This simple and old-fashioned cake, a slightly updated version of one my mother has been baking for decades, is my favorite cake, hands-down, no question about it. Several attributes make it a winner in my eyes: It doesn’t need frosting and to me tastes better without it. It’s very moist when stored at room temperature and is actually better on the second day. And finally, the combination of chocolate and dates does something truly wonderful for the taste buds.
For those of you who are eager to get on with the recipe, please go ahead without me. I’ll just linger here a moment, reminiscing about the background of this cake. My mother, an 86-pound confirmed sweet hound, was and still is a child’s idea of a great mom. She never yelled or hovered. She showed enormous patience in teaching us kids the skills needed for self-sufficiency — far more than I did with my own — and was always positive about our achievements. Best of all, from a child’s point of view, she usually had homemade treats on the kitchen counter when we returned from school in the afternoon, to fortify us during our homework time. This cake was among them, and Mother’s strategy worked. I was always happy to do homework, even after leaving home and going off to university, where such treats were most definitely few and far between.
1 1/4 cups dried dates, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
(Optional) 1 tablespoon sifted confectioner’s sugar for topping
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the chopped dates, boiling water, and baking soda. Set aside until cooled to room temperature.
- Oil a 9″ bundt pan, 9″ spring form pan, or 8″ x 12″ cake pan and set aside. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for approximately two minutes after each addition.
- Sift together the whole wheat flour, white flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Gently stir one-half of the flour mixture and one-half of the date mixture into the batter until just incorporated. Repeat. Gently stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan.
- Depending on the baking pan used, bake 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool to room temperature on a cake rack and, if preferred, dust the top of the cake with sifted confectioner’s sugar. Serves 8-10.