Persian Date Cake (Ranginak)

By: Jo Rosas

This cake is visually stunning: chewy dates stuffed with toasted walnuts then bathed in a burnt butter-flour mixture before topping with cinnamon, cardamom, and pistachios. And, if the visual appeal isn’t enough — the taste and texture are out of this world.

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 cups pitted dates
1 ½ cups Gluten Free All-Purpose flour
1 cup Olive Oil or butter (if you are not on a casein-free diet)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup ground, unsalted pistachios

Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast walnuts for 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool.

Place a few pieces of walnut in each date. This is the most time consuming step of the entire cake, but it pays off in the end so take time doing it.

In a deep pan, add butter and flour, bring to medium heat and stir constantly for 10-15 minutes, until a golden caramel color.

The mixture will be a thick paste at first and as you get closer to 15 minutes, it transforms into a thin caramel-look-like texture. Spread about ⅓ of the flour mixture in a 9″ round ceramic tart pan. Next, place the dates in a single layer on the hot flour mixture. Arrange the dates in rows and packed tightly together. Pour the remaining flour mixture over the top and smooth out with the back of a spoon.

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, cardamom, and powdered sugar. Use a spoon to sprinkle this mix in a single layer over the date cake. Press the back of your spoon down on the mix — it will begin to soak into the flour and will no longer be powdery.

For the final step, sprinkle a layer of chopped pistachios. Use your hands to press the nuts down so they adhere. Allow to cool before cutting into small squares.

The squares will be crumbly – do not pick up a piece and try to eat it like a cookie … it will be a disaster. The squares can be stacked in a container for storage.

The dates are chewy and sweet, with the added texture of a crunchy toasted nut hiding in each one. They are enrobed in what is essentially a toasted shortbread cookie then topped with a sweet blend of cinnamon and cardamom — these two spices tie everything together. The pistachios add a bit of texture, color, and light flavor as well. When it all comes together, it is a visual and flavorful work of art.

[with thanks to Allen Williams - adapted from New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies ]