING. Seriously the best loaf I’ve ever made.

    Due to my son’s life-threatening allergy to milk, I used coconut oil to make the caramel and it worked perfectly. Nom Nom

    Reply
  26. julia

    I made this cake and it seems to be a perfect cake to make in February when everything is so bland, cold and just tiring. It was so amazingly delicious. Thank you!!!!!

    Reply
  27. Arielle

    Looks delicious. I was just wondering if there’s a particular kind of dates you suggest? I’ve got a bunch of deglet noor dates, which aren’t nearly as sweet as medjool. Thoughts?

    Reply
  28. Meg

    Great cake. Wonderful way to use up lesser quality dates. Use a choestick to poke holes! Next time I would also remove it from the pan after it cools ten minutes, then frost. Delicious and different. Wonder how it would come out in a cake pan? I’m calling it carmel cake so my kids don’t say “yuck, I don’t like dates”

    Reply
  29. Brenda

    This is going on my list to make…will be feeding the band well in about a month’s time.

    Reply
  30. Mie

    Thanks for such a great loaf cake recipe, Ashley! It turned out so moist and caramelly and can imagine this as a base for so many delicious variations – spice loaf, orange loaf, stem ginger loaf – the possibilities are endless! I have a feeling that this will become a staple recipe in my house :D

    However – I did not manage to make the glaze work – I tried three times t melt the brown sugar and butter, but each time the sugar just burned instead of melting, and the butter floated on top – this happened regardless of whether I stirred, swivelledd or left the pan alone. I used a medium heat, as you say in the recipe – can you give me any pointers for cucceeding with getting the butter and brown sugar to combine so that I get a butterscotch glaze rather than hot cream with burnt brown sugar crystals?

    Reply

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