From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This recipe first appeared in Gourmet magazine about 7 years ago. It caught my eye because it used Medjool dates and I had a package of them sitting in my pantry. The dates had been purchased for a holiday baking marathon and I had bought more of them than I could use that season. I didn't want to waste them, so I went on a search and destroy mission to find other recipes in which they could be used. I also did a little research and learned a thing or two along the way. Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree and they have been cultivated for over 6,000 years. They are extremely popular in the Middle East and almost everyone has had a slice or two of the ubiquitous date nut quick bread. The Madjool date is especially prized because of its size, the sweetness of its meaty pulp and the ease with which its pit can be removed. They are also a good source of fiber and they contain significant amounts of potassium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Heath benefits aside, they are used in this recipe to provide richness, moisture and a unique texture to cake. Gourmet actually has two versions of this recipe. The first, published in 2005, and found here, uses spelt flour and less butter than the version published in this summer's publication, Easy Dinners. Both cakes are good, but they both present the same problem. They lose moisture quickly, so it is extremely important to use a light hand when measuring the flour. Best results will be obtained if you fluff, spoon and level the flour used in this rich and lovely cake. I love to serve it warm with a small scoop of ice cream on the side. If you have leftovers, I suggest you freeze them immediately. The cake stales very quickly and once it loses its moist crumb, it becomes quite ordinary. The dates add a unique layer of flavor that sets this cake apart from others of its kind and I really think you will enjoy it. I do hope you'll try it. Here's the recipe.
Chocolate Espresso Cake...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Maggie Ruggiero for Gourmet magazine
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for pan
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder plus additional for dusting pan and cake
1 cup boiling-hot water
1-1/2 tablespoons instant-espresso powder
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound Medjool dates (12 to 14), pitted and coarsely chopped (1-1/2 cups)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1) Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter springform pan, then lightly dust with cocoa powder, knocking out excess.
2) Stir together boiling-hot water, espresso powder, vanilla, and baking soda in a bowl, then add dates, mashing lightly with a fork, and steep until liquid cools to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
3) Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl. Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in date mixture (batter will look curdled), then reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
4) Spoon batter into springform pan, smoothing top, and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then remove side of pan and cool cake on rack. Serve cake warm or at room temperature. Yield: 8 to 12 servings.
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