Thanksgiving Sticky Date Cake with Toffee Glaze

Sweet things are a major component of a classic Thanksgiving dinner table; from candied yams or carrots and cranberry sauce to maple glazed ham, and of course dessert.

One of my favourite features of this holiday dinner is the earthiness and hominess of all the ingredients that make up the dishes- truly a showcase of fall flavours. I would describe it as a comfort food meal, from beginning to end, and as such, when contemplating the perfect Thanksgiving dessert, I can’t help but think of earthy and comforting too.

Dates are a wonderfully versatile and multipurpose ingredient. Not only do they have a beautiful flavour, but they also lend texture and stability to a batter, as well as provide a natural source of sweetness, healthier than refined sugar.

Dates are often used in sugar-free , vegan and  baked goods for these exact reasons. Because of their phenomenal binding ability, date-based cakes also make for good gluten-free dessert options.

This particular cake can be made both with or without typical wheat flour- and the gluten free version is practically identical to the normal one.

In this variation of the recipe, in addition to swapping the all purpose flour for gluten free flour, I also replaced the sugar for honey, making it even healthier.

The only irreplaceable sugar portion of the recipe is in the toffee sauce that douses the cake. When it comes to toffee, or glaze in general for that matter, there simply is no good sugar replacement.

On to the recipe.

Gluten Free Sticky Date with Toffee Glaze


340 grams of pitted dates (3/4 lb)

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups water (1 3/4 cup for wheat flour version)

1/2 cup butter at room temperature

2 eggs

1/4 cup honey ( or 1/2 cup sugar)

3/4 cup gluten free flour ( I prefer to use one with white rice flour. Avoid flour mixes with quinoa or chic pea flour)

1/2 cup ground almonds or almond flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

*Note: If you want to make this cake with regular flour, simply use 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour.

For the glaze:

3/4 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup 35% cream

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9″ spring form pan. Chop the dates into small pieces. Place them in a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 1 minute, then off the heat add the baking soda. The dates will foam and bubble up. Set aside.

Foamy dates. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Foamy dates. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

In a stand mixer or using electric beaters, cream your butter and honey. It will not become fluffy like creamed butter and sugar, but rather get very smooth and shiny.

Creamed honey and butter. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Creamed honey and butter. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Add the eggs one at a time. They will not mix in perfectly at first, and your mixture may look curdled. Continue to mix on medium to high speed for a good 3-5 minutes until the eggs are fully incorporated. Patience is key here. Don’t stand over your machine waiting for the blending to happen.Just walk away for a few minutes.

Incorporated eggs. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Incorporated eggs. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Next mix the flour, ground almonds and salt together then add all at once.  The batter will be on the looser side. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary so as to fully  incorporate the dry ingredients.

Batter with the dry ingredients. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Batter with the dry ingredients. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

With the mixer on low, add in the hot dates in 2 batches, again scraping down the sides of the bowl. The batter will be quite thin, but this is okay. Finally add in the baking powder. The mixture will foam up again slightly.

Dates once the foaming has dissipated.

Dates once the foaming has dissipated.

Cake batter in the pan. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Cake batter in the pan. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

While the cake is baking make the glaze.

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring to a bowl, whisking to combine. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes.

Take off the heat and reserve.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, using a skewer or toothpick, poke holes all over the surface of the cake. Pour half of the glaze over the cake immediately.

Allow to sink in for 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the pan and pour the remaining glaze over top.

Garnish with a few dates.

Sticky date cake. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

Sticky date cake. Photo by Jennifer Maliniak

This cake can be made a day or two in advance of your dinner and kept in the fridge.

It is incredibly moist, dense and flavourful- and most importantly, virtually indistinguishable from a glutenous cake.

It also keeps for a long time with out getting dry.

This sticky date cake with its caramelly and earthy flavour will make the perfect dessert for your Thanksgiving table.


Enjoy the sweets, and happy baking.

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