There are more than 1,500 varieties of dates grown in the world today. The most widely used date in the United States is the medjool, with soft, rich flesh tasting of caramel and molasses. This recipe is an adaptation of one in Rick I. Heetland's Date Recipes (Golden West Publishers, 1993).
For the Topping
- 2 1⁄4 cups medjool dates, pitted and chopped
- 6 tbsp. sugar
- 1⁄2 cup flour
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 4 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
- 1⁄2 cup shelled pecans or walnuts, chopped
For the Cake
- 7 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1⁄2 cups flour
- 3⁄4 tsp. baking soda
- 3⁄4 cup sugar
- 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1⁄2 cup sour cream
For the topping: Put dates, 1 cup water, and 2 tbsp. of the sugar into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thick, 4–5 minutes. Transfer date mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Combine flour, cinnamon, butter, and remaining 4 tbsp. sugar in a medium bowl. Using two table knives, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Set topping aside.
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a deep 9" round cake pan with 1 tbsp. of the butter and set aside. Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. Put sugar and the remaining 6 tbsp. butter into a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3–4 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk and beat well, then mix in vanilla. Stir in one-third of the flour mixture, then one-third of the sour cream. Repeat process with the remaining flour mixture and sour cream in 2 more batches.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth out top. Spread date mixture over batter, cover with topping, and scatter nuts on top.
Bake cake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Set aside to cool on a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.