Scientifically Sweet: Gooey Butter Caramel Date Cakes

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Gooey Butter Caramel Date Cakes

It's rare that something which doesn't contain chocolate can excite me this much.

It's rare that the British could invent a dessert THIS good. Christmas pudding, however, that's another story....

Sticky date cake is something I've made hundreds of working in restaurants, and it's something that turns out divine every single time. (Especially when doused with butter caramel sauce...)

It's the magic of dates that insures moist, succulent sweetness. Dates contain a lot of soluble fiber that, once cooked, can absorb and bind loads of water. That means that your cake stays moist for days. You can refrigerate the batter and bake it tomorrow, and then you can keep the baked cakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week and warm them up in the microwave so they are as good as fresh. I'm telling you... magic! 

You can make date cake two ways: 

1) involves one pot - cook the dates with water, let cool slightly, stir in sugar, melted butter, eggs and dry ingredients

2) creaming method - beat butter with sugar until pale, mix in eggs, mix in dry ingredients, then fold in slightly cooled cooked date mixture.

The recipe here today uses method 2. and makes for a slightly softer, more tender and finer-crumbed cake - perfect for cupcakes like these. Method 1. is excellent for a dense loaf or layer cake.

This recipe is worth it for the caramel sauce alone. It has butter, cream and salt. Everything I'd need if I were stranded on a desert island.

Make a big batch of this and keep it stored in the fridge for a drizzle over ice cream, and for these cakes of course.


Gooey Butter Caramel Date Cakes 
Makes 16-18 cakes

For the cakes:
225g pitted dates 
1 ¼ cups (300g) water
1 2/3 cups (235g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter
¾ cup (165g) packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp (40g) honey
1 tsp (5ml) pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt

For the caramel glaze:
2 tbsp (30ml) water
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 tsp corn syrup
1/3 cup (80ml) 35% whipping cream
4 tbsp (56g) unsalted butter
½ tsp salt

Combine dates and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes until very soft. Mash until dates absorb liquid and it looks like applesauce. Measure out to 1 ½ cups. Let cool slightly.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater/paddle attachment cream butter with brown sugar, honey, vanilla and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. The mixture may look slightly curdled in some spots but that’s ok because it will come together once the dry ingredients are added.

Gradually add dry ingredients while mixing on the lowest speed just until combined. Fold in warm date puree until evenly incorporated and smooth. Spoon batter into prepared pan, filling the holes about ¾ full and bake for 16-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

To make caramel, pour water into a small saucepan and sprinkle over sugar in an even layer. Add corn syrup and place over medium heat to dissolve sugar. Increase heat and bring to a boil without stirring. Let the syrup bubble away until it turns to a rich amber colour, swirling the pan occasionally to cook evenly. Remove pan from heat and carefully whisk in cream. The mixture will bubble up. Stir in butter and salt until well incorporated. Pour caramel into a bowl and pour over warm date cakes just before serving.
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