When I went to Marrakech, I was converted to dates. I had never completely signed on as a fan, but when you try things at the source, you typically get what the hype is about. The hype reached another level when I had dinner on the rooftop of Nomad, overlooking the spice souk and watching the sunset while eating delicious Moroccan dishes.
To finish off the meal, we ordered their date cake. It was an individual sized cake soaked in a toffee sauce, and it absolutely blew my mind. I had no idea how the cake could be so moist and chewy and perfectly spiced with the right amount of sweetness. I was a woman obsessed, and I committed myself to figuring out my own version.
Fast forward a year and a half (time flies…) and I think I’ve nailed it. This cake is soaked in a bourbon glaze, yet isn’t “wet”. It’s moist and slightly sticky, with warming spices and a hint of bourbon and orange. It’s the perfect treat for tea or lingering after a meal. The ultimate validation was from my boyfriend, who had just returned from his first trip to Marrakech and had eaten the same cake at my rather intense urging. He took a bite and his eyes went wide, and then he took a few more bites. The texture a bit different, he said, but the flavour was spot on.
It may not be a plane ticket to Marrakech, but it’ll do for now.
- 1 cup medjool dates, chopped
- 1 tbsp bourbon
- Juice of 1/2 a blood orange
- 1 dash cocktail bitters, such as Angostura
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- Pinch of turmeric
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
Glaze Ingredients (adapted from Ina Garten)
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp bourbon
- 2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325F and butter a 9 inch cake pan.
In a medium saucepan, combine the chopped dates, bourbon, blood orange juice, bitters and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, until dates are falling apart. In a blender or food processor, blend until you reach a puree consistency (a few solids are ok). Set aside.
Cream softened butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add vanilla, orange zest and date mixture and mix until well combined.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Add to batter and mix on low until just combined.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake at 325F for 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back after lightly tapping the centre with your finger.
While the cake is baking, make the glaze. Combine the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for one minute, then remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and vanilla. Pour into a separate bowl and set aside while baking.
Once cake is done, lightly prick all over a few times with a sharp paring knife, and pour half the glaze all over the cake. Allow to cool in the pan for 30-45 minutes, then run a paring knife around the edge and flip onto a serving plate. Spoon the remaining glaze all over the top, and serve.
When storing the cake, ensure it is covered tightly with plastic wrap to preserve its moist texture.