Tamarind Date Cake for Tu Bishvat

Tamarind Date Cake

Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish holiday in the Hebrew month of Shevat, usually sometime in late January or early February, that marks the New Year of the Trees (Hebrew: ראש השנה לאילנות, Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot‎) or the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. It is customary to plant trees and eat dried fruits and nuts, especially figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds.

Even though it is considered a minor festival, the commandment to plant trees in the Land of Israel is so important in Jewish tradition that there is even an ancient Rabbinical saying that if you see the Messiah arrive while you are on your way to plant a tree, you have to finish planting it before greeting him.

This Tu Bishvat I am recovering from the flu, but I decided that it was important to still make something this year in memory of all of those who lost their lives in the tragic Carmel fire last month. I wish their families no more sorrow and pray for a new, healthy forest to grow in place of the old one.

Dates and Tamarind

I made a Baronessed version of my baking hero,  Dan Lepard‘s Tamarind Date Cake. The original recipe calls for dates, which I assume most people would use Madjools, but I decided to take advantage of the different varieties of dates we have on offer here and used Madjool (center in picture above), Dekel Noor (right), and Halawi (left) dates. I wasn’t sure what Dan meant by tamarind paste in the recipe, but I used mashed whole tamarind (top of picture above) instead of the smooth paste you can buy in a jar. The mashed tamarind is more readily available in health food stores here.

This cake is delicious, moist and not too sweet because the tamarind adds a nice sour note to the cake. This is the second best date cake I have ever had. The best is my father’s fresh apple cake that has an equal amount of dates in the recipe.

Tamarind Date Cake Slice

Tamarind Date Cake

Yield: 1 round cake

Serving Size: 8

adapted recipe from Dan Lepard

200g (7 ounces) chopped dates (Madjool or a combination of several varieties)

50g (1.7 ounces or 1/4 cup) tamarind paste

300ml (1-1/4 cup) water

250g (1/2lb or 2 sticks) unsalted butter

150g (5 ounces or 1/2 cup) dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

275g (9.7 ounces or 2-3/4 cups) plain flour

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

Zest of 1 large orange

175g (6 ounces or 1-1/2 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped

Line the base and sides of a deep, 18cm (7 inch) cake tin with nonstick baking paper, and heat the oven to 180C/350F (160C/325F convection). Put the dates, tamarind paste and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute, remove from the heat, add the butter, and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

Place the date mixture in a large mixing bowl and add the brown sugar, stir, then beat in the eggs until smooth. Ina separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, spices and orange zest together and add to the date mixture until combined. Then, stir in the walnuts.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour, or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and completely cool on a cake rack.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Baroness Tapuzina

Michelle Nordell (aka Baroness Tapuzina) was a foodie from the womb growing up in the House of Weird Vegetables, so named by a family friend because all of the unusual and exotic food cooked and eaten there. She loves to change recipes using herbs from her garden and spices from the spice shops she enjoys visiting.

20 thoughts on “Tamarind Date Cake for Tu Bishvat

  1. What an interesting recipe! One of my commentators just asked me if carob is similar to tamarind,as I posted a picture of the carob tree that I photographed today,so I gave her link to this posting.

  2. What an enticing recipe! I’m glad you were feeling good enough to bake it! Does your father use a similar method of cooking the dates in water? Have you ever posted his recipe?

    1. Thanks Faye. I am feeling much, much better. I have never written a post about my Dad’s cake, but I just added it to my printed recipe list and added a link in this post. The recipe is here:


      The recipe does not call for the dates to be cooked in water. They are just chopped and added to the batter. It reminded me that the only source for dates when I was a kid, was a box of Dromedary dates. They were usually so dry, you needed to cook them in hot water, but I don’t think he ever did.

      1. Very glad you’re feeling so much better. Thanks a lot for adding your Dad’s cake. It sounds wonderful, and it’s nice that it’s a one-bowl batter. Have you ever tried baking it in a more shallow pan, like a 13×9 so it wouldn’t take so long?

        I know what you mean about the dates! Once I happened to buy a package of chopped dates and for eating as a dried fruit, they weren’t good at all. I think they were coated with sugar so they wouldn’t stick together. They worked OK in whatever I was baking but of course buying Medjools or other dates and chopping them by hand would have been much better. Speaking of dates, I used Israeli date paste in haroset when I was doing a simple cooking demonstration where I had to use minimal equipment, and it was good too.

      2. Forgot to mention – I appreciate your explanation of why so many date cake recipes call for cooking them first.

    1. Thanks Liz. Yes, my Dad was an amazing cook, very methodical. It really makes me sad that he can’t cook anymore or enjoy reading my blog. I know if he could, he would comment all the time on my blog. Alzheimer’s is such a mean disease.

  3. Faye,

    Boy you have brought back memories. At university in Switzerland, we had an international food fair and I represented “The Deep South”. I made barbeque chicken, heart-shaped biscuits and my Dad’s cake, which I made in half-sheet pans. I will add that to the recipe.

    1. I think that will be helpful, not only because of the time saved during baking, but also because it can be tricky to bake a dense batter in a deep pan. In some ovens the crust tends to get too dark before the center is done.

      1. I wouldn’t say it is a traditional Deep South cake, although Edna Lewis has a similar recipe without the dates and with a caramel glaze. I probably chose it because it is not sickeningly sweet like most of the “Deep South” cakes, such as Hummingbird Cake. I didn’t think the Europeans would like a traditional cake.

      2. I am going to have to make the cake in a sheet pan before I add it to the recipe, so I can put the correct baking time.

  4. Good point about choosing for European taste. I don’t like sickeningly sweet cakes either (I guess you don’t either, since you described them that way), and your dad’s cake with dates instead of caramel sounds more delicious in a natural way (though, speaking of apples and caramel, I do love tarte tatin, but it has to have a good balance of butter to sugar to taste wonderful, just like baklava the way they make it in Turkey).

    By the way, I had to look up Hummingbird Cake and the combination of pecans, banana and pineapple sounds like it would make a yummy cake, as long as the sugar is adjusted, and if frosting isn’t made with so much powdered sugar.

    It’s so good that you learned to make your father’s cake. Too many people don’t learn their favorite dishes from their parents, and realize when it’s too late.

  5. I never baked or cooked with mashed whole tamarind although I did buy a paste at the Indian store in Ramle shuk. The sourness of the tamarind probably adds a nice zing to the cake which the dates help balance. I tried the varieties of dates you have pictures above and I still like Medjool the best. Feel better soon!

  6. This cake looks delicious, I love the combination of dates, sweet spices and oranges. I make a cake with those ingredients minus the tamarind, would love to try your version. Thank you for sharing.

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *