date sweetened chocolate cake

date sweetened chocolate cake

Date sweetened chocolate cake is the go-to dessert in our house these days. This cake is rich and decadent and sweetened entirely with dried fruit! {Nutrition information below the recipe]

I often imagine myself making it big and sitting in the ranks with Ina Garten and Julia Child. I would be interviewed on the Bon Appetite podcast and the host would ask me to describe my signature dish. Without hesitation I tell him about this fruit-sweetened chocolate cake that I invented for my health conscious, sugar obsessed husband and we have a good laugh about how Kenny is the real-life cookie monster.

Earlier this year Kenny decided to quit processed sugar cold turkey. One day we were feasting on German chocolates during a trip to Europe and the next day he wouldn’t touch anything with processed sugar. One of the things I admire most about my husband is his propensity to self reflect and improve. A former fat kid turned fitness buff, Kenny is the epitome of kaizen and I try to support him whenever I can.

My date-sweetened desserts cookbook is now available on Amazon!

Kenny’s processed sugar fast has given me a great opportunity to experiment with dessert recipes that rely solely on fruit for sweetness. Since we both are raging choco-holics I decided to create a recipe for chocolate cake that uses dried Medjool dates in place of granulated sugar.

The omission of sugar from any recipe causes problems ranging from sweetness to texture. Granulated sugar tends to hold on to moisture so the first few tests I did with this recipe resulted in a dry, flavorless cake. The secret to added moisture was egg yolks. When baked in a cake, too much butter can leak out of the batter but the fat from egg yolks offers moisture without melting out of the cake.

Density of the cake was also a problem. The pureed dates created a close crumb and a super dense cake. A trick I learned from America’s Test Kitchen is to add vinegar to the batter to activate the leavening agents (you’ll notice I used hefty portions of both baking soda and baking powder) so you can get a good rise even with a heavy batter.

The third trick was to use canola oil instead of butter. I bake with whole wheat flour when possible and oil controls the gluten formation in the batter. Too much gluten leads to a tough, dry cake.

After dozens of tests to get the rest of the ingredients just right, I’ve developed a fruit sweetened cake recipe that satiates our chocolate craving without compromising Kenny’s convictions. I love to frost this cake with my date-sweetened cream cheese frosting (recipe coming soon!) and watch Kenny savor every morsel. He pours himself a frosty glass of almond milk, serves up the perfect slice, and closes his eyes as the fork makes its way to his mouth. He let’s out an emphatic “mmmmmm” and tells me what an amazing wife I am. How could I not want to bake this up every week?!

I hope those near and dear to you enjoy this date-sweetened chocolate cake as much as my husband does!

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date sweetened chocolate cake

date sweetened chocolate cake


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.8 from 12 reviews

  • Author: Sep Campos
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 9" cakes 1x

Description

Date sweetened chocolate cake made without processed sugar. This decadent whole wheat cake will please the entire family! Top with my date sweetened chocolate cream cheese frosting!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 11 oz pitted medjool dates (chopped)
  • 1 ½ cups hot coffee
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate or up to *72% cocoa dark chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • ½ Cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Line 2 9” round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the bottom and sides of the pan with softened butter
  3. Place the dates in a large, heatproof bowl
  4. Prepare a pot of dark coffee and pour the very hot coffee over the dates and add the chopped chocolate to the hot coffee
  5. Use a spoon to push the dates down into the coffee and let them soak for 5 minutes at room temperature, until the chocolate melts
  6. Grind the coffee soaked dates and melted chocolate in a food processor until a smooth paste forms
  7. Add the eggs and egg yolk to the food processor and grind until fully combined
  8. Add the vegetable oil, vanilla, salt, vinegar, and cocoa powder to the food processor and blend until fully combined – stop every 20-30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula
  9. Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder to the food processor and blend for 10-20 seconds until just mixed
  10. Use a rubber spatula to divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans
  11. Use the spatula to smooth down the tops of the cakes and bake them side by side on the middle rack of the oven
  12. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean with the exception of a few crumbs, about 20 minutes (rotate the pans halfway through baking)
  13. Remove the cakes from oven and let them cool on wire racks at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before frosting

Notes

*I prefer to use 72% chocolate instead of unsweetened chocolate. It adds a small amount of processed sugar but the cake is much more moist and delicious with this method.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes

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45 Comments

    1. Hi Noor! Wow, thanks for reaching out all the way from Kuala Lumpur! I’ve never used distilled water vinegar but as long as it has a mild flavor you can use it in place of apple cider vinegar. The reason for the vinegar is so that it reacts with the baking soda to create bubbles and add lift and a good texture to a cake that would otherwise might be weighed down by dates. I hope this is helpful and please let me know how it turns out if you do end up using distilled water vinegar!

  1. is there any reason why the egg whites aren’t included? And could less dates be used, ive recently tried a similar recipe using 250g dates, which i reduced to 200g (about 7oz). I I loved it but still found it was verging on too sweet.

