i baked my first matrimonial cake last night…

Above is a slice of my cake. I bake a lot… many things… but I’ve never made this simple classic treat. I’m hooked. I grew up in Manitoba and we called Date Squares (which these truly are)… Matrimonial Cake. Oh culture, you silly thing!


1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp. soda
Grated rind of 1 lemon

Mix ingredients as for pie, put half of mixture in the bottom of a 8 x 8 cake pan. Put date filling on to, then put the remainder of mixture on top of the date filling.

Date Filling:

1 1/2 cup finely chopped dates (Betty adds some apple to ‘soften’ the taste)
1/4 cup brown sugar
enough water to cover dates (Betty uses coffee for a more distinct taste)
Juice of 1 lemon

Bring to a boil.
Simmer until thick and of spreading consistency.
Cool before spreading on cake.

Bake all in moderate over (350 degrees) for 1/2 hour.

Cool, slice in squares and serve.

Why the name Matrimonial Cake? The common theme to these recipes for sauce, pudding, and cake, is a mixture of two different items – existing, we hope, in delicious harmony rather than remaining rigidly aloof.

THE OLD FOODIE: The OED gives other examples of ‘matrimony’ or ‘matrimonial’ as they apply to food. It may refer to ‘that injudicious mixing of wines, which is called matrimony’, or ‘a name given jocularly to raisins and almonds mixed’, or ‘oranges and star apples [peeled and sliced] mixed’, and even ‘a slice of cake between two pieces of bread and butter’ eaten together like a sandwich.

As for matrimony (or matrimonial) cake, the ownership is in dispute. Canada claims it in the above form of an oaty slice with a datey filling, although Ohio was clearly given permission to publish the recipe early in its life. There seem to be recipes appearing for it in the 1930’s, although I am not sure we should allow ‘date squares’, even if dates, in the normal order of things, precede the marital state.

There are ancestors of course – a Jewish cookbook of 1871 has a Matrimony Cake, although I do not know its composition. An oldish Northern England recipe has a one too, which is ‘a large round cake … having a layer of currants between two layers of pastry, covered with sugar … and cut into as many pieces as there are persons at the feast.’

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