Matrimonial Cake – Oaty Shortbread Date Squares

It’s wedding season – and what better sweet treat is there to serve than Matrimonial Cake, or oaty shortbread date squares with your date?

I’ve baffled even myself as to why I haven’t made these oaty date squares until recently.  Granny called the recipe “Matrimonial Cake” and it was my personal favourite of all of my childhood baking with her and Auntie Shirley in Musselburgh. There was only one problem and so it comes with a warning to you: it’s so blooming addictive!

Matrimonial Cake or Date Squares

By now, if I’m able to control myself like the French women with sumptuous Parisian macarons, Lemon Passion Meringue tarts, Strawberry & Elderflower éclairs, double chocolate tartlets, buttery financiers and Madeleines (all in Teatime in Paris), plus the likes of palets bretons butter biscuits, I can safely make Granny’s Matrimonial Cake and leave it sitting in the box for up to a week.  Right?

Wrong. Moreover, it hasn’t helped that Lucie provides a daily reminder that they’re just sitting in the fridge. “Let’s just have a couple, Mum. Don’t worry – you’ll still get in to your dress for the next wedding”.

It’s hard to believe it’s already two weeks ago that I was back in Scotland celebrating Lindsay and Eddie’s wedding in Edinburgh.

matrimonial cake Scottish wedding

My cousin, Lindsay, is the life and soul of every family party and at Christmas time, before you know it after Auntie Catherine lights up her homemade Figgy Pudding with brandy, there’s no snoozing by the fire; you can pretty much guarantee being put into a team as Lindsay puts on the entertainment for the rest of the evening with a whole variety of party games, quizzes and prizes. Eddie, you’re in for a most fun-loving life together and wish you both matrimonial bliss for a long, healthy and happy vie à deux en amoureux. As they say in Scotland, “lang may yer lum reek” (long may your chimney smoke)!

matrimonial Cake Scottish wedding dancing

Back home in France – as the honeymooners had found the sunshine – we were unexpectedly snowed in.  For the first time in five years, Paris was briefly coated in a giant duvet of snow and with the girls’ lycée closed, it meant I turned to Granny’s Black Book of Scottish Recipes for our golden sunshine in the cosy kitchen.

Thinking of the wedding, it had to be Matrimonial Cake! As the recipe calls for cups, I’ve double checked the quantities in more modernised measurements in grams and ounces and, as always, reduced the sugar slightly.

matrimonial Cake in the snow

Why is it called Matrimonial Cake?

Goodness knows why the recipe is called “Matrimonial Cake”.  Do you know of its origins? If you do, then please leave a comment below this post – I’d love to hear from you! All I know is that it’s popular in Canada, with some Canadians mentioning that the recipe originally came from Scotland.

This is when I wish I could have asked Granny tons of questions today, as this recipe probably has a lot more to it than meets the eye. All I know is that before life with Grandpa, she’d left Scotland and lived in Canada for about 3 years with a most adventurous life as nanny to five children of a business tycoon of a canning factory, originally from Kinlochleven in Scotland. Mr & Mrs Stewart loved entertaining and while travelling in their private plane, Granny had full control of their children, taking them on holiday, baking, sewing etc. and keeping up with the glamorous life.

matrimonial cake

When she baked these date squares with us, who knows what was running in her mind of memories? Questions were taboo back in these days but knowing just this now, I’d be dying to know the children’s names. Were they named after her own 5 children later: Ronald, Shirley, Irene, June and Catherine?

So, Matrimonial Cake looks like it came from her previous life in Canada. Its name is probably just because it was served at weddings at some time.  It’s ideal for a winter wedding, as dates are easy to keep in store. My theory is that it’s simply so deliciously addictive that it had to be kept for weddings or special occasions – what do you think?

Whatever its origins, this Matrimonial Cake is just as addictive as I remember it and Lucie is pleading we make it again.  We have a good excuse, as tomorrow Antoine’s cousin is coming over with her fiancé for a goûter before we see them at their French wedding during the next holidays near Paris.  More matrimonial cake bliss is ahead…

matrimonial cake or date squares

Matrimonial Cake: The Recipe

Granny mentions using lemon juice so I’m sticking with it – and even added a bit more which made the date paste turn a bit pinkish in colour but I loved this, as it ended up being rather appropriate for Valentine’s Day, too.  I see in other Canadian recipes that they use orange juice instead plus even some zest but I prefer keeping it simple as I remember it.  If you feel some zest coming on, then go for it!

Once the delicious shortbread-like oat crumble is pressed in to the bottom of the tin and spread with the date paste, just drop on the crumble topping and only gently pat it down so that the effect is still a bit crumbly on top.

matrimonial cake (date squares)

If you love dates, then you’ll also love these Date and Apple Bran Muffins, another inspiration from Granny’s recipes. One day, I’ll convince Uncle Ronnie to give me his recipe for a rather famous Date Loaf. In the meantime, wishing them a most Happy Wedding Anniversary – 60 years and many more of matrimonial bliss! I even heard the Queen wished them Happy Anniversary, too!

5 from 3 votes
Matrimonial Cake or Date Squares
Matrimonial Cake - Oaty Shortbread Date Squares
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

Matrimonial Cake that Granny used to make. Whether it's Canadian or Scottish, the result is just as delicious: dates sandwiched in an oat shortbread crumble crust.

Course: Snack, teatime
Cuisine: Canadian, Scottish
Servings: 10 people (calories for 2 squares each @70g)
Calories: 275 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Date Filling
  • 255 g (9 oz) Pitted dates either in a block or separate in packets
  • 110 ml (4 fl oz) boiling water
  • 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1 lemon juice only from a lemon
Oat Shortbread
  • 110 g (4 oz) butter (unsalted) softened
  • 110 g (4 oz) soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g (3 oz) porridge oats
  • 120 g (4 oz) plain flour all-purpose
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 good pinch salt (fleur de sel)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder
Instructions
For the Date Filling:
  1. In a saucepan, cook together all the ingredients except the lemon juice.  Cook gently until soft (about 20 minutes). It's ready when the dates soften into a paste. (If you prefer having a perfectly smooth paste, then blitz it for a few seconds in a food processor.)  Set aside to cool then add the lemon juice.

For the Oat Shortbread Crumble:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas 4 and grease a baking tin (I use a 27x19cm tin) with either butter or spray with baking oil.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar together either by hand using a wooden spoon or better, in a food mixer/processor.

  3. Add oats, flour, soda and vanilla until well combined.

  4. Press a bit more than half of the mixture into the greased baking tin - either with your fingers or using a flat spatula to make the bottom layer even. Spread on the date paste using a spatula and smooth it out until even.

  5. Top with the oaty shortbread crumbs and gently pat it on top to keep it in place but not too much - it's better to have a crumbly look to the topping. 

  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the oats are lightly toasted.

  7. Cool on a wire rack then place in the fridge for about 30 minutes, remove from the tin and cut into squares - or bars, if you prefer.

Recipe Notes

Like macarons, this is even better eaten next day - and the next and next...

Store up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. Best eaten at room temperature so remove from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

matrimonial cake or date squares recipe from Granny's selection of Scottish recipes

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Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris – Valentine’s Creation

Just picture it. A French bakery run by a couple passionate about patisserie called Baisers Sucrés – literally translated as Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris.

After Kévin and Gnagalé Béziers’ Galettes des Rois tasting last month, I was fascinated to find out what the creative couple were dreaming up for Saint Valentine’