stuffed dates 9 ways: classic desserts

stuffed dessert dates

And my most visited post of 2017 is . . . stuffed dates! This time around, I thought I would revive the concept of stuffed dates eight ways with a bunch of new ideas (and a few of my favorites from last time) organized around a particular theme: classic desserts.

Five are gluten free, four are vegan, three are both. Most are healthy, or at least healthy-ish. And isn't that just the balance you want to strike for your New Year's Eve party tomorrow? If I see another Christmas cookie this week, I might scream, but I don't feel ready to re-commit to healthy eating just yet. Late December is all about walking that line, and then hopefully bringing some of that balance into the new year with us, despite all our best intentions to become perfect people.

And why not ring in the new year in style, and with minimal effort? Just pit a few dates, cobble together some odds and ends, and you've got something nourishing, simple enough that you don't even need a kitchen, and as cute as a button. Most of them are phenomenally portable for packed lunches, potluck offerings, and airplane snacks. On the other hand, date energy balls, while also portable and healthy, require a food processor, and often end up looking like utilitarian blobs, which are tasty and get the job done, but aren't so easy on the eyes.

Stuffed dates also make it easy to accommodate multiple dietary restrictions at one time. Need something that's both dairy and gluten free? Try the baklawa stuffed date! Need a dessert that's low glycemic index and grain free? Try the tiramisu date! Need something for your vegetarian paleo friend who is carb-loading for a marathon? Try the persimmon pudding stuffed date! (but check with them first because that's kind of a lot).

persimmon pudding

persimmon pudding

ripe persimmons + cinnamon + nutmeg

Stuff each date with a small wedge of persimmon. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon, and a little bit of nutmeg.

chocolate covered pretzel dates

chocolate-covered pretzel

pretzel nuggets + chocolate

Stuff each date with a pretzel and dip the bottoms in chocolate.

apple crisp date

apple crisp

granny smith apple slices + streusel topping

For 8 dates: combine 3 tablespoons oats (gluten free, if necessary), 1 teaspoon sugar, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, and 1 tablespoon butter (or 2 teaspoons oil). Microwave for 30 seconds just to melt, then stir. Cook for 30 to 60 more seconds, until crispy and golden brown.

Stuff each date with a slice of apple, and pack the streusel topping around it. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

baklawa dates


walnut + cardamom + chopped pistachios

Stuff each date with a few broken walnut pieces. Roll the pistachios in a pinch or two of cardamom, and pack the pistachios in the remaining space.

raspberry cheesecake

raspberry cheesecake

cream cheese + honey + graham cracker crumbles + raspberry halves

Sweeten the cream cheese with a little honey (the date will add a lot of sweetness—you can even skip the honey if you'd like). Stuff each date with a layer of graham cracker crumbs, a layer of cream cheese, another light sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs to garnish, and a halved raspberry.

pecan pie date

pecan pie

shortbread + pecan

Cut or break the shortbread into small chunks. Stuff each date with a chunk of shortbread and one pecan.

s'mores date


roast mini marshmallow + graham cracker + chocolate dip

Roast the marshmallows with a culinary torch, gas stove, or warm them in the microwave for a couple seconds. Stuff each date with a couple marshmallows and a chunk of graham cracker, and dip the bottoms in chocolate.

Use vegan marshmallows to make this vegan.

tiramisu dates


Turkish coffee + cocoa powder + honey + mascarpone

Roll the dates in equal parts finely ground coffee and cocoa powder (if the dates are dry and not sticky, brush them with a little water, let them sit for a few minutes, and dry off any excess water before rolling). Stuff each date with honey-sweetened mascarpone, and dust with a little more cocoa powder.

banana split date

banana split

banana + whipped cream + chopped peanuts + sprinkles + halved cherries

Stuff each date with a banana slice. Top with whipped cream, peanuts, sprinkles, and a 1/2 maraschino cherry.

persimmon upside down cake

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

This is a cold-weather dessert for anyone who is halfway through November, and already pumpkined out, pied out, or (gasp!) pumpkin pied out. I'm definitely not throwing pumpkin or pumpkin pie under the bus, but it's always fun to shake things up with another wintery orange ingredient. Take persimmons, for instance.

This time of year, these pumpkin-colored tomato-shaped fruits start showing up everywhere. They're popular in many parts of Asia (including Hong Kong, my new home), and they're indeed originally from China, but they're also grown in many parts of the Middle East (including Lebanon and Syria, where my family is from). If you've never tried one, you're in for a real treat.

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

Ripe persimmons have a subtle, sweet flavor, with a little bit of peachiness, a slippery, plummy texture, and not much acidity. They are the essence of everything warm and comforting about wintertime. And when they're basted in a brown sugar butter sauce, and baked under a mound of buttermilk butter cake, their warmth is taken to another level of holiday cheer.

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake
Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

How to find persimmons

Not every supermarket stocks persimmons, although they're becoming more widely popular in the US, so you might just find them in winter farmers' markets and some grocery stores. They're in season from about October through February. If you're not familiar with persimmons, it's totally possible that you might have seen them a hundred times, mistaking them for tomatoes and not giving them a second glance. You'll very reliably find them in Asian supermarkets whenever they're in season. Look for ones that feel almost like water balloons, or let firmer ones sit on the counter for a few days to ripen. And don't be put off by a few little brownish-gray spots.

more than pumpkin pie

Chicano Eats' Spiced Pumpkin Chocoflan
Eva Powell's Persimmon Pudding
A Cozy Kitchen's Sweet Potato Pie
My Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae
Or check out my Thanksgiving pie roundup

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake
Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

persimmon upside down cake

yield: an 8-inch single-layer cake
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 1 hour
download a PDF to print

  • Butter for greasing cake pan

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), melted and cooled

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2 ripe fuyu persimmons, into 1/4 inch rounds with a very sharp knife *

  1. Butter one 8-inch round cake pan. Cover the bottom of with a parchment or aluminum foil round (buttering the pan first helps the paper stick to the bottom).

  2. Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt, and pour it over the parchment-covered cake pan. Use your fingers to spread the brown sugar out evenly over the bottom until it's completely covered.

  3. Arrange the persimmon slices over the buttery brown sugar. **

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), melted and cooled

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-large mixing bowl.

  3. Beat the eggs and butter together until they are very well incorporated. Then add the sugar and buttermilk and beat to combine well.

  4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture, and stir together just until everything is combined. It won't be completely smooth, and there might be some tiny lumps; this is completely fine! Do not risk over-mixing!

  5. Carefully pour the batter over the persimmons, smooth out the top a little bit with a spatula, and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. It's done once you can insert a toothpick into the center and batter doesn't stick to it.

  6. Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the cake pan. Then trace around the edge with a butter knife to make sure it's loosened from the pan. Place a plate upside-down over the cake. Put on your grippiest oven mitts, and hold the plate and cake together so that your thumbs are underneath the cake pan. Carefully and quickly rotate it away from yourself and give it a quick up-and-down shake to release the cake from the pan. Remove the pan, slice, and serve.

* For the prettiest effect, set the persimmon on its side and slice off rounds, rather than slicing from stem to end. Start by slicing off a little bit of skin from the end, and then continue slicing big circles, until you get to the stem. Discard the stem end, and discard the little bit of the end. Arrange the littlest remaining piece so that the smaller side faces the cake batter
** Start with one in the middle, and then make a ring around it, or if you accidentally sliced them thinner than 1/4 inch, make 2 slightly overlapping rings with one slice in the center.

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake