Persian Date Cake (Ranginak) Recipe

This recipe inspired me so much this past week. I find the cake visually stunning, chewy dates stuffed with toasted walnuts then bathed in a burnt butter/flour mixture before topping with cinnamon, cardamom, and pistachios. And, if the visual appeal isn’t enough — the taste and texture are out of this world. I could not stop eating this (ask Joe, he had very little of it — and not by choice).

Persian Date Cake (Ranginak)
adapted from New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 cups pitted dates
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup ground unsalted pistachios

Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast walnuts for 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool. Place a few pieces of walnut in each date. This is the most time consuming step of the entire cake. Trust me, it pays off in the end so take time doing it. Here is my pile of stuffed dates:

In a deep pan, add butter and flour, bring to medium heat and stir constantly for 10-15 minutes, until golden caramel color. The mixture will be a thick paste at first and as you get closer to 15 minutes, it transforms into a thin caramel. Note: it only appears to look like caramel … I eagerly licked the spoon only to discover it tastes nothing like caramel (yuck). That one taste led me to worry that this whole thing was going to taste like rubbish. But it turns out amazing — so carry on, no spoon licking!

I spread about 1/3 of the flour mixture in a 9″ round ceramic tart pan. Next, I placed the dates in a single layer on the hot flour mixture (be careful not to burn yourself). Arrange the dates in rows and packed tightly together. Then, pour the remaining flour mixture over the top and smooth out with the back of a spoon. It should look something like this:

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, cardamom, and powdered sugar. Use a spoon to sprinkle this mix in a single layer over the date cake. Press the back of your spoon down on the mix — it will begin to soak into the flour and will no longer be powdery.

For the final step, sprinkle the whole thing with a layer of chopped pistachios. Use your hands to press the nuts down so they adhere. Allow to cool before cutting into small squares (use a sharp knife).

The squares will be crumbly – do not pick up a piece and try to eat it like a cookie … it will be a disaster. The squares can be stacked in a container for storage — either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

The dates are chewy and sweet, with the added texture of a crunchy toasted nut hiding in each one. They are enrobed in what is essentially a toasted shortbread cookie then topped with a sweet blend of cinnamon and cardamom — these two spices tie everything together. The pistachios add a bit of texture, color, and light flavor as well. When it all comes together, it is a visual and flavorful work of art:

I rarely show the behind the scenes of what I do in the kitchen, mostly because I’m too lazy to take these shots. I enjoy when food bloggers share these insights so decided that I need to do it more often. I’m finding my new small space challenging and haven’t yet found the best place to set up my lights. You can see from this shot that it’s a total hazard (see draping cords and dangling power strip). I had to continually go in and out of the kitchen, each time stepping over the cords.

You can see the food photography equipment I use in my cooking store by selecting “My Photo Equipment” from the left side.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Christie @ Fig & Cherry March 26, 2009, 2:15 am

    Yummy! The pistachio crust looks so inviting!

    Thanks for the pic of your setup – very interesting :)

  • kat March 26, 2009, 6:22 am

    That is drop dead stunning! I have that same light & a backdrop, now I think I need a second light

  • Culinary Cory March 26, 2009, 7:05 am

    Love the texture of the cake. Thanks for showing your hazardous working conditions. Must have been a big adjustment to downsize your kitchen.

  • Peter March 26, 2009, 8:03 am

    Allen, looks like you’re doing some serious “catch-up” with your posts!

    I love the pistacchio topping, reminds me of baklava.

  • Allen March 26, 2009, 8:54 am

    Christie @ Fig&Cherry: Thank you!

    Kat: A 2nd light definitely helps. I sometimes use natural light and need to get better about being consistent.

    Culinary Cory: Yes, a big adjustment!

    Peter: Well, the truth is that our house sale is still not done yet (i.e. stress), so I’m stress-cooking :-) This is my last post for this week – not sure what I’m making next week yet.