    1. Thanks for the question Ninn. The egg whites are left out to keep the cake moist. In traditional cake recipes, granulated sugar not only adds sweetness but also holds on to moisture, making a moist cake. Since dates are used in place of sugar in this recipe I left the egg whites out because I found the protein to dry the cake out too much.

      If you’ve never made this recipe before I recommend baking it as written then making modifications based on your preference. If you prefer less dates, maybe start with 9 ounces so the texture won’t be too different than the ones I’ve made.

    1. Of course! Thank you for the question 🙂 I was also thinking if you’re looking for a less sweet cake, try making this with 100% unsweetened chocolate instead of the 72% dark chocolate that I used. If you end up baking this let me know how it goes 🙂

      1. This cake is amazing! I halved it and made it with 100% chocolate and found the sweetness perfect. My husband and son, who eat sugar, loved it! My husband can’t handle dairy so I made a frosting from the date paste + an avacado and a handful of raspberries and the combination was stellar! I have been on a strict anti-inflammatory diet and have cut sugar from my diet. Being able to participate in family celebrations (I still limit my consumption :/) makes everyone happy. Thank you for the recipe!






  2. I just wrote a long comment because this cake was so sccessful, but it was very difficult because it’s impossible to cut and paste or edit at all in this field. Then I lost the whole thing! I would have posted a photo but can’t see how! Sadly I won’t be able to add comments in such a difficult system.
    I really appreciate the effort you put into this recipe, thanks Sep.

    1. Thank you so much for trying the recipe and for providing feedback. I’m so sorry the comment feature didn’t work. Thanks again for commenting and for trying the recipe 🙂

    1. Hi Micheline, Thanks for the comment! I’ve personally never tried this with date paste (I like to make my own so I can control the quality) but that sounds like a great idea 🙂

    1. Hi Valerie! Yes, you can use just plain hot water instead of the coffee. The hot coffee (or water) will soften the dates so you can easily blend them in the food processor. I sometimes like to use coffee in chocolate recipes because it intensifies the chocolate flavor but using hot water shouldn’t change your results much. Thanks for the question!

  3. I experimented with this cake for my boyfriend’s birthday. I have been wanting to try using dates for baking, and have been trying to cut out sugar more proactively. My boyfriend is such a good sport (and I knew his mom would make him a regular chocolate cake! 😂)so I thought I’d try this recipe. It Turned out fabulously!!! We both loved it!
    I do have a couple questions about substitutions.
    I’d love to make this gluten free, and I know GF flour substitutions can be tricky. Have you experimented with a GF version of this cake?
    I was also wondering if i could sub coconut oil for the canola oil. I just prefer it, but wasn’t sure because of the state of the oil (meaning a solid, vs a liquid). Any thoughts on that?

    Thanks again for sharing the recipe. I’ll definitely be making this again!!!






    1. Hi Sarah! I’m so glad you tried this recipe! And you’re brave to try this recipe for your boyfriend’s birthday! I’m glad he liked it as well 🙂 I haven’t tried baking this cake with gluten free flour but if you do, make sure you get the one that says you can use it as a 1 to 1 substitute for regular flour. You can definitely make this with coconut oil, make sure it’s melted so you can measure it accurately. Let me know if you give the gluten free version a try!

  4. Made this for my 2 year old’s birthday cake just with hot water in place of the coffee and it was delicious! I baked all the mixture in one tin to make one thicker cake and it worked perfectly. Sweet but not too sweet with a soft fudgey texture. Will be making this again for sure. Thanks for the recipe! X






    1. Aw, Nina I’m so glad you got to make this for your darling child! That brings so much joy to my heart and I’m glad you like the recipe. Blessings and hope you stay tuned for more recipes 🙂

  5. Holy moly! Thank you for this amazing recipe! I made it into cupcakes (shorter cook time) and they came out shockingly good. Light and cakey and just a bit fudgey at the same time. My husband had no idea they were sweetened with dates. This is absolutely going into the rotation. Thank you for sharing!






    1. Thank you for the comment, Mel! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe! I love sneaking dates into desserts without telling my husband 😉

      1. Forgot to mention, I also used sprouted spelt flour (finely ground) which subs beautifully for whole wheat in any recipe I’ve tried. Thanks again. I’ve already tried your carrot cake recipe (also yum) and will be buying your e-book for more!

  6. Hi Sep,
    I don’t have unsweetened chocolate available and am looking to cook this with cocoa. How can I make changes in the recipe?
    Thanks.






    1. Hi Kainaz, You can use very dark chocolate (70 or 80% cacao) to replace the unsweetened chocolate. If you’re in a pinch you can use this formula for each ounce of unsweetened chocolate required in the recipe: combine three Tablespoons of cocoa powder and one Tablespoon of vegetable oil, butter or shortening and use this mixture in place of the unsweetened chocolate. Disclaimer that I haven’t tried this substitution and there’s a chance that it will impact the texture of the overall cake.

