Date Slice is a classic Canadian dessert. Also known by the names date square, matrimonial bars, squares or slice, matrimonial cake, date crumble, and date bar, this recipe is my Grandma's recipe and it's by far, the best date square I have ever tasted!
This simple recipe is especially popular at Christmas time, although these date bars are great for any time of the year. It's often served at Christmas markets, family reunions, bake sales, church gatherings, bridal showers, and funerals. It pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea! This recipe was the inspiration for my Rhubarb Squares.
Although this date slice is known as Matrimonial Cake in many circles, you're more likely to run into it at a funeral, rather than a wedding, in Western Canada anyway.
💭Why is it called Matrimonial Cake?
Well, because like Italian Wedding Soup, the matrimonial name has more to do with the 'wedding of flavors' than an actual wedding! And although these squares are frequently served at bridal showers, they really have nothing to do with weddings. Nor are they served at weddings.
There is debate over the origins of the date slice, date square, or Matrimonial Cake (as it is known in Western Canada) or Date Crumbles, as it is also known by in some parts of Eastern Canada. Some attribute it to Scottish heritage. However, it's traditional in Quebec (French influences) and is also well-known in Newfoundland (Irish influences). You can read more about the origins of date squares HERE.
Growing up in Western Canada (Winnipeg) we called slices, squares, or any baked treats or goodies "dainties." But this isn't the only thing we prairie dwellers had our own names for. Here are a few more:
- Booter - When snow or water gets in your boot or footwear
- 2-4 - A case of 24 beer
- Gotch (aka "gitch") - Underwear
We truly have a dialect of our own on the Canadian Prairies. You can read more about Canadian prairie dialect HERE.
For this date slice recipe, you'll need simple ingredients you're likely to have on hand in the pantry and fridge:
I think it's the fresh lemon juice and zest that perfectly balances the sweet in this recipe.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ cups quick oats
- 1 ⅓ cups brown sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 ½ lb fresh dates, pitted (3 ¾ cups)
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoon hot water
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoon white sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tsp lemon zest, finely grated
- 3 tsp lemon juice (fresh)
Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and spray a 9x13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray
Place dates, hot water, white granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt together in small saucepan and cook over medium heat until dates are soft and water is absorbed. This will take about 5-10 minutes.
Remove from heat, add vanilla extract and let cool
Combine flour, baking soda, brown sugar, and oats together in a large bowl.
Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter (or see my trick with cheese grater under Top Tip). Stir until the mixture is evenly mixed and has a crumbly texture.
For the base layer, spread half of the crumble mixture into the base of the baking tin and pat down with a spatula.
Cover with cooled date mixture. * The best way to spread the date puree filling is with a butter knife. Dab the filling onto the crust with a spatula, then carefully spread it out with a butter knife (see HINT below)
Pat the remaining oat and flour mixture on top of the date layer with a spatula
Bake for 25 - 28 minutes in a preheated oven or until the oatmeal mixture topping is golden brown.
*Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing with a sharp knife.
Hint: To avoid getting crumbs in the filling, drop dollops of filling all over the crust with a spatula or spoon. Then very carefully spread it out with a butter knife, avoiding getting the dry mixture on the knife. *You have to be very patient while you are doing this!
Instead of using a pastry blender, I freeze my butter and grate it into the flour and oat topping/base. It's less messy and helps to distribute the butter evenly into the mixture.
📖Variations & Substitutions
- Butter - you can use salted butter instead of unsalted, but be sure to skip the salt in the recipe!
- Lactose-free - you can make this lactose-free by using a lactose-free butter
- Gluten-free - use gluten-free flour
- Dates - you can use regular pitted dates or Medjool dates (they are softer). However, you are cooking them in hot water (which softens them) so regular dates are fine
👪 Serving Size
This date squares recipe makes 18 slices. However, you could cut the squares smaller if you'd like more and larger for less. You can also half, double, or triple the recipe by clicking on the blue serving number and selecting the number of servings you'd like. The ingredient quantities will automatically adjust.
*Use extra large paper muffin liners to serve them!
I love my high-temperature spatulas (affiliate link) because I NEVER have to worry about temperature when cooking when them. They are also dishwasher safe, rated to 600 degrees F, won't fade or discolor, come in multiple colors, and are one single molded piece (so they won't separate).
Store date slices, in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to 2 days (48 hours) or in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container. Or freeze them in an airtight container for up to 3 months. You can freeze them in the paper cupcake liners
If you love date recipes, then you'll want to check out my 6th generation Old Fashioned Date Nut Loaf Recipe!
So if you are looking for bridal shower ideas or simply need a fantastic date slice, you'll love this one! This homemade matrimonial cake is far superior to what you'll find in coffee shops and it's one of our family's favorite recipes.
Date Slice Recipe (Matrimonial Cake)
- 1 ½ lb dates 3 ¾ cups
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoon hot water
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoon white granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
- 3 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh)
*Note: Instruction photos will NOT print by default. You need to click 'print' box if you want them to print.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and spray a square 9x13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray
- Cook dates, hot water, white granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt together in saucepan, over medium heat, until dates are soft and water is absorbed. *This will take about 5 -10 minutes.
- Remove from heat, add vanilla extract and let cool.
- Mix flour, baking soda, brown sugar and oats together.
- Cut in butter with pastry cuttter. Stir until mixture is crumbly.
- Tip: Freeze butter and use a cheese grater to cut butter into the dry mixture
- Spread half of the crust mixture into the bottom of a greased 9 inch square pan and pat down with a spatula.
- Cover with cooled date filling.
- Hint: To avoid getting crumbs in the filling, drop dollops of filling all over the crust with a spatula or spoon. Then very carefully spread it out with a butter knife, avoiding getting the dry mixture on the knife. *You have to be very patient while you are doing this!
- Pat the remaining half on top of the date filling with a spatula.
- Bake for 25-28 minutes.