Thursday, July 3, 2014

Matrimony Cake, Date Shortbread, or Date Squares?

I love to bake, but I have issues!
In Toronto, I could bake as much as I wanted and then take it in to work. It would disappear lickety-split! But here, in BC, I really don't know anyone and I'm working from home. So...what to make and whom to give it to? Sure, I can pawn off some on my mom - she has a sweet tooth, but eventually I'll end up filling her freezer...or make her go into a diabetic coma! 

My sister and I are trying to lose weight, not gain more...and I'd rather have the calories of a Canadian 67 beer instead of sweets.  Hahah, just sayin'

I can't let that stop me! Tally-ho and carry-on!

Today's choice is Date Shortbread (Matrimonial Cake) from the Five Roses Flour Cookbook. Personally I can see the Matrimonial Cake name being more in keeping with the squares, or as I knew them growing up: Date Squares.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I've always viewed shortbread as a melt in your mouth biscuit type of cookie or bar...definitely not something with fruit.

Either way, perhaps these Date Square/Shortbread/Matrimonial Cakes will taste like the ones I remember my mom making!

The recipe for the crust is separate from the date filling in the cook book.  The date filling is actually used in quite a few of the recipes, which is why it's separate, I guess :)

So, moving on...

The filling:  Put 1/2 lb dates (chopped finely), 1/2 cup cold water, 2 tbsp brown sugar, grated rind of 1/2 an orange in a small pan,  and cook over moderate heat until thick and smooth. Add in 2 tbsp orange juice and 1 tsp lemon juice. That's all well and good, but not what I did.

I kind of messed up, I was supposed to add the juice once all the cooking was complete, but in my excitement I dumped everything in to the pot. I think it worked though! Also...I think moderate heat is to high as it was bubbling away and I thought it would burn before softening. In other recipes, it says bring to a boil and then simmer, so...that's what I did.  Also...I didn't have an orange, I forgot I ate it hahaha, so I used the zest of 2 lemons instead.  I did however have orange juice, so that part of the recipe is correct.

My filling: Put 1/2 lb dates (chopped finely), 1/2 cup cold water, 2 tbsp brown sugar,  zest of 2 lemons, 2 tbsp orange juice, and 1 tsp of lemon juice in a small pan. Cook on moderate heat until sauce begins to bubble and then simmer, stirring frequently.

I left it simmering for about 5 minutes while I got the dry ingredients ready, then left the filling to cool.

Sift your  1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp baking soda together in a bowl. Then add in the 1 cup of butter.  Make it all wonderfully crumbly using your fingertips. 

Add in the 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups of coarse oatmeal and mix until well combined.

The original recipe called for an 8 X 14 pan, which I didn't have, so I used a 9 X 13. I think it makes the bars quite thin. I think most people who make this probably do it in a 8 X 8 or 9 X 9 pan nowadays. Back in the day..haha, someones day.. not MINE! It was probably a very economical way to make a dessert stretch out for twice as many people and still taste as good. make a lot for guests at a wedding, is named Matrimony Cake after all...  I digress...

Press half the batter into the bottom of a greased pan. I greased, lined with parchment, and then greased again so I could easily remove the cake for cooling.

Spread the cooled date mixture onto the bars. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND using a spatula! I tried with the wooden spoon and it pulled up the crust, and also tried with my fingers..hahaha, bloody mess that was! My sister had to scrape my gooped up fingers off with the spatula, it wasn't pretty! :)  Apologies for the blurry picture.

Press the rest of the dough onto the date filling.  I really do think the 8 X 14 or 9 X 13 is stretching it thin. You can see the filling peaking out!
Bake for 30 - 40 minutes at 325 F and then turn up the heat just to brown at the end. I didn't need to, I baked mine 30 minutes and it was, for me, brown sister's oven is wonky though. You need to set the dial somewhere around 235 for the oven to heat to 350 F... so, I was guessing a bit to make it 325 F.

I took it out to cool. The parchment helped lift it out onto the rack. Even though it's thin, it looks yummy!

Date Shortbread (Matrimony Cake)
Five Roses Flour Cook Book - 1938 (page 69)


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2  cups old fashioned oatmeal

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt
  2. Rub in butter with the tips of your fingers
  3. Add sugar and oatmeal, mix well.
  4. Spread half the mixture in a greased shallow pan (about 8 X 14 inches) and pat to make smooth.
  5. Cover with cooled Date Filling, spreading it evenly, then cover with remaining crumbs, pat to make smooth.
  6. Bake at 325 F for 30 - 35 minutes.
  7. Increase heat slightly and bake for a few minutes longer to lightly brown the mixture.
  8. Cut in squares while hot and allow the shortbread to cool in the pan.

Date Filling
Five Roses Flour Cook Book - 1938 (page 58)

  • 1/2 lb chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Grated rind of 1/2 orange
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Cook dates, water, orange rind, and sugar in a small saucepan, over a moderate heat until thick and smooth
  2. Remove from fire
  3. Add fruit juices; mix well.
  4. Cool before spreading

 My Note: These are the exact instructions from the book, my modifications are in the descriptive text :) Enjoy!

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