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Upside-down Toffee Date Cake

Upside-down Toffee Date Cake

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Serves 8 to 10.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a magazine recipe.

Initially I had set out to make a caramel date cake, but I made a mistake with the butter. Julia Child used to say, “Go with it and pretend it was your intention all along.” Actually, there is good wisdom in that. The outcome was better than I had imagined. If you want to make the original, use half the butter listed in the Topping and Sauce below.


For the Topping and Sauce:
1 cup (packed) (200g) golden brown sugar
1 cup (8 ounces/226g) unsalted butter (or use whole butter and skip the salt below)
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
10 ounces (283g) Medjool dates (about 14), pitted and quartered lengthwise
For the Cake:
1¾ cups (9 ounces/250g) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces/113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (packed) (50g) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup (160ml) buttermilk
For Garnish:
Whipped cream


To make the toffee topping: Place the sugar and butter in a medium saucepan. Add the lemon juice and salt. Whisk over medium heat until the butter melts and dissolves the sugar. The mixture should come to a boil. Reduce heat and cook about 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and transfer about 2/3 of the syrup to a greased and lined 9-inch (23cm) cake pan. Set the remainder aside for garnish. Let the syrup in the cake pan cool a few minutes and then press the quartered dates, round side down, into the toffee, making any design you prefer. Set aside.

To make the cake: Heat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together (or can be sifted together). Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating into the butter thoroughly before adding the second one.

Alternating between the flour and the buttermilk and mixing thoroughly each time, add 1/3 of the flour, half the buttermilk, another third of flour, the remainder of the buttermilk, and then the remaining flour, combining thoroughly after each step. Transfer the batter to the cake pan, spreading evenly over the dates and toffee.

Bake 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. (I use a digital thermometer. When the internal temperature is above 190°F (88°C), the cake is done.)

Cool the cake in the pan 15 minutes on a rack. You might need to trim the top if well rounded. Using a thin knife, carefully cut around the edges, separating the cake from the walls of the pan, and then place an inverted plate on top. Holding the plate and cake pan together, invert the cake onto the plate and remove the pan. Peel away the parchment paper carefully. If any of the dates stick to the parchment (they shouldn’t), transfer them to the cake. Let cool a few minutes longer.

Can be served warm or at room temperature. Whip heavy cream for garnish. Heat the remaining toffee syrup. Garnish a slice of cake with whipped cream and drizzle a little toffee syrup over the cream.