This summer I ended up with about 10 boxes of cake mix that I would normally never have on hand. So I have been trying to find some tasty ways to use them up. I found this old recipe (1998) during a food magazine purge and updated it to work with the smaller cake mix sizes sold today. (Did you know that a decade ago, cake mixes were 3oz larger? Probably cheaper too!)
These rich bars are absolutely stuffed with big chunks of walnuts and dates. And while they are amazingly gooey and decadent while still warm, do try to let them cool completely to ensure ease of cutting. These are dangerous little goodies; break-your-diet good stuff. Hubby said, "Oh, heck yeah!" Only he didn't say heck. Yes, I would grab a cake mix to make these goodies, they are quick and easy and delicious. Great for a last minute dessert.
You can always buy pre-chopped dates to save even more time, but I personally prefer the soft, moist quality of whole medjool dates. They keep for ages in the freezer and thaw enough to pit and chop in only a few minutes. Love the beautiful chunks you get by doing it by hand. If you go for pre-chopped, try to avoid the brands that have a coating of dextrose! That's sugar. Why would they add sugar to nature's sugar? Now some are coated with some sort of flour or starch which can help prevent clumping, great for granola and snack mixes. They won't be as soft as fresh chopped, but still delicious. For any baked recipe with fresh chopped dates where you might be concerned about them sticking together, try reserving a tablespoon of the flour or mix in this case, to toss together with the dates for the same effect with no added starch. This is the same reason we toss add-ins with a little flour in many recipes, it helps suspend them and keep them from sinking to the bottom if the batter is not thick enough to hold them up alone.
By the way, dried dates contain vitamins A, B, E, K, niacin and thiamine and minerals like iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and copper, not to mention fiber. And walnuts are also a good source of manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and iron, and are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Pus, they are also a good source of protein. Why, these are practically health food bars at this point! (Not really, don't go overboard.) But there's some good stuff in here!
Chewy Date Nut Blondies
makes 32 bars
1 pkg. yellow cake mix (15.25oz/432g)
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (90g)
10 tbsp (140g) salted butter, melted
1½ cups (~210 g) chopped, pitted dates (medjool preferred)
1½ cups (~150g) roughly chopped walnuts
Grease a 9x13" baking dish or line with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine cake mix and sugar in a large bowl, mix until there are no lumps of sugar. Add eggs and melted butter. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. Batter will change consistency and start to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Stir dates and walnuts into the batter. (Batter will be stiff.) Spread into prepared baking dish and level top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
Hide them in the freezer... Don't let the kids see where or it won't matter if they're frozen, they're still gone. (Youngest is begging me to make more for her to take to all her classes and share with all her teachers.)
Approximate nutrition for 1 bar: