Scottish Date Cake

I have no idea where this recipe actually came from, but it’s one that Tim found after eating something similar at a restaurant back in Ann Arbor. “We can’t share our recipe,” the owner said, “but I can tell you that if you search for XYZ, you’ll find something similar.” I don’t remember what XYZ was, but when I first made the recipe, Tim told me the dessert tasted just like he remembered. And then, he took another slice. For a man who doesn’t eat many desserts, that was high praise indeed.

Don’t be put off by dates. I’m no fan of them, but this cake has just the right amount. It’s a moist, nutty cake with a hint of sweetness. And because the recipe I own is faded and worn at the edges, I’m sharing it here so I no longer have to squint when I try to bake it.


1 cup plus 1 T all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup finely chopped dried, pitted dates
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup plus 1 T packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream


1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9- or 10- inch pie pan.
2. Sift 1 cup of flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. In small glass bowl, toss dates with 1 T flour.
3. In a large bowl, beat 4 T of butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. Lower the speed to medium low and beat in the egg and about 1/4 of the flour mixture. Mix until smooth. Add remaining flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.
4. Sprinkle baking soda and vanilla over dates. Add boiling water and stir. Add date mixture to batter, beating well. Pour mixture into dish.
5. Bake until set and browned, 30-40 minutes. Remove and preheat the broiler.
6. In small saucepan over medium heat, bring 3 T butter, the brown sugar, and cream to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes and pour over the baked cake.
7. Broil until top bubbles, about 1 minute.

If you serve this later, it’s best warmed a bit. It’s even better with a dollop of whipped cream or, if you crave something a bit sweeter, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And yes, it tastes wonderful the next morning with your favorite cup of coffee.

Image of date cake (not the one baked) by Farooq Sharif from

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