Date Bars seem like an old fashioned treat, simple, wholesome, sneaking a bit of fruit into the mix, as moms love to do. Date Bars, Matrimonial Cake in Canada, are something I’ve only recently made, but I’m sure the new tradition will continue.
We celebrate staff birthdays monthly, and my friend and colleague, Sue, is our only December birthday. We’ve shared enough meals together that I know she’s not terribly big on sweets, preferring savory treats like olives in puff pastry. As I was trying to decide what to bake last December, I got in touch with Sue’s sister, and she recommended Date Bars.
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The recommendaton was spot on! Sue appreciated the effort and the research. We all enjoyed the snack. Another colleague said about the date bars this year, “I love that the crust tastes buttery.” Sue, with long standing family ties to Canada, told us that our American Date Bars are often called Matrimonial Cake in Canada. The blog Little Gray Bird offers some reasons for the name.
It appears to be a western Canadian thing to refer to date squares as matrimonial cake. Some feel it is called matrimonial cake because of the two separate layers brought together by dates which symbolizes two people courting and solidifying the relationship in marriage. Others feel that the smooth and rough textures of the date squares represent the easy and difficult times of a marriage. Some believe that it was individually wrapped, handed out at weddings, and then single gals would place it under their pillow and dream about their future husband.
For the last two Decembers, I’ve made two pans of date bars, matrimonial cake, one for work, one for my cookie tray at home on Christmas morning. I can tell you that they freeze well and can easily be made vegan, substituting something like Earth Balance for the butter.
Whether you decide to make them with butter or a vegan version, I hope you and your friends will enjoy.
A wholesome, fruit filled dessert in about an hour!
- 3 cups chopped pitted dates (1 lb)
- 1 1/2cups water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1cup butter, softened (or Earth Balance for vegan version)
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 400
- Combine dates, water, and 1/4 cup sugar over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes
- Cool 5 minutes
- Grease the bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan
- Cream the brown sugar and butter until well mixed
- Stir in flour, oats, baking soda and salt until crumbly
- Press half of the crumb mixture evenly in bottom of pan
- Spread the date mixture over the bottom crust
- Top with remaining crumb mixture; press lightly
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown
- Cool 5 minutes in pan
- Cut into 6 rows by 6 rows while warm
Recipe can be halved and made in a 8×8-inch square pan.