Date squares are dessert bars that have a cooked date filling between two layers of an oatmeal-based crust. The layered dessert is baked and cooled before being cut into squares. These date dessert squares are often sold in coffee and bake shops.
Although they are not a cake, date squares are sometimes called a Date Sandwich Cake and in the 1930s were also known as Matrimony Cake or Matrimonial Cake in some areas of Western Canada. The wedding-related names given to the dessert made up of both smooth and rough textures are said to reflect the contrast between the easy and difficult times of marriage. The 1930s Matrimonial Cake was made a little differently from most recipes for date squares today in that breadcrumbs were often used in the crust and apples were used with dried fruit in the filling.
Most date square recipes today use just chopped dates for the fruit in the filling although some versions also add raisins or figs. After the dates are cooked with water to make the smooth filling, the zest and juice from either an orange or a lemon are stirred into the date mixture. Many date square recipes also call for vanilla extract to be added at this point.
Date squares are quite simple to make as the bottom and top crust are made from the same mixture. The mixture is just divided in half. Flour, oats, sugar and usually cinnamon make up the dry ingredients for the two crusts. Some recipes call for baking soda and/or salt. Oil and orange juice concentrate may be the only wet ingredients for the crusts and are combined with the dry ingredients.
Maple extract rather than vanilla extract can be added to the cooked and cooled date filling before spreading the filling on the bottom crust. Many recipes for date squares call for butter rather than oil. Brown sugar is used in most date square recipes, but a few use corn syrup instead. Whole wheat flour or non-gluten flour can be substituted for the all purpose flour asked for in most recipes for date squares. The final task in making date squares is baking the layered dessert, cooling it and cutting it into bars.