This has to be the moistest cake I’ve ever tasted. Dates are a good way to lower the fat in desserts—they have a buttery taste when puréed and provide the moisture that fat would supply. To chop dates easily, use kitchen shears—or cook whole pitted dates and use a food processor to mash them after they’re cooked. Dates are a good source of protein and iron.

12 oz (375 g) pitted dried dates, chopped (2½ cups/625 mL)
1¾ cups (435 mL) water
¼ cup (60 mL) vegetable oil
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
1½ tsp (7.5 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

⅓ cup (80 mL) unsweetened coconut
¼ cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) 2 percent evaporated milk
2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Spray a 9-inch (23 cm) square cake pan with cooking oil.
  2. To make the cake: Place the dates and water in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring often, until the dates are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Set the pan aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the oil and granulated sugar in a large bowl or food processor. Beat in the eggs. Add the cooled date mixture and mix well.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl, mixing well. Stir the flour mixture into the date mixture until everything is just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool in the pan on a rack until no longer hot.
  6. To make the topping: Combine the coconut, brown sugar, milk and oil in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Pour the topping over the cooled cake and cut into squares.

Rose’s tip

You can now purchase diced dried dates, which are easier to use in this recipe than whole dates, at a bulk food warehouse. Store them in the freezer.

Health tip

Be sure you buy unsweetened coconut instead of sweetened. A half-cup (125 mL) of unsweetened coconut has 100 calories, and sweetened coconut has 145 calories for the same amount.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Make ahead: Make the cake up to a day in advance. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 16 servings.

Nutrition information per serving

Calories 217
Protein 3 g
Carbohydrates 41 g
Fiber 2 g
Total fat 5 g
Saturated fat 2 g
Cholesterol 27 mg