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Date cake is a simple and delicious dessert. Flecked with chocolate chips and walnuts and topped with sparkling sugar, this cake is an old-fashioned holiday favorite.

Two slices of date cake stacked on a white plate.

At our house, we love recipes that remind us of family and bring back childhood memories, like my nana’s pumpkin crunch cake or the no-bake cookies my mother used to make my brother and me. 

This recipe for date cake has been in Eric’s family for years and it’s one of his absolute favorite desserts because it reminds him of his grandma. 

In the very early stages of our relationship, Eric sent me a photo of this cake and asked me to go on a date with him. Looking back, I think his little pun and love for cake might be what sealed our fate.

Eric has such fond memories of his grandma making the holiday season extra special – merrier, brighter. 

One of his fondest memories is her Christmas Eve buffet featuring a delicious array of food like sweet meatballs, pumpkin roll, cranberry chicken and this date cake, all made with grandma’s TLC.

This is such a special recipe in our family that I can’t help but share it with all of you. Perhaps it will even become a part of your own family’s holiday traditions!

Overhead view of sliced date cake on a parchment-lined wire cooling rack.


There are lots of different types of desserts made using dates, especially outside of American cuisine.

A lot of American desserts using dates are a little on the old-school side, and this date cake recipe is definitely one of those.

This cake is super simple, but the addition of chopped dates throughout the cake makes it super moist, especially after it’s covered and sits for a day. Just add it to the roster of perfectly moist fruit-based cakes, right alongside banana cake.

The addition of sweet chocolate chips and crunchy walnuts gives the cake extra flavor and texture, and a little coarse sugar on top adds a sparkle that is perfect for the holiday season.

Dates soaked in water and baking soda in a glass mixing bowl.


Eric’s grandma’s date cake could not be simpler to make. It really is a great dessert to make for the holidays because it’s not fussy at all. Who has time for that?

Ingredients you’ll need

Like so many of my favorite classic desserts, this one has a pretty simple list of ingredients. You’ll need:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package chopped, pitted dates
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (I use butter-flavored Crisco) 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 cup coarse sparkling sugar, optional
Shortening and sugar creamed together in a white mixing bowl.

Look for chopped dates with the other packaged dried fruits. If you can’t find chopped dates, you can buy 8 ounces of pitted dates and chop them into small pieces before beginning the recipe.

If you do not wish to use shortening, you can substitute it for ¾ cup softened unsalted butter.

This cake is equally delicious without the chocolate, so feel free to leave out the chocolate chips if you prefer.

We like to use walnuts in this cake, but pecans are just as good! If you can’t have nuts, leave them out altogether – the cake will still be delicious.

Shortening, sugar, and egg mixture for cake in a white mixing bowl next to a bowl of soaked dates.

Making this recipe

A lot of baked goods using dates, including this date cake and date bread, start with a kind of funny step: Mix the chopped dates with boiling water and baking soda.

There are a few theories about what this does, but the one that seems most likely is that this step helps break down the dates so that they distribute evenly throughout the cake.

Let this mixture cool for 15-20 minutes before continuing on with the recipe. 

Date cake batter being stirred with a spatula in a white mixing bowl.

Once the dates have cooled, use an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to cream together the shortening and sugar. Mix this until light and fluffy – this should take about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs and vanilla, then stir in the dates with their liquid.

Date cake batter spread into a cake pan, ready to go in the oven.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add this mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Spread the batter into a greased 13×9-inch cake pan and sprinkle the top with coarse sugar.

Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes.

Large slice of date cake on a white plate with a cup of tea in the background.


You can serve this date cake right away, but I actually think it’s better after it has sat at least overnight.

Let the cake cool, then cover the cake pan tightly and store it at room temperature. The cake will keep for up to 3 days.

You can freeze leftover cake as well. I recommend wrapping the slices in plastic wrap, then storing them in a zip-top freezer bag for up to 3 months.

By individually wrapping the slices, you can pull out as many slices as you like. Either let them thaw at room temperature or microwave them for 30-60 seconds for a warm bite of date cake any time! 

Two slices of date cake stacked on a white plate with more plates of cake visible in the background.
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Date Cake

By: Jamie
4.54 from 78 ratings
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 24
Date cake is a simple and delicious dessert. Flecked with chocolate chips and walnuts and topped with sparkling sugar, this cake is an old-fashioned holiday favorite.


  • 8 ounces chopped, pitted dates
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ cup vegetable shortening I use butter-flavored Crisco
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • ¼ cup coarse sparkling sugar optional


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Place dates into a medium, heat-resistant bowl and pour boiling water over the dates. Stir in baking soda. The mixture may foam up a bit, this is completely normal. Set bowl aside to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  • Once dates have cooled, use an electric mixer to cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add in eggs and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Stir in the dates and liquid.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Gradually add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and spread the batter evenly. If desired, sprinkle the top of the batter with coarse sugar.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes.



Tightly cover leftover cake and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
You may use softened unsalted butter in place of the shortening.
This cake is equally delicious without the chocolate chips, so you may leave them out if desired.
If you cannot find chopped pitted dates at your store, you can purchase pitted dates and chop them by hand. You will need 8 ounces of pitted dates.
Make sure you know how to measure flour correctly before starting this recipe.


Serving: 1slice, Calories: 244kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 142mg, Potassium: 150mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 21g, Vitamin A: 27IU, Vitamin C: 0.1mg, Calcium: 26mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

4.54 from 78 votes (76 ratings without comment)

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  1. Lana Nave says:

    5 stars
    My mom baked this since the forties. I wasn’t able to get the recipe since she passed. It was by far my favorite dessert. Thank you so much!!

    1. Jamie says:

      You are so welcome! Happy Baking!

  2. Linda says:

    5 stars
    Delicious cake. Very moist and stores well. Didn’t bother with the chocolate chips

  3. Guru says:

    Awesome Recipe, I added coco powder instead chip , Thank you !

  4. lucy adams says:

    It was a good recipe. But too many chocolate chips in my opinion. It detracted from the natural flavor of the dates.

  5. Rima says:

    Excellent recipe! I used butter and guesstimated on the dates (medjool) and added a brown sugar crumble on top and it was so so good.

    1. Jamie says:

      So happy to hear you enjoyed the cake, Rima! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your feedback!