Date Cake with Caramel Icing
Serves 8 to 10
3 T sliced almonds, lightly toasted
8 oz Medjool dates, pitted
1 1/4 cups water
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
2 t baking soda, divided
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 t ground cardamom
½ t fine sea salt
6 T unsalted butter
6 T dark brown sugar
3 T whole milk
1/2 to 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
Note that the baking soda goes into the warm date mixture, in addition to the cake batter. This step helps mellow the acidity of the dates.
To make the garnish and cake:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the almonds on a small sheet pan. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
When the oven is hot, toast the almonds for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
Place the dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree in a food processor until smooth.
Pour the warm date puree into the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment (or mix by hand). Add the butter and 1 teaspoon of the baking soda and mix slowly until the butter blends into the date mixture, 3 to 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, sift together the flour, the remaining 1 teaspoon baking powder, cardamom, and salt into a bowl.
When the date and butter mixture has cooled a bit, add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined. With the mixer going, gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they are incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven 45 to 50 minutes, until dark golden and puffed, and a knife or toothpick comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
To make the icing:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter and sugar become thick and shiny, about 2 minutes. Stir in the milk and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar, several tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is smooth, and is light in color.
Let the glaze cool completely, then spread it over the top of the cooled cake. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. (This cake keeps well, covered at room temperature, for several days. )