A Southern Grace: a date which will live in infamy

April 10, 2013

a date which will live in infamy


I don't think I had my first date until I was in my 20s.

I'm referring, of course, to the chewy fruit of the date palm, not the social outing. Were you thinking I was a social leper? You were, weren't you. Hey--no hard feelings.

So to my point--dates are delicious and very useful in baking, two things I never would've suspected. They're a natural, unprocessed alternative to sugar and are often used to sweeten baked goods, which is great for the vegans and raw dieters. Like brown sugar or molasses, dates provide a rich, deep sweetness, and since they contribute to texture and moistness as well, you can reduce or fully eliminate butter and oil from traditional recipes, which is great for all dieters.

While there's still plenty of sugar in these cupcakes, the amount of butter is relatively low. The dates definitely keep them moist and add a delightful chew to the whole affair. And hey--cardamom! Why are you so rarely used? The crunch of the toasted walnuts is enjoyable too. You can top them with anything, even plain ol' powdered sugar. Marthaused creme fraiche, I used buttercream frosting, the rebellious among you might go wild and use cinnamon whipped cream or something. It would all be good.

Itty Bitty Nutty Date Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat
Makes about 75 mini cupcakes
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 10 ounces plump, moist dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups boiling water
  • 2 ounces butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/3 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line several mini muffin tins with liners,
Whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and cardamom; set aside.
In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the dates and butter. Stir until the butter is melted and the dates are soft, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the brown sugar, beaten egg, and vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined.
Fold in walnuts.
Divide batter among the 75 cups, filling each just three-quarters full.
Bake about 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.
Cool the cupcakes completely in the tins, then remove them and frost as desired. 

Meet Hobo, my stepdad's cat.
Any of you cat owners out there ever have a cat that licked the hair clean off its back legs, tail, and belly?
My mom, my stepdad, and the vet are stumped, so any advice is welcome and appreciated!


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Lovely cupcakes and great combination!

Your kitty is cute, but he definitely needs to go to the vet... :-(



Caroline - All That I'm Eating said...

I have only had dates a few times but I would really like to try them in these cupcakes. I hope your stepdad's cat gets better!

Foodycat said...

Poor Hobo! I thought it was a stress thing when cats did that, but if the vet is stumped I don't know!

I love dates. There is a fantastic South African dessert called Tipsy Tart which takes this sort of sponge mixture and pours boozy butterscotch sauce all over it.

bellini said...

Dates add a natural sweetness that I really enjoy!!

Lynda said...

Yummy looking cupcakes...I like them with the buttercream you made Grace.
Poor kitty. We used to have a cat that would pull his hair out when he groomed himself, so he had bald patches on one side of his body at all times. The vet said that some cats have stress issues and they pull their hair or other strange behaviors. He did until the day he died.

Mel said...

Hmmm, no tips on the cat (but if one of my children start with the same behavior, I'll check back in); however, your opening line for this post (and subsequent explanation) made me laugh out loud.

Barbara said...

If the vet doesn't know, I sure don't. My first thought was some kind of allergy (is he an outside cat?) then stress (over what for Pete's sake?)...wish I could help.
Laughed about first date. I don't even remember mine.
Anyway, my dad would have LOVED these! He was a dateaholic. :)

Sue/the view from great island said...

Well, I had a few dates of both kinds before I was twenty, and I confess I did, for a quick moment, think you were a little bit of a late bloomer...but I never doubted your baking genius, lovely cupcakes!

Beth said...

These cupcakes look terrific, and your description of them makes me want them even more! I think your buttercream frosting looks amazing.

Eva Kosmas said...

Mmmmmm dates. They are nature's caramels, that's for certain. How you ever had a date shake? If you love dates, you have to try one! It's basically a milkshake with dates blended into it. So addicting! These cupcakes sound delicious, too, I love that there's big chunks of dates in them :)

Guru Uru said...

No pun intended but I would date this cupcake ;)

Choc Chip Uru

Carolyn Jung said...

I love dates. The fruit kind, that is. LOL Well, the other kind ain't too shabby, either. ;)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Hehe I admit that I thought it was the social kind of date. Not for any reason really I promise!

Laura said...

I love dates. I like them in savory food best. These looks wonderful.

Have you checked the kitty for allergies? Tried switching food? That is what is usually at the root of skin stuff I think. I will ask my sister in law next time I see her (she is a dermatological vet).

Von said...

Awww....Hobo!! I don't have a clue about cats though :D
I've still yet to have my first date!! haha.... (: I like the idea that they can replace some of the butter content in cakes- I always hate adding to much fat coz I know it'll end up in my stomach!

Pam said...

Poor kitty cat, he is obviously having some sort of anxiety issues.

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Poor hobo :( Your date cupcakes look so yummy though :)

Julie M. said...

