Newfoundland Date Slice Recipe

This Date Slice Recipe is like a big hug from Grandma.  They are sweet, comfort food treats that bring back memories of childhood for me.  Soft chewy dates macerated down with brown sugar and vanilla and then sandwiched between two buttery flaky layers of oatmeal crumble.

Two date squares stacked on top of a beautiful antique saucer with a stunning gold rim

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While I would like to say this is my Grandma’s recipe I, unfortunately, can’t.  This is one recipe of hers I have to track down. The recipe for the date filling is actually from our church cookbook.  The entire church was asked to submit their favorite recipes and the cookbook was used to raise funds for some local charities.

One of the best purchases ever!

This cookbook I cherish is filled with one heirloom recipe after the other.  Classic recipes that never go out of style and this Date Squares recipe is from Bishop Bergie’s contribution with a few modifications because I like a thicker more crumbly crumble. But his recipe for the filling is … the best!

Ingredients for a Matrimonial cake recipe.

Ingredients you’ll need

  • Dates – Any pitted date will do but Medjool dates are the sweetest and my favorite.
  • Water – Used to soften and thin out the dates to help boil them down.
  • Granulated sugar – Just a bit to and sweetness but also create a stickier texture to hold the filling together.
  • Vanilla extract – Adds flavor. Maple syrup could also be used.
  • Unsalted butter – The basis for all delicious baked goods and what helps to hold the crumb crust together.
  • Brown sugar – Gives the crumb topping sweetness and a little caramel flavor.
  • Rolled outs – I prefer the old-fashioned kind because the oats themselves are much larger and I think they add more texture to the oatmeal crumb topping. Gluten-free or regular rolled oats work too.
  • All-purpose flour – You can certainly use any flour here if you need to make this recipe gluten-free. It is just used with the butter to create a little more structure to hold the oatmeal together and create the crumb.
  • Cinnamon – This little spice goes a long way to complement the date filling and smells wonderful.
  • Salt – Enhances the flavor of it all!

How to Make This Newfoundland Date Slice Recipe

The filling is super easy to make.  Simply add pitted dates to a large saucepan with 1 cup of water, vanilla, and brown sugar and simmer to soften and break down the dates. 

Once softened macerate aka mush up the dates in the saucepan with the back of a spoon and simmer until thickened and until the water has been absorbed. They will still look a little soggy but you don’t want them runny.

I find that once you mash the dates up the liquid gets absorbed pretty quickly so try and do this as soon as the dates are soft enough to mush up with the spoon.

A pot filled with pitted dates and sugar.

Set the dates aside to let them cool.

Then in a large bowl add the butter and brown sugar and use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.

Add in the oats and flour and then sprinkle the cinnamon and salt all over so that it doesn’t form a big lump of seasoning somewhere.

Then using a spoon mix the butter and dry ingredients together to form a crumble. Don’t over-mix because if you do you will lose the light and crumbly texture you are going to form and end up with more of a firm crust vs crumble.

Or if you are up for it you can also mix this up with your hands. This is a fun thing for the little ones to help with because they can get their hand dirty and feel part of the fun with little risk of hurting themselves or messing the recipe up.

Just make sure all hands are washed first of course. No need for extra flavor!

Once the filling and crumble are all set it is time to assemble these oatmeal date bars.

Start by lining an 8″ X 8″ dish with parchment paper. To help hold the parchment paper down I like to lightly grease my pan first. I find it holds the parchment paper in place which helps make it easier to add the filling.

Lightly press down half of the oatmeal crumble in the bottom of the pan. Use the back of a spoon to smooth it out and make it even and push it into the corners of the dish.

Next, evenly spoon in the filling and again using the back of a spoon spread the filling around evenly and into the corners.

To finish the date slice recipe off, simply top it with the rest of the oatmeal crumble and spread evenly. For the topping, though I don’t recommend spreading it with a spoon. Instead, crumble over the top and only gently press down to seal it together.

The goal is to have a crumbly top so if you press down too much you get more of a crust. Still press down but only gently so that the top is solid but still a little loose.

Bake the Date squares for 25-30 minutes or until the top begins to turn a light golden brown on the edges mostly.

Remove the dish from the oven and let cool completely before cutting them into oatmeal date bars or squares.

A sheet of date squares cute into pieces on a piece of parchment paper showcasing the sweet date filling and crunchy crumble crust

Where did Date Squares Originate?

Date squares are a Canadian Dessert and can usually be found at coffee shops pretty much anywhere it is said to be the traditional dish of Newfoundland, but Saskatchewan and Manitoba have laid claim as well.  Either way, this is a very Canadian treat, eh?

What Do Date Bars Have To Do With Marriage?

This cake is also known in some places as Matrimonial Cake. Why Matrimonial cake? There are two schools of thought here.

  1. A date slice recipe represents two people coming together to make something sweet and solid like a marriage.
  2. The crumbly top and bottom of the date square and the sweet filling represent the rough and sweet times of a marriage.
Slices of matrimonial cake on dishes.

