Date-Nut Snack Cake

If I had to make a list of my favorite dried fruits (which, incidentally, would have been a much better school exercise than, say, calculus), dates and figs would always fight it out for the number one spot. Unlike the Fig Newton bars that I can remember eating when I was younger, I really can’t remember eating dates when I was younger aside from one very specific memory. I remember my mom in the kitchen doing some holiday baking and I don’t remember what she was making, but I remember a bag of those diced, sugared dates sitting on the counter. And I remember reaching into that bag over and over again. Those things were so darn good! Other than that, I just sort of knew I liked dates, and would be more than happy to eat any type of baked good that included them. Nowadays, chopped dates and pecans are my favorite way to top a morning bowl of oatmeal. But, as I found out, these date bars (which also include pecans) make a pretty fantastic breakfast as well!

This is one of those ultra-easy, no mixer required, two-bowls-and-a-spatula recipes. Which means it can get into the oven in no time, which in turn means that I can bake it and have a piece in front of me, ready to be devoured, in the time it takes to watch one Beverly Hills 90210 rerun (or favorite one-hour TV guilty pleasure, take your pick). You do soak the dates in rum (drool), but this can be done well in advance of making the recipe so it doesn’t really take up any active prep time.

The resulting bars, as you can see, are absolutely packed full of dates and pecans. There is definitely no lack of flavor or texture here. They do have the consistency of a cakey blondie, or a good old-fashioned snack cake. I deemed them more than appropriate for breakfast on multiple occasions last week. Breakfast, dessert, snack – I’d take them any time of day.

One year ago: Malted Vanilla Milkshake
Two years ago: Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Three years ago: Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Date-Nut Snack Cake

Yield: 16 bars

Prep Time: 10 minutes (active) + 1 hour (inactive)

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes


8 ounces diced pitted dates (about 1½ cups)
1 tablespoon rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped


1. Toss the dates in the rum and let them sit for at least one hour (up to 3 or 4 hours).

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with foil and coat the inside with non-stick spray; set aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and eggs until smooth. Mix in the butter, hot water, and vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture. Use a spatula to stir in the dates (and any liquid) and the pecans.

5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let date bars cool, then lift out the bars. Peel away the foil and cut into squares. The bars will keep for up to four days at room temperature, or can be frozen for up to two months.

(Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz, originally from The Homesick Texan Cookbook)


42 Responses to “Date-Nut Snack Cake”

  1. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on February 24, 2012 at 1:27 am

    I love that you put rum in these…my kinda recipe! I love baking with dark rum!


  2. Lee on February 24, 2012 at 1:34 am

    These look delicious! I’m goin to try them today. I presume that the rum should be dark rum. Also, do you think I could substitute the sugar with honey or agave syrup?


    • Michelle on February 24th, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Lee, Ideally dark rum but you could really use whatever you have on hand. As for the sugar substitute, I haven’t attempted any sugar substitutes, but a commenter below mentioned that they used 1/4 cup agave syrup in place of the sugar and liked it, so perhaps use that as a starting point?


  3. on February 24, 2012 at 3:40 am

    I love dates…. and soaking it in rum…. oh my! For me, a delicious breakfast makes my day. =)


  4. Kiri W. on February 24, 2012 at 6:02 am

    I love date bars, and these look delicious 🙂 What a great treat!


  5. Katrina on February 24, 2012 at 7:05 am

    My Nan used to make these when I was little. Yum!


  6. Rodzilla on February 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

    these sound so good. I’ve grown to love dates even more through those coconut-date rolls you can find at whole foods and trader joes. I may try to make these with coconut as well.


  7. Catalina @ Cake with Love on February 24, 2012 at 8:16 am

    I love dates, but I never baked with them, these bars look very good!


  8. Paula on February 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

    I love dates and pecans. I make date squares often but never have I made this bar recipe. Saving this!


  9. Sandra on February 24, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I am so happy that I have learned to love dates. Can’t wait to try these.


  10. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on February 24, 2012 at 10:04 am

    These breakfast bars sound amazing! I never had a date until about a year ago! I love them and I know I would love this breakfast bar! Yum!!


  11. Maria on February 24, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Gotta try these!


  12. Athena R. on February 24, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Yum! I can’t wait to make these. I’m going to do one batch with dates and one batch with dried figs. Thanks so much for the recipe!


  13. Lee on February 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for this recipe. Just made this and it was deelicious! I say ‘this’ because I had to use a bread container so mine came out as a loaf of bread rather than bars. It was sublime hot with spoonfuls of plain yoghurt.

    I substituted the sugar with about 1/4 of a bottle of Agave syrup and it was definitely sweet enough. In fact I think a cup of sugar would have been too sweet for me.

    I also used a third chickpea flour (gluten intolerant). I’ll try to use more next time.


  14. Mireia on February 24, 2012 at 11:04 am

    This looks delicious and easy, going right to my never ending to-do list!


  15. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on February 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

    These sound amazing! I love dates 🙂


  16. Elly @ Nutmegs, seven on February 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    This has been immediately favourited! I LOVE dates but I’m put off most date bar recipes by the amount of butter. Yours look relatively healthy!


  17. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on February 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Oohh, these look fantastic!!


  18. Erin @ Brownie Bites on February 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I adore dates, but I only seem to eat them around the holidays! They just taste like Christmas to me (all the more reason to make them at other times of year, right?)


  19. Asiya on February 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Everyone in our home absolutely loves dates! My 2 little boys love snacking on them. In Ramadan we break our fast with dates.

    Would love to give your recipe a try….we don’t drink alcohol….is it necessary to soak the dates in rum or is there something else I can substitute?


    • Michelle on February 24th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Asiya, You could just use hot water – it will help to plump them up a bit.


  20. Choc Chip Uru on February 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Though dates are not my favourite dried fruit, I would certainly eat them in this because these bars look so good!

    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Two Twix Fudgy Whities


  21. Peggy on February 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Oh you had me at “soak them in rum” =)


  22. CookingScraps on February 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I heart dates! Are these pretty sweet, and kind of dessert like? Or do you think you could successfully reduce the sugar a bit, to make them a bit more breakfasty, but still tasty?


    • Michelle on February 24th, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      I always find it so difficult to answer questions on how sweet a particular recipe is, because everyone’s taste buds are so different. What could be much too sweet for one person might taste perfect to someone else, you know? What I can tell you is that I didn’t reduce the sugar at all, and I found these to be a perfectly suitable breakfast on multiple days last week 🙂


  23. Martha in KS on February 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Step should be “Fix yourself a Rum & Coke (or two) to drink while you’re waiting.” lol


  24. Stacialowe on February 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Oh gosh I will have to try these. Dates have been my new candy and I just this week bought a large bag of figs;right up there with dates I agree! Plus rum, I will be in heaven 🙂 I ran across a great and easy baked pumpkin oatmeal recipe if you are interested. I make a batch every week and heat it up and add dates of course.


  25. El Pasticcio on February 26, 2012 at 5:19 am

    I love dates and rum and my boyfriend even more…so…we shall try it out!! thanks for sharing! 🙂


  26. laura on February 26, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Dates and figs really are the best! They are as sweet as a piece of candy. These look great. Can’t wait to make them.


  27. Katie@Cozydelicious on February 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I love dates! And the rum sounds awesome in here – I have to try these! I bet these travel well… I’m going to visit some friends and a box of these bars might just be coming on teh plane with me!


  28. Kita on February 26, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Lol, everything – annnything would be better than calculus. I have just used dates for the first time recently and am hooked. Thanks for the inspiration ;D


  29. Tim in TN on March 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I made these today and couldn’t resist sampling before they completely cooled…YUM. I wanted to dress them up a bit for dessert tonight so I made a caramel-rum sauce. A little scoop of ice cream, a drop of sauce and these will be out of this world good. Thanks for the inspiration.


    • Michelle on March 4th, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      That sounds amazing!


  30. Michele (also a brown eyed baker) on March 21, 2012 at 9:33 am

    OK…so the hubby & I gave up chocolate for Lent. These bars actually make BOTH of us think we are eating chocolate! It must be something about the sweetness & the moistness of the dates. The bars are the perfect snack/dessert bar. I’ve already had more requests for them. I just need to go to the Strip to get more pecans!


  31. Li-Anne on April 25, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Uh…not sure what I did, but the crust was perfectly fine and cooked and the inside was basically uncooked? I’ve never had anything like this happen to me, haha 😛 And I’m pretty sure I didn’t under cook it, because I baked it a few minutes more than recommended in the recipe.


    • Michelle on April 25th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Li-Anne, There isn’t a crust to this recipe – are you just referring to the top being done? I would definitely check on your oven. Even though it may be set to a certain temperature, it could be running cooler inside. You can pick up an oven thermometer for less than $10. I keep one in my oven all the time, just to be safe.


  32. Rachel on July 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Has anyone tried making these with whole wheat pasty flour instead of all-purpose? Wondering if that would work as a substitute… Thanks!


  33. Soha on July 19, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Rachel, I usually make them with whole wheat pastry flour or sometimes I cut the apf with it and it works out beautifully because its a pretty dense bar. It definitely makes it a little more substantial for breakfast that way. Love these!


  34. Nadia on October 9, 2013 at 5:36 am

    dear Michelle,
    my aunt next door used to make these snacks but now she has moved to somewhere else and i cant reach her! is it sooo much necessary to soak the dates in rum? because i don’t like alcohol in my snacks. so please suggest something else


    • Michelle on October 11th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      Hi Nadia, You can soak the dates in hot water instead of rum. Enjoy!


  35. KC on March 14, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Hello! Is there a non-alcohol substitution to the rum? I know it “cooks off” but I still cannot have it. Could I use warm water or orange juice or coffee? Any suggestions!
    Thanks so much!


    • Michelle on March 15th, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Hi KC, You can definitely just use warm water! Enjoy!


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