Trying to satisfy your sweet tooth while training for a submission competition/rank review and a half-marathon seems impossible. Your gut tells you to eat a cupcake. Your conscience tells you to ignore the craving and replace it with 15 kick-out pushups and a tall glass of water. Your heart says satisfy both.
It’s no surprise that I chose the latter by creating a muffin/bread recipe that is sweetly satisfying, nutritionally conscious, and a little out-there. I give you the date cake– a potentially bad romance that ended up as a fairy tale love.
This was created after trying to recover from Thanksgiving leftovers (yes, they still do exist). I had leftover dates, cranberry sauce, marscapone filling that I made for tiramisu, avocados that didn’t want to do the guac dance, and Grand Marnier. Naturally, I put on my mad scientist glasses and mixed them together.
If you’re trying to recreate this let’s-empty-the-fridge recipe, you are as crazy as me. Here’s what you’ll need (approximately):
- 3 cups dates
- 3 cups cranberry sauce (or something similar)
- 2 avocados
- 1/2 can sprite or club soda
- juice of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
- 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil plus extra for pan (you could also use any peanut/vegetable/ grape seed oil that you have, if you like. I just like to bake with hazelnut oil, and I needed to get rid of it)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3-4 cups cake flour or all purpose flour
- mascarpone cheese filling, if you happen to have that laying around (if you don’t happen to have that, substitute with 3 eggs and ricotta cheese)
- cupcake pans/ bread tin
- big mixing bowl
- (optional) food processor
This whole thing started with me opening the messy fridge, wondering how I could make it clean again (replacing Thanksgiving odds and ends with something a bit more wholesome). I chopped the dates and stuck them in a food processor with the cranberry sauce. You don’t have to do this if you don’t have a food processor, but I would recommend chopping the dates as finely as you can before combining them with the cranberries. Set that aside for later.
I know, avocados don’t inherently go well with anything baked. They brown easily, and they have this unique taste and texture that can be difficult to manage. Luckily, I step into a challenge. In order to combat the avocados from turning into a black-sludge of despair, I mashed them with half a can of Sprite (I realize that’s not the healthiest option, but you can use some other form of carbonation), lemon juice, and Grand Marnier (to raise spirits). Set that aside, so you can get to mixing.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together to save it for later.
I’m going to tell you a secret: I’ve had this mascarpone tiramisu filling for about two weeks now. It’s been sitting lonely in an air-tight container in the fridge, and it needed some love. So, I took out a whisk and some hazelnut oil, and started mixing. You want to whip these two until they seem fluffy, and creamy, and dreamy. Think whipped pillow clouds.
Then, I added the date-cranberry mixture, and mixed until it looked like a party–until they are just incorporated (but not a fully-formed company). Add your avocado mixture so it can advocate for green and clean eating.Whisk it all away, and give it some flours for added courting. But seriously, add the flour in three batches and mix until just together. You don’t want to over-work your first date (cake).
Once all of that is together, you want a consistency that resembles this:
It’s a thick-er batter. You don’t want a cake-like batter that sloshes around freely. No, you want a hard-to-get date cake that has the consistency closer to cookie dough (but not quite that stiff). I eyeballed it. If it feels too Spritely (watery), add some more flour. If it’s too stiff, add some more Sprite. It’s a bit of a freestyle dance with this recipe.
Oil your pans, and pour the mixture in. I baked these at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes, but that’s because my oven only heats up to that temperature. If you’re playing with your food, like I am, experiment with different temps etc. Basically you want it to cook enough, so when you put a toothpick in the center of the cake, it comes out clean.
They don’t have to look pretty, they just have to be baked. Let them cool about 10 minutes.
While you’re doing that (optionally) take out a mason jar and some heavy whipping cream. Pour heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, and a drop or two of agave nectar into that jar. Cap tightly, and give yourself an arm workout by shaking it like a Polaroid picture for 10 minutes. Stick in the fridge, and forget about it for a few. Did you break a sweat? Good. I did too.
Go back to your cooled-off date cakes, and take a knife to the edges. Put a pan over the top, and flip those babies over. You might want to give them a slight tap to make sure gravity does it’s thing. Slowly slip the cake pan up, so you can see your creation in all of it’s glory. There you have it, date cake.
Remember that mason jar?
That’s your topping, if you want to get a little indulgent. Spoon that out and add nuts, if you wish. Now it looks like the picture:
I realize that most of you probably don’t have dates and these things around the house. I basically used the general rule of consistency and play. A good rule of thumb for breads is about 3 cups of flour to one part whatever liquid you’re adding. It’s like a banana bread or zucchini bread. I encourage you to defy your parents, and play with your food. Come up with ways to recreate leftovers. You never know, it might satisfy a healthier sweet tooth.