Can Oatmeal Date Bars be Made Gluten-Free?

Sure can! Just use gluten-free oatmeal and for the flour, any gluten-free variety will do. I have even made them with almond flour or chickpea flour. The only flour I would say maybe to stay away from is coconut simply because it tends to be much drier than the others.

Storing and Freezing

This Date Slice recipe will store well in an airtight container on the counter for about 3-4 days or in the fridge for a week.

They also freeze really well in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw them on the counter before serving or if you just want one, pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

A slice of an oatmeal date bar

More Dessert Squares To Try

An oatmeal date bar on a plate.

Date Squares

Alisa Infanti | The Delicious Spoon
Newfoundland Date Slices – Soft chewy dates macerated down with brown sugar and vanilla and then sandwiched between two buttery flaky layers of oatmeal crumble. A Canadian favourite that can be found at nearly every cafe in the country.
4.88 from 8 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Cool Completely 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Course Dessert, Treat
Cuisine Canadian
Servings 16 squares
Calories 296 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 16 oz chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or maple syrup
  • 1 cup unsalted Butter softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions
 

  • In a large saucepan combine dates, white sugar, water and vanilla.  Mix well and simmer until dates soften and thicken.   Use the back of a large spoon to break down the dates when they soften to create a thickened smooth mixture.  Do this before all the liquid is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl cream together butter and brown sugar until smooth and light.  
  • In a medium bowl add oats, flour, cinnamon and salt and mix well to combine.
  • Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix only until combined.  You want the crust a little flakey and crumbly so don’t over mix.
  • Grease an 8 X 8 baking dish and line with parchment paper. Add half of the oatmeal mixture and press lightly and evenly into bottom of pan.
  • Add cooled date mixture and spread evenly over bottom layer.
  • With the remaining oatmeal mixture evenly drop spoonfuls on top of the date mixture.  It will look like dumplings on top but don’t worry.  Then place a piece of wax paper on top and use the back of a large spoon or bottom of a small glass to help spread the oat mixture out evenly  across the top.  Don’t press hard of the oat topping will sink in.  Simply coax the oat mixture to spread out to form a thin crust as evenly as possible.  When done remove the wax paper.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the oat mixture starts to turn a light golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely.  Once cooled completely you can easily lift the whole item out of the baking dish and cut into squares but to do this the dates squares must be completely cool.  Store in a sealed container or freeze for up to 2 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1squareCalories: 296kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 2gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.7gMonounsaturated Fat: 3.2gTrans Fat: 0.46gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 80mgPotassium: 259mgFiber: 3.5gSugar: 35gVitamin A: 750IUVitamin C: 0mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 1.1mg
Please Note:

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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14 Comments

    1. Hi Lyle, Sorry they turned out mushy for you but I suspect the dates needed to be boiled down further to get rid of almost all the liquid. The filling should be very thick almost like a paste.

  1. Wanted to try this recipe but the amount of dates is ambiguous. 16oz? Is this by volume or weight? The rest of the items are by volume, so 16 oz. sounds like 2 cups (1c = 8oz bv)… But if it was by weight, would be ~3 cups. Could you pls clarify, Thx

    1. Hi Johnny, I totally get that it seems like a mash up of measurements. It is a really Canadian thing to do but there is a reason for this when it comes to the dates. Some dates are bought whole and can be bigger or smaller so it is really hard to count them out which is why I use weight vs cups for this ingredient. I also do this because here in Canada we can also buy the dates in bricks and they tend to be a little squished together so the quantity looks smaller than it actual is if they were loose. But you really can’t go wrong. If the measurement is a little more or less they will still taste great. The amount of filling will be thicker or thinner is all. Not to worry they will still be delicious!

  2. I have a recipe that has been in our family for a few generations. Easy to follow. Leave date pieces and no vanilla. A hit every time I make it . I usually make at least 3 double batches at Christmas time for gifts.

  3. 5 stars
    Great recipe!

    I added some of my sourdough discard to the sugar & butter mixture… not for really any reason, just to do it.

    Turned out great!

  4. This is a confusing recipe. First one adds the sugar to the dates in a saucepan but also the sugar gets creamed with the butter?? White sugar with the dates? White sugar with the butter? Both sugars with the dates? I have started to make this recipe following the instructions ‘ combine dates, sugar, water and vanilla ‘ and may need to start again.

    1. Hi Susan, My apologies. White sugar goes with the dates, brown sugar creamed into butter. I should have been more clear distinguishing them in the instructions. I will update the recipe now and thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  5. Oh man, I haven’t been able to track down my Me-mere’s date square recipe either so I’m going to give this one a try. I have all of her old cookbooks but the date square recipe isn’t in any of them so it must’ve just been one of those recipes she knew off by heart. Thanks!

    1. I have an old recipe. Generations old. Have given copies to others in the family. It’s unfortunate you can’t find the family recipe.

      1. I know but I have lots of others that my grandma gave me. Check out the gingersnap recipe. It is over 100 years old and the recipe everyone asks for over and over.

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