I recently re-discovered this classic recipe from my childhood.
When I returned to London after University, my mother gathered together a group of my friends who were all setting up homes for the first time. Every Monday evening we would assemble in the kitchen, and excitedly learned how to put together a meal. We were all given a notebook, and we would meticulously take down her recipes and notes for dishes such as lasagne, soups, crumble, fish pie, vinaigrette, chocolate chip cookies. Necessary classics that everyone should have in their repertoire.
Chocolate chip date nut cake was one of the recipes that my mother shared with us in our sessions - a classic from my childhood. Maybe not as legendary as chocolate chip banana bread (recipe coming soon), but a classic none the less.
I must confess, over time I had completely forgotten about these moist, chewy, delectable treats until recently, when I stumbled across them while leafing through my old notebook searching, unsuccessfully, for another old classic.
I immediately asked my mother about the provenance of the recipe. There was a pause.
“I think Dianne brought the recipe to Grandma’s house when she came to visit with Jessica in the summer of 1970.”
They think that Jessica found it on the back of a packet - either dates or chocolate chips - their memory was a bit vague. But they were both emphatic about the fact that they loved these bars and made them regularly through their time together at Oberlin College.
I have tweaked my mother's recipe card somewhat, but if anyone out there knows where the original is I would love to see it. In the meantime, I urge you to try them - they really are truly delicious.
Chocolate Chip Date Nut Cake (although I actually serve them as bars like a brownie)
150g (1cup) chopped dates
300ml (1 1/4 cup) boiling water
1tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175g (3/4cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
200g (1cup) sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
140g (1 1/4 cup) plain flour
3tbsp unsweetened cocoa
pinch of salt
50g (1/4cup) demarara (turbinado) sugar
160g (1cup) semi sweet chocolate chips
100g (1 cup) walnuts roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 180c (350f)
Butter and line a 24cm (9 1/2 inch) square baking pan (or any brownie pan of your choice) with parchment paper
Combine dates, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and set aside
Sift flour, cocoa and salt together and set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add eggs one at a time and beat for another 2 minutes
Alternatively add the flour and date mixtures in three stages, starting and ending with the flour mixture
Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle on top with demarara sugar, chocolate chips and walnuts (it is important you put them on in that order so that they do not sink)
Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes until cooked but still moist
Cool completely before slicing into bars
Makes approximately 16 generous slices