Grandma’s recipe for Old Fashioned Date Cake with walnuts and chocolate chips is moist and tender. It’s perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.
It has a caramel-like sweetness, courtesy of the dates. It’s also moist, tender, and chock-full of chocolate chips and walnuts.
Grandma’s recipe has two stand-out ingredients: cocoa powder and orange zest. The cocoa powder (just one tablespoon of it) amps up the chocolate flavor, and the orange zest perfectly complements the chocolate.
You can, of course, omit the orange zest, if that’s how you remember Date Cake. But I personally love how it makes this cake just a little more interesting.
Here’s a peek at Grandma’s handwritten recipe, which she calls “Choco-Date Cake”.
The full recipe is typed in the recipe card below for easier reading.
I don’t have the exact timeline of when this recipe was created, but it was likely around the 1930s (same as this Old Fashioned Wacky Cake!).
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- You can use either pre-chopped dates (such as from Sunsweet) or chop the dates yourself. Grandma definitely used the pre-chopped version!
- Don’t have an orange to zest? You can just leave it out.
- Take care not to over mix the cake, so it stays tender. Mix everything just until combined.
- You can either buy pre-chopped dried dates (to make it extra easy) or chop the dates yourself. Dried dates are typically the deglet noor variety, or might just be labeled “dates”—avoid medjool dates for this recipe.
- Grandma’s recipe called for shortening, but I used butter. Feel free to use either.
- Orange zest adds some extra flavor that perfectly complements the chocolate chips and the caramel flavor from the dates.
- Mix-ins include chocolate chips and walnuts. Use pecans if you prefer.
How to make Old Fashioned Date Cake
Start by combining the dates and baking soda in a small bowl. Pour the boiling water over the top.
Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes for the dates to soften.
Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, and salt together.
In another bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest, and beat until combined. (This is the microplane that I use for the orange zest.)
Add half of the flour mixture and half of the date mixture (including the water). Stir to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and date mixture.
Stir in half of the chocolate chips.
Pour the date cake batter into a greased 13×9 inch pan. Top with the chopped walnuts and the remaining chocolate chips.
Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Can I make date cake ahead?
You can make Old Fashioned Date Cake up to two days in advance of serving it. Cool it completely, cover tightly, and store at room temperature. After two days, the cake will start to dry out a bit (though it’ll still be delicious).
Customize your date cake with one of these ideas!
- Use pecans in place of the walnuts.
- Omit the orange zest if you’d like.
- Substitute shortening for the butter (this is what Grandma did).
- Make the cake in two 8×8 inch pans. Freeze one for later. Decrease the cooking time by 5–8 minutes if you choose this option.
Date Cake is delicious at room temperature OR warm. You can microwave slices for 10–15 seconds to warm them up before serving.
I personally LOVE a dollop of homemade whipped cream or Cool Whip on top.
How to store and freeze Date Cake
Store this Old Fashioned Date Cake tightly covered at room temperature for up to 5 days. You can also store it in the refrigerator.
Date Cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. Tightly wrap slices of the cake in both plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and slide into a resealable freezer bag before freezing.
More old fashioned cakes
- Sock It To Me Cake
- Old Fashioned Banana Cake (with cream cheese frosting!)
- Easy Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
- Coconut Poke Cake
- Cherry Dump Cake
- Jell-O Poke Cake
- Old Fashioned Orange Cake
- Easy Punch Bowl Cake
- Old Fashioned Wacky Cake
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Old Fashioned Date Cake
- 1¼ cup dates chopped
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1¾ cup flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of 1 orange about 2 teaspoons
- 1 cup chocolate chips divided
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13×9 inch pan or 12×8 inch pan with cooking spray.
- Place the dates and baking soda in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the top and set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest, and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add half of the flour mixture, and mix until combined. Add half of the date/water mixture, and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and remaining date/water mixture.
- Stir in half of the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips and the walnuts.
- Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.