Let Them Eat: Date Cake with Candied Bacon and Pecans


I've been daydreaming about this cake for months, waiting for fall to descend, figuring that I could hide the extra layer of padding I was likely to acquire after eating a piece—or two—of what I imagined to be a lush and lavish cake under a comfy, invisibility cloak-style sweater.

All summer long I interrupted serious conversations about bills and travel and getting ready for the move to New York, cooing dreamily, "Wouldn't a date cake with bacon be so ahhh-maaaazing?" I was a girl smitten with a confectionary Prince Charming, this close to doodling "I heart bacon" and "Mrs. Medjool" on my binder.

My tendency to obsessively work an idea until it's nearly snuffed out turned its twitching little fingers to bacon first. It would be crisp, of course, but would it be folded into a buttery batter or would it be giddily sprinkled on top? Did it need special attention, perhaps a glaze?

The dates, also, were of special, compulsive concern. I could just chop them, but wouldn't it be wickedly better if they were poached in dark and swarthy sugar cane rum or thick-accented Southern bourbon? Either would make those chocolate and coffee-flavored wrinkly dates a sultry pool to revive in.

Finally, the calendar page turned. I laced up boots and snuggled into a nubby vest. It was time.

My first attempt with the cake was not the perfect first date I had envisioned, no pun intended. I'd recently made a flourless chocolate cake, and still smitten with it, tried to change its clothes and dress it with dates and crackly pork bits. The cake resisted.

Round two was much more compliant. I began with baking thick-cut bacon under a blanket of dark brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. Crisp, sticky, spicy, it was ready for dessert. The dates were simmered in smoky liquor, then pureed and incorporated into a dark brown sugar and pecan batter. I covered the still-warm cake with a shiny glaze, then marred its surface with more shards of candied pork and toasted nuts.

Salty, sweet, crunchy, moist, gooey—it's a challenge to pull away from this cake.