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Date Loaf Cake

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, has just begun; this means that for a whole month Mike and I won’t be eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. (I will still be posting regularly though — I have quite the backlog to share with you!) The point is to teach you patience, discipline, and empathy for others who aren’t as fortunate. I have to say, it really works…food and drink (especially cold water!) never taste as good the rest of the year as they do during Ramadan.

Date Loaf Cake 2

Each day at sunset the fast ends with prayer, followed by a meal called iftar. The fast is usually broken with dates and a sip of water (really, just a sip since you don’t want to be too full for the feast that awaits). Then comes the meal, usually starting with a cup of soup (tonight Mike and I will be having Red Lentil Soup, the soup that I shared with you during Ramadan three years ago), and leading into what is often a pretty elaborate spread, especially if guests are joining you for the meal. And if guests are over, of course after the meal comes tea, coffee, and sweets.

All manner of sweet treats are enjoyed during Ramadan, but date-filled cookies called ma’amoul are traditional. I’m planning to make ma’amoul for the Eid (the three day festival at the end of Ramadan), but for now, I wanted something with dates and warm spices for a festive feel so I decided on a date-sweetened spice cake.

Date Loaf Cake 3

This cake is like a spice bread (basically a Middle Eastern-style gingerbread), but it tastes so much better. (I’m telling you, food tastes amazing during Ramadan.) I like mine spread with a little labneh (a tangy yogurt cheese), but Greek yogurt or even cream cheese is delicious too (or you could strain regular yogurt and use that). A little drizzle of honey on top of the tangy labneh makes it a really decadent treat.

(If you want to learn more about Ramadan, has a very informative article called Benefits of Ramadan.)

Wishing Everyone Ramadan Kareem (Generous Ramadan)!

Date Loaf Cake 4

Date Loaf Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 (9 by 5-inch) loaf or about 10 servings
  • 5 oz (140 g) pitted, chopped dates
  • 1 cup (235 ml) warm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Middle Eastern Cake Spice Mix (see Note below)
  • ½ teaspoon mahlab spice (see Note below)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts, chopped (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F; line a 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper (or butter and flour it, if you prefer).
  2. Add the dates and water to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Cool a couple minutes and then process in the eggs, oil, molasses, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cake spice mix, mahlab spice, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to over-mix; fold in the walnuts if using.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then transfer the bread to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  6. Cool completely before slicing.
Middle Eastern Cake Spice Mix: This is a mix of warm spices that’s used in Middle Eastern sweets. I have a recipe for it in my cookbook.

Mahlab: This is a spice that’s commonly used as a flavoring in Middle Eastern cooking. It is the seed kernel that comes from the center of St Lucie Cherry pits. Mahlab has a lovely aroma and tastes like a cross between almonds and cherries; you can read more about it in my post on Cherry Sauce.

Update (June 1, 2014): I made this loaf again and snapped a few pictures, so I decided to update the photos in this post.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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    1. Rachel, I haven’t tried this recipe with white whole wheat flour, but if it behaves like whole wheat pastry flour it should work really well. Hope you enjoy it if you give it a try!

  1. Happy Ramadan! And what a lovely cake…I adore dates but for some reason rarely incorporate them into my dishes…need to change that :)

  2. Thank you for sharing the information about Ramadan! This cake/loaf sounds really good and in my experience, sunken cakes are often the most moist and delicious.

  3. Gorgeous & delicious cake, so flavorful! Happy Ramadan to you, Faith! So true, there is nothing better than water during Ramadan :)

  4. New on your Blog. Ramadan Mubarik to you too. This date loaf look delious. i am always looking for new date recipies to try in Ramadan.

  5. i should really attempt a fast like that at some point in my life–i have no doubt that it teaches a person discipline! this loaf looks tasty, but more than that, i’ll bet the smells coming off of it are amazing!

  6. A month? My goodness! This bread looks amazing. I really haven’t baked with dates- I must try. Have a great Sunday

  7. Ramdan mubarak to you and yours, Faith. The cake looks a perfect treat to celebrate! Warm hugs have a great week ahead my friend.

  8. I can imagine that it would be a perfect break-fast dish. I do love nut breads but never think of them as middle eastern… more European and American. I can see adding a little of my rose-spiked ras al hanout to this and loving it!! Great recipe, Faith. Already safe in my recipe file!!

  9. I love date and walnut loaf, One of my favourites. The only thing about Ramadan which would worry me is you must stay up late each night….. eating, eating etc. When I worked in restaurants the kitchenhands were always too tired to come to work

    1. Tania, Yes, I know what you mean — some people who fast Ramadan completely reverse their schedules, staying up all night and sleeping all day. I think this defeats the purpose…during Ramadan, you should feel hunger and thirst during the day when you can’t eat or drink.

  10. Ramadan Kareem from Cairo Egypt where temperatures are around 40Cin the shade. This cake looks amazing Faith, and as we have guests here on Sunday for Iftar, I will be giving it a go! Will be back soon to write a recipe review. (Your new book sounds so interesting, and I am going to pre-order a copy)
    Ramadan Mubarak!

    1. Ramadan Muarak, to you and your family, Fiona! I hope you enjoy the cake — it’s wonderful spread with a little labneh. And thank you for pre-ordering my book, I hope you enjoy it!

  11. Happy Ramadan Faith & best wishes over the fasting period. My mum used to make a delicious date cake, yum you’ve just reminded me about it. I am not sure if she adds any spices in hers so this sounds lovely.

  12. Ramadan Mubarak! We will be starting on Saturday here in Toronto. That is so true…everything tastes so much better in Ramadan. You really do feel grateful for all the food we have. After Ramadan I usually have times that I forget that I can now eat during the day and feel so thankful to Allah that He has blessed us with so much food. May Allah accept our fasts and ibadat during this blessed month!

  13. Happy Ramandan – thanks for sharing a little about this Islamic holy month. Your date walnut loaf looks wonderful, love the spices.

  14. A divine looking loaf! Have a wonderful Ramadan.



  15. That kind of restraint is truly admirable, especially when you have this delectable loaf on hand… I don’t think I would be as strong in resisting that sort of temptation!

  16. I’ve always been so intrigued by the concept of Ramadan and I’m so happy you shared all this info about it. These date-walnut bread looks like an amazing way to reward yourself each day for making it through the fast!

  17. What a lovely cake. I’ve never fasted before (well, except for medical tests – and that was hard!). It seems like it would be very difficult to get through the work day!

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