Is he stressed out at all? My mom's cat would do this same thing and had bald spots all over her from licking her fur clean off. She was just a stressed out cat in general though so I'm not sure it can answer hobo's problems. Maybe give him a date cupcake? I have a feeling these beauties can solve any problem that ails you. :)

Joanne said...

I was a late bloomer when it comes to dates also! I think I probably ate them in larabars before anything else but now I love them any way I can get em! I've never had them in cupcake form though...need to get on that!

Anonymous said...

Dates I had them from the time I was nearly a babydoll, my Mother was from Spain, adored dates, I was born in san diego, California and my parents got them from Indo California..I actually did not date much in school at all, living in foster homes did not bode well for anykind of social stuff, work and more work, liberated at 18 and went to California to live for 10 wonderful years, My sweet Grandmother made tons of dishes with date, she stuffed them with cream cheese for an afternoon delight she called it with some wine that a friend brought that she actually made herself..I learned to love dates in every form when she passed from this earth I was do grief stricken I never ate many of them again, now our only child is in love with them, she never dated much in all of her life, an introverted brainiac creative with too much on her plate so to speak works for a film company in NYC and adores dates in any form..Love your blog, your families cat is lonely and upset we had 5 cats two recently died and one another lady wanted so badly we let her go to be with her to keep her company, I visit often but you would think she was always her cat, she licked herself all the time, when my friend got her that all stopped must be she holds her a lot, sits on her lap and she spoils her endlessly!!!!!!!ciao!

Anonymous said...

I meant to say Indio,CA and also she licked herself all the time, the lady dotes on her a lot, and she never even comes near me, so much for rescuing her and doting on her for over 5 years, cats choose their owners..Our two kitties that passed it nearly did me in one on 7/9/12 and one on 7/16/12 both cried out and went down to sleep to cross the rainbow bridge we have two kitteh cats, when they cross the rainbow bridge that will be it, I get too attached and my hubby who disliked cats got very attached, 20 years and 19 years are long times to have sweet kitteh cats around..Love love love your blog it just speaks to me and my soul, you seem like a wonderful human being, I only visit sites where the bloggers are happy, creative and kind human beings, have a great weekend! ciao!

Dianne @ Sweet Journey Home said...

I love dates and those cupcakes look awesome! Wish I had one right now to go with this second cup of coffee. Poor kitty...I would agree with the ones who suggested stress or allergies possibly. Hope you can sort it out for the poor little guy...

vanillasugarblog said...

grace it has to be stress.
and i've also heard it could be plain old boredom and loneliness.
friends of mine were told but a vet to have the cat wear a collar for a while and while he wears it to make sure to really up the attention factor with the cat: more holding, playing and talking.
the cat will get used to more attention and won't be able to lick for a while.

Betty said...

The cupcakes look yummy. I love dates, both kinds. :) Poor kitty. One of mine is being treated right now for a similar malady. I don't know if he was licking his fur off or not, but he was losing it from his hind legs, the base of his tail and his tummy. The vet says it's an auto-immune thing. Kitty has to take medication once a week for it.

foodhoe said...

very cute looking cupcake! poor hobo, my old mancat has a hyperactive thyroid, which makes him agitated in general and I watch him bite and pull fur out in chunks. He's on medication, but I still find tufts of hair...

Lisa-Marie said...

I also didn't have dates until i was at least 20. I always though of them as being a bit old-personish. Oh how wrong I was! They's look full of yums!

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

I love dates, especially medjool dates, but have yet to bake with them. Oh also I was a late bloomer and didn't have my first (romantic) date till my late teens - nothing wrong with that! :)

lisa is cooking said...

I keep seeing great-looking things made with dates lately. I need to bake these things! Love the mini size of these cupcakes.

I Wilkerson said...

I am so excited--I have dates I need to use up!

The Teacher Cooks said...

I love this. You made me laugh and I needed to because it is my first day back to school after spring break! I must make these with the dates I have left.

Laura Dembowski said...

Dates are soooo yummy! These cupcakes look fabulous. I hope your cat gets better soon :)

More Cowbell said...

I grew up on my grandmother's date nut bread. So, good, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top of the loaf. It might be a bit dense, but I'm going to give this a try in my mini loaf pans -- the better to slice. ;)

As for Hobo, I've had two friends whose pets did this, both of them had flea allergies. I've also known folks whose cats did this due to stress. Their people were kind of hyper, too, so the cats reacted to that, I guess. Good luck. Whatever it turns out to be, Hobo probably has an Elizabethan collar in his future. Hugs for the poor guy.

Anonymous said...

My kitty had this and was put on a drug called Atopica. It completely solved her fur problem!

grace said...

@Anonymous: thanks! that's worth looking into, as she's STILL suffering from whatever's causing this!