  • Ben March 26, 2009, 9:45 am

    I agree that it is visually stunning and the combination of flavors is so tantalizing! Nice lamps! How do you like them? I personally have moved from lamps to wireless flash. I find it a lot more versatile. :)

  • Sophia March 26, 2009, 9:57 am

    Stop it! you’re torturing me with those crazy-delicious looking cake! I LOVE pistachios and that cake in my tummy will make me very, very happy. Also, I find your picture of the “behind-the-scenes” photography very fascinating. no wonder professional food photography looks so good. I wish I had the money to buy all those cool equipment.

  • Gera @ SweetsFoods March 26, 2009, 11:04 am

    Definitely all delicious of a non conventional recipe!
    Love the stuffed dates and your pro-photo-kitchen studio :)

  • jennywenny March 26, 2009, 12:54 pm

    Oh my goodness that looks wonderful. Kind of like baklava without quite so much grease. MMMMM.

    I have something similar going on with photos in the second bedroom that my husband set up, so I have to trapse in there and climb over boxes to try and take a pic!

  • Michael Natkin March 26, 2009, 2:37 pm

    Looks incredible… like my jaw dropped open when I saw the first pic. I see you have the EGO lights, I use those too. Good item.

  • Peter G March 26, 2009, 3:39 pm

    I love, love, love the flavours in this Allen…the pistachio topping looks fantastic!

  • Allen March 26, 2009, 7:48 pm

    Ben: The lights work well but it’s a hassle having to take them down and put them up each time :-( I’ve never used a wireless flash but bet it is alot more flexible.

    Sophia: Quality equipment definitely helps with the photography (and the skill part of it I’m still trying to learn). I’ve bought my digital camera off eBay (used) for a considerably reduced price. I’m a bargain hunter at heart :-)

    Gera: I thought you might like this sweet!

    Jennywenny: I hear your pain! It’s fun to see how each of does our photography behind the scenes.

    Michael: Thank you!

    Peter G: Thank you! The last piece went into my belly for breakfast this morning.

  • Q March 26, 2009, 11:54 pm

    you are so, so back and this is great! BUT THEN i read that this will be your last post for the week, so i am eagerly awaiting your new posts next week :0)

  • Cookiemaker March 27, 2009, 10:40 am

    Maybe I’m slow, but do you bake this gorgeous looking creation? You described it as shortbread-like, yet I don’t see any references to baking. Perhaps the browned flour/butter mixture just hardens into a crust without baking? I am so inspired by cardamom and look for ways to use it. Dates, pistacious, walnuts and cardamom sound like heaven to me. Many thanks!

  • Allen March 27, 2009, 10:44 am

    Q: Thanks for all of your encouragement!

    Cookiemaker: Sorry for the confusion – no baking at all. The flour/butter mixture hardens into a cookie-like shortbread. Cardamom is so amazing and I’m learning how to use it as well – I made a marmalade-cardamom muffin awhile back that you might like.

  • Jenny March 30, 2009, 1:46 am

    Hi! Love your blog. Have to admit that when I first saw the picture I was a bit frightened by the date cake (I had to read through the post and get more acquainted w/the ingredients), but am intrigued nonetheless and look forward to attempting to recreate it myself.

    Thanks for cooking!

  • Kevin March 30, 2009, 8:52 am

    That cake looks so good!

  • Resh June 22, 2009, 6:43 pm

    Wow, i am going to make these, then eat it in one sitting- the whole thing. FANTASTIC!!!!!

  • Marjan July 22, 2009, 3:53 pm

    Hi ,I’m an Iranian girl(living in Iran).Actually Ranginak isn’t really a Cake,though I don’t know what to call it in english.
    You have made it in the best way possible,but here in Iran ,we sometimes make it in an easier way (and less delicious);that is the picture number 3.we simply place a few pieces of walnut in each date and we eat it with tea.It takes less time,but actually doesn’t taste as good.
    by the way,I strongly recommend eating Ranginak with tea(without cube sugar).You will definitely enjoy it
    & thank you for your great article.

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