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Date and pecan cake

The Spanish brought dates to Mexico in the seventeenth century. In the beginning, they were mostly cultivated by missionaries in Baja California Sur, and then, as more missions were established, in Baja California Norte. This moist, sweet cake has a rich, dense, marzipan- like texture. It’s perfect not only for dessert but also as a midmorning or afternoon treat with a cup of coffee or tea. 



  • 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped pitted Medjool dates (about 8 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  1. Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, until soft. Every once in a while, press the dates down into the water.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the middle. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Transfer the dates, with their soaking water, to a blender or food processor and pulse to a coarse puree. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse to combine. Add the melted butter and granulated sugar and pulse until well mixed. Add the pecans and blend to a smooth puree.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and scrape in the date mixture. Fold it into the flour with a silicone spatula until you have a thick batter. Scrape into the cake pan and smooth the top with an offset (or the silicone) spatula.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is browned and slightly crusty, with some cracks on top.
  7. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out with moist but not wet crumbs. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
  8. Run a knife around the edges of the cake pan, place a plate over the top, and turn the cake out onto the plate, then invert onto a serving platter (rounded side up). Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. 

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