Date Nut Bread

sliced loaf of date nut bread on a bread board

Date nut bread is dark, rich, moist, and delicious. It’s an old favorite you might not have thought about for years, but if you love banana bread and zucchini bread, then you need to add this classic quick bread to your recipe collection.

a stack of slices of date nut bread

date nut bread redux

Date nut bread, aka date walnut loaf, is a traditional Scottish tea bread that became popular in the US in the 1920s. Thin slices, slathered with cream cheese and cut in small triangles were the ultimate tea sandwich. No doubt your mom and grand-mom had a date nut bread in their recipe boxes, and it was so popular that several companies, including Thomas’, have made commercial loaves over the years. Pillsbury still makes a date nut bread mix, too. Retro date nut bread has fallen out of fashion but it definitely deserves a comeback. The bread is super moist, and rich. It keeps well and is even better in the days after it’s baked.

date nut bread with cream cheese

what you’ll need for a date and walnut loaf

Recipes for date nut bread follow a basic pattern but the details can vary. All require some sort of very hot or boiling liquid to soften the dates: it’s often plain water, but that definitely leaves the door open for adding flavor by changing up the liquid.

  • dried pitted dates ~ look for them in the dried fruit section of your supermarket. They should be moist and somewhat sticky ~ if yours are old or very dry, buy a new fresh package.
  • brown sugar ~ light or dark brown will work. Dark brown gives a richer molasses flavor and darker color.
  • walnuts ~ toasting is optional but will bring out flavor and crunch.
  • flour ~ I used all purpose, but you could use a good gluten free baking mix, or use half white whole wheat flour for extra nutrition.
  • butter
  • egg
  • coffee ~ hot coffee softens the dates and adds subtle depth of flavor to the bread. Use hot water if you prefer.
  • cognac or brandy ~ just a touch is fabulous in this bread, but if you don’t have any leave it out.
  • vanilla ~ good quality vanilla is worth the price and really does make a difference.
  • baking powder ~ helps rise the heavy batter.
  • baking soda ~ helps soften the dates and rise the bread.
  • salt
freshly baked loaf of date nut bread

how to make a date nut tea sandwich

I like to use day old chilled date nut bread to make sandwiches because the bread will be moister and less crumbly. When it has completely cooled, wrap well in plastic and then refrigerate over night. The next day it will be easy to slice it very thinly.

  • Use a sharp serrated bread knife to slice the loaf into very thin slices, about 1/4 ~ 1/3 inch.
  • Spread a slice generously with cream cheese.
  • Top with another slice and trim any rough edges.
  • Cut on the diagonal into triangles.
  • Keep wrapped in plastic and chilled until serving.
slicing a loaf of date nut bread

date nut bread tips and faqs

How long will date nut bread last?

This bread is nice and moist and will last, wrapped in plastic, for about a week. It does not need to be refrigerated, although you can.

Can I freeze date nut bread?

Yes, it freezes beautifully. Let it cool completely before you wrap it in plastic, then in foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Can I use pecans?

Pecans would be great in this bread. Toast them first for about 12 minutes in a 350F oven for best flavor.

Do I have to use the coffee?

You can also use very hot water in place of the coffee, or use half coffee and half water. the original recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, and they claim that you cannot taste the coffee. I found that the coffee flavor comes through pretty strongly, so if you don’t like coffee, don’t use it.

Are dates healthy?

Yes! They’re high in fiber, cancer fighting antioxidants, and provide a healthier alternative to sugar.

What can I substitute for the dates?

This recipe is really all about the dates, but you could substitute prunes or dried figs.

slicing a loaf of date nut bread

more quick loaf breads and cakes

sliced loaf of date nut bread on a bread board
Print
5 from 3 votes

Date Nut Bread

Date nut bread is rich, moist, and delicious. If you love banana bread and zucchini bread, then you need to add this retro quick bread to your recipe collection.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Yield 12 servings
Calories 360kcal
Author Sue Moran

Equipment

  • standard 9×5 loaf pan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped pitted dates. About 8 ounces
  • 4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup hot coffee
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp cognac or brandy
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray or butter your 9×5 loaf pan and, if desired, line it with a sling of parchment paper so you can remove the loaf easily for slicing.
  • Put the dates, butter, baking soda, salt and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.
    ingredients for date nut bread
  • Cover with the hot coffee.
    adding hot coffee and water to dates
  • Stir and let it sit for 15 minutes.
    wet ingredients for date nut bread
  • Whisk in the egg, extract, brandy, and baking powder. Fold in the flour and mix well.
    adding dry ingredients to date nut bread batter
  • Fold in the walnuts.
    folding in walnuts
  • Transfer to your loaf pan and spread out evenly.
    date nut bread batter in pan
  • Bake for 45-55 minutes. I cover with foil after 30 minutes to prevent the top from getting too brown. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter on it. Moist crumbs are fine.
    date nut bread cooling on a rack
  • Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely before slicing.
    slicing a loaf of date nut bread
  • If you don't plan on eating right away, don't slice, just wrap the cooled bread in plastic and store on the counter or in the fridge.
  • To freeze, let cool completely, then wrap in plastic, and then in foil. Use within 3 months.

Cook’s notes

*recipe from King Arthur Flour
  • This is one loaf cake that is better eaten when completely cooled, or even chilled.  The moisture and texture improve upon sitting.
  • If you do not love the flavor of coffee, substitute very hot water. You can also use half coffee and half water.
  • Toast the walnuts in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes for extra flavor.
  • Try adding some spice: cinnamon, or ginger would be nice.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 281mg | Potassium: 319mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 146IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 2mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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9 Comments

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  • Reply
    Candice
    June 21, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Do you think for a variation, I could use the streusel topping and cream cheese glaze from your recipe for Carrot Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze? Thank you.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 21, 2021 at 6:23 pm

      I don’t see why not, I love a good streusel 🙂

  • Reply
    Janet
    June 21, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    5 stars
    I adore date bread and haven’t had it in years. I made it today and its so good Sue, thank you! I know I’m going to be making it from now on. I didn’t use coffee, but hot water worked fine.

  • Reply
    Sally Berra
    June 21, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Thank you so much. My grandmother made date nut bread. She used to frost just the top with a frosting she called penuchi, but I think it was really a kind of caramel. There was no peanut butter in it. All my brothers and sisters loved the cake, but I loved it so much I always requested it for my birthday cake. Now I can bake it myself.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 21, 2021 at 8:16 am

      I love that idea Sally ~ I made zucchini blondies with a penuche frosting on the blog, look those up, maybe it’s close to your grandmother’s recipe.

      • Reply
        David Laird
        June 21, 2021 at 9:59 am

        mom made this 60+ yrs back. but used concentrated orange juice (frozen ) no sugar and liquid ? milk I am sure.

        dave

        • Reply
          Sue Moran
          June 21, 2021 at 4:53 pm

          I read that orange juice was sometimes used, that sounds really good.

    • Reply
      Karen Funt
      June 21, 2021 at 11:31 am

      5 stars
      Your recipes are great! Thank you! This Date Nut Bread is delicious and I love the idea of using coffee. Just a couple of minor edits: In your instructions #5 you said for a second time to use Baking Soda — I assume you meant Baking Powder, with the soda going to soften the date? Also you don’t mention adding the Brown Sugar anywhere. I just folded it in with the flour. Again, Thank you and past time for a cookbook! I print out more recipes from you than anyone, but would love to have them in a book.

      • Reply
        Sue Moran
        June 21, 2021 at 4:35 pm

        Thanks Karen, fixed! Just the thought of doing a cookbook makes me exhausted, but I hear you and we’re considering it!

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