  7. I made this recipe for a diabetic friend’s birthday and got rave reviews.
    The cake had a great texture and flavor. Unbelievable, based on using whole wheat flour and no sugar! I wish a frosting recipe had been included, but I ended up using a sugar free chocolate pudding mix and added a dollop of cool whip into that and made a layer of filling with fresh raspberries in between the two layers.
    I have a photo, but don’t see how to post it.






  8. Wow. This recipe was so well written and sounded so good that I decided not to make a single change when I made it—and it turned out perfectly. It was so delicious I just had a slice for breakfast. I highly recommend it for a special occasion—my mother-in-law loved it for her 80th birthday and it looked beautiful with piped chocolate avocado mousse on top and a sprinkle of cacao nibs. Thank you so much!!






  9. Hi
    I made this cake for my aunt’s birthday and it was a huge success. Everyone loved the cake. Thank you for the recipe, this is going to be my go to sugar-free cake ❤❤






    1. Hi Gayatri,
      I’m so glad you liked the cake! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Hope you find some other recipes on here that are useful to you!

  10. Quick question: This looks perfect and I’ve been experimenting baking only with dates, but I would like to try date paste, as one previous commenter did. But how would I calculate how much to use? Can you quantify the date amount with grams or ounces? Or should I experiment, and mush/finely chop some dates and measure via tablespoons etc.? (If i need to do that, I’ll let you know so if others ask, you have the answer.) Also, all your recipes look fab and I’m trying all “more healthful” baking this holiday season, for an extended family, all with the Kenny-style sweet tooth!

    1. Hi Kelly! Thanks for the question. You’ll need about 23 ounces of date paste. Since we’re basically making our own date paste in this recipe, I just measured out the 11 ounces of dates plus 1.5 cups of liquid (came to 12 ounces). So 23 ounces of dates should work in this recipe. One caveat; I haven’t tried this recipe with storebought date paste but please let me know if your results turn out ok with this method.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the healthy-ish recipes. I laughed out loud when I read “kenny-style sweet tooth”…he’s going to get a kick out of that! Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment! Happy holidays 🙂

  11. Thanks for the recipe. I tried it today. It was so yummy and soft. I substituted dark chocolate with 6tbsp of Cocoa power and 2 tbsp of butter and apple cider vinegar with white vinegar.

    1. Hi Aswathy! I’m so glad you liked this recipe. Thank you for sharing your experience and your substitutions. Take care 🙂

  12. Great taste. Unfortunately, the absence of sugar really affected the texture. The cookies lacked crunch and structure. Baking them longer didn’t help. They were still way too soft and didn’t brown.






  13. I love to cook and bake with more healthful ingredients as much as possible. Subbing out the sugar and using dates seems like a no brainer… And oh my goodness! This cake is truly delicious! I use Alter Eco 90% chocolate since this is what I have on hand and it is outstanding. Plenty sweet. I use coconut oil— instead of canola oil, butter too. My husband is a health nut and we cannot believe this is made without sugar. Feels decadent. My daughter is two and she is smitten with this cake too. (I’ve never made it with coffee as I am always going to be feeding children but oh my I am sure that is a delicious addition.) Without the refined sugar or white flours, I feel so much better about giving it to her. Just made a batch in mini cupcakes for valentines party we are hosting for a few two year olds. They are going to love it. ❤️Thank you for your great recipe.






  14. I love to cook and bake with more healthful ingredients as much as possible. Subbing out the sugar and using dates seems like a no brainer… And oh my goodness! This cake is truly delicious! I use Alter Eco 90% chocolate since this is what I have on hand and it is outstanding. Plenty sweet. I use coconut oil— instead of canola oil, butter too. My husband is a health nut and we cannot believe this is made without sugar My daughter is two and she is smitten with this cake too. (I’ve never made it with coffee as I am always going to be feeding children but oh my I am sure that is a delicious addition.) Without the refined sugar or white flours, I feel so much better about giving it to her. Just made a batch in mini cupcakes for valentines party we are hosting for a few two year olds. I know it will be a hit with the kids and parents.❤️Thank you for your great recipe.






    1. Hi Lindsay, I’m so thrilled you liked the recipe! Thank you for taking the time to review and comment.

  15. Hi! I made your date-sweetened carrot cake for my son’s first birthday party and everyone loved it! I’m now trying to make a date-sweetened strawberry or vanilla cake for my daughter’s birthday. Do you have any advice on converting this recipe or the carrot cake to be vanilla? Thank you!

    1. Hi Adrienne, I’m so glad you liked the date sweetened carrot cake! I won’t be able to advise you on making a strawberry or vanilla version until I test it out myself. The recipe with the carrots has been tested several times for flavor and texture and omitting the carrots or adding strawberries will change the texture. I’ll try to do some tests and post a vanilla version in the future!

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