Mum’s Date Slice: My mum’s recipe for Date Slice, sometimes known as Matrimonial Slice, Matrimony Cake or Date Squares. This simple tray bake is a favourite of mine, and reminds me of baking days in my mum’s country cottage kitchen.
Memories of Baking in a Yorkshire Cottage
I dreamt my mum and dad were still alive last night, it was a happy dream filled with contentment, security and love until I woke up to the realisation that they aren’t here anymore. Sad though I was on awaking, as the day progressed I realised that my parents will always be here, in my voice, my nose, the way I walk and talk, and in the kitchen. Mum was an amazing cook and baker, she was innovative and extremely creative, especially when it came to making and decorating cakes. And, although today’s recipe for Mum’s Date Slice isn’t fancy, it is a lovely home-style tray bake that is perfect with a cuppa.
Indeed, of all the home-made cakes and bakes that mum used to make regularly when I was growing up this was undoubtedly my favourite. I have no idea why the humble date slice should be in my top five as it’s not as showy or glamorous as many other home-baked treats, but then maybe that’s the attraction. The recipe is just mashed dates which are baked sandwich style between shortcrust pastry and that’s it. There are fancier versions out there that have a crumble or oat topping but this recipe is the one I grew up with and I’m sticking to it.
Mum’s Date Slice is not to be confused with the Canadian recipe for Matrimonial Cake, which is similar, but is made with an oat type crumble topping. This is pure Be-Ro vintage baking, from the old cookbooks that Be-Ro flour used to publish. As I mentioned before, it’s simply shortcrust pastry with a date puree sandwiched between, and that’s it. Although the two recipes are very similar, I much prefer my Mum’s version of the simple pastry date slice. That preference is obviously bound up with intimate memories of mum and I baking together, both as a child and latterly in her country cottage kitchen in Yorkshire, where she made a batch of these slices not long before she died. (The two photos below were taken when she made them for me in 2017)
I notice her pastry was better than mine in these photos! I think it’s because she used Self Raising flour in her shortcrust pastry, which I haven’t in this recipe, so her slices are “fluffier”! I also seem to have been a bit too generous with my filling…..but maybe my baking tray was smaller, so the filling was thicker. There appears to be slight differences in looks, but in taste these date slices are just delectable as mum’s were, and after all, it is mum’s recipe that I used, and which I’m sharing below.
Today’s recipe for Mum’s Date Slice is one of the recipes in my book, Lavender & Lovage: A Culinary Notebook of Memories & Recipes From Home & Abroad. Sadly, it is currently out of print (temporarily) with my publisher, but it WILL be back in print soon, as I plan to self-publish the book this year, as so many people are constantly asking me where they can buy it. But for now, I am sharing the recipe here, for all of your enjoyment. PLEASE do let me know if you make today’s recipe for Mum’s Date Slice, I’d love to think that mum’s recipes are still being made, and not just by me. Karen.
I love collecting vintage cookbooks and my biggest collection are the old Be-Ro flour books that you can still buy from the back of a packet of Be-Ro flour.
I LOVE the very “Non PC” snippets in the books where housewives are extolled for their baking prowess whilst little girls want to play house and cook with their mummy. My favourite quote comes from the oldest of my Be-Ro cookbooks which quite simply states that
” The woman who can cook well and bake well has every reason and every right to be proud of her cooking. In ninety nine cases out of a hundred she has a happy home, because good cooking means good food, and good food means good health. There’s no more pleasing sight than that of a happy family around a well-stocked tea-table, all enjoying their food; and the mother who is responsible for the good cooking, and who has prepared it with her own hands, have every right to survey the results of her culinary skill with pride and satisfaction”.
As a feminist I’m not suggesting for one minute that we turn back the clock and lose the emancipation that women have fought so hard to achieve. But sometimes there’s a niggling little thought at the back of my mind that tells me that for everything we have gained, we have lost so much too, and the delight of eating together as a family is just one of our losses.
Mum’ Date Slice Recipe
- 350g block of pitted dates
- 250ml water
- Juice of half a lemon
- 250g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 125g butter
- Cold water to mix
- Caster sugar to sprinkle
1. Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6 and grease and line the base of a 20cm (8") square baking tray or tin.
2. Break the block of dates up and place them in to a saucepan with the lemon juice and the water. Cook over a low heat for 4 to 5 minutes until the dates are soft. Set to one side to cool.
3. Make the pastry: Mix flour and salt together in a mixing bowl, then rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Using a knife to cut and stir, mix with cold water to form a stiff dough. Do not over mix, light of hand is best. Allow pastry dough to chill and "relax" for 30 minutes, in a fridge or a cool place, cover the bowl or put the pastry in some cling film.
4. Assemble the date slice: Turn dough on to a floured surface and knead lightly. Cut it in half and roll out the pastry to fit the base of the baking tin, gently pushing the pastry into the corners. Spread the softened dates evenly over the top of the pastry base, then top with the remaining pastry that has been rolled out to fit. Again, gently pushing and stretching the pastry into the corners.
5. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the top of the pastry and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
6. Leave in the tin until completely cooled then cut into slices to serve.
You can also use pitted, dried whole dates, you will need to snip them into small pieces before proceeding as in step 2 in the recipe. You can also use Self Raising flour for the pastry, this will result in a lighter and thicker pastry.
Nutrition InformationYield 15 slices Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 197Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 18mgSodium 136mgCarbohydrates 33gFiber 2gSugar 17gProtein 2g
More of my Mum’s Recipes in Lavender & Lovage