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




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.

70 Responses to “Salted Caramel Date Loaf”

  1. 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!!!!!

  2. 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?

  3. 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”

  4. Brenda

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

  5. 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 😀

    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?

  6. Judy

    I made this cake and it came out great! It is really easy to make; I followed the recipe exactly (unusual for me!) and it was just right. The dates almost dissolve in the cake and make this cake taste rich and caramely without being overly sweet. It tastes like there is molasses in the cake, but there isn’t. The glaze worked well for me- just stirred together on the stove- and it was the perfect amount. I think it will look even nicer in a round pan or a ceramic deep dish pie pan and I will make it that way for a gathering. Thanks for a great, simple recipe!

  7. Des

    This is a stunning loaf!! Have made it twice now and it’s unusual and delicious!! Haven’t yet figured out how to add the water, dates and butter to the caramelized sugar without it hardening but the answer must be Sloowwly! Next time. But caramel will melt again on slow heat as indicated above. Yummy. Really great recipe. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Jeanette Wood

    This looks amazing! My daughter just sent me the link in a text. I am sharing on my FB page and pinned it. I love salted caramel. I can’t wait to try this!

  9. Elyse Harvey

    So I attempted to make this yesterday but my sugar (for the first step of the recipe) went from not melting at all to being burned the next minute. I’m sure I rushed the process with too much heat, but any suggestions? I want to try again!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      It happens quick! Burnt sugar is no fun. Lower heat will definitely buy you some more time. Also, if you add a little water to the sugar it will caramelize more evenly (and slowly). Hope that helps!


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