Today I am sharing a very special recipe with you. While this isn’t my traditional dairy-free, gluten-free sweet treat, it is a a very memorable one for my Grammy. This is an old-fashioned pecan date cake recipe that she used to love as a girl.
Let me tell you a little story about this recipe.
My Grammy was born in 1930, smack dab in the middle of the great depression. Her mother had six children, my Grammy being the last one born.
In fact, when WWII started, my Grammy was a young teenager, and she said each week their mom would ask them what they would like their sugar ration to be used on. It could either be for tea, coffee or a dessert.
Grammy said they learned to drink tea and coffee black, just so they could enjoy a sweet every week.
This old-fashioned pecan date cake was her favorite one.
I loved hearing how excited Grammy was when her mom made this cake! Her mother got this recipe from her mother, so it dates back to the late 1800s at least.
When my Grammy was married in the early 1950s, her oldest sister sent her a bunch of family recipes to add to her recipe box. This was one of them. Grammy made this cake a few times in the 50s and 60s, but her family (my dad included) preferred a pie or chocolate cake.
It has been close to 50 years since she has probably had some.
So, I took a photo of the recipe to recreate it at home for Easter. I got to surprise Grammy with it!
This recipe is special to us, so I had to share it with you too!
Enjoy making a little piece of history, and stay tuned for ways to modernize it for your dietary needs.
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup butter, softened (or baking oil)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 12 oz package pitted dates, quartered.
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 12 oz package pitted dates
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large bowl mix together the eggs, sugar, buttermilk and butter until combined.
- In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients together except for the dates. Once that is combined add the quartered dates (just cut each date into 4 pieces).
- Smash the dates around in the flower mixture until they are coated with flour and broken apart a little.
- Now, add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined.
- Divide mixture into two GREASED (spray well with cooking spray) 9 inch round baking pans.
- Bake 25-30 minutes until mixture is cooked through and golden brown.
- Allow it to cool in the pan. Run a knife or spatula around edges and underneath to make sure it doesn't stick (this is a sticky cake).
- Put each one on a plate and let it sit in the refrigerator a few hours.
- Meanwhile, add all the ingredients for the icing into a large saucepan. Don't worry about chopping the dates, they melt.
- Heat on medium low until icing thickens up a bit and dates are almost all broken down. Mixture will be sticky and pretty thick. Do this about 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Let this sit in pan to cool.
- It will continue to thicken while it sits.
- Add icing to the middle of cake for the layers to stick.
- Ice the top and sides, then place in the fridge to firm up completely,
- Serve cold or at room temperature for cutting.
Chemist Tips for Baking this Date Pecan Cake
Obviously, this sweet little cake was made traditional, just like they did back in the day. There are many great substitutes you can make for this cake though depending on your dietary needs!
This cake has many dairy related items including the cream, butter, and buttermilk. You can actually sub each one of these for a dairy-free option. Check out this huge list of dairy-free substitutes!
There are only a few eggs in this recipe, so this would be an easy substitute. We have some great tips here for baking without eggs.
In addition to baking substitutes, keep in mind this is a very sticky cake. If it breaks apart a little bit when you remove it from pan, that’s okay! Just smash that area back together and it will firm up as it cools!
This is a wonderful cake for a special occasion!
Another interesting thing about this cake, was how cheap it was to make back then. My Grammy’s family had a cow, so they never bought milk or cream. They also had chickens, so they never bought eggs. They had family members that brought them fruit all the time, including dates. Lastly, they had huge Texas pecan trees all around, so those were always free. All they purchased was sugar and flour!
In today’s time, this cake is a little pricier to make, but so worth it!