Chocolate Chip Date Nut Cake

Serves 16 squares 2 May 2014 Vegetarian Friendly
My rediscovery of a childhood classic.

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 meticulously treanscribed 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.”

Diane is my mother’s first cousin, and Jessica to this day is still her best friend.  So I emailed Diane and Jessica to ask them if they recall how they stumbled across the recipe.

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

2 eggs

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

Add vanilla

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


Have you made this dish?

Let me know what you think, share your efforts and any tweaks you made to the recipe on Instagram, don’t forget to tag #BuildingFeasts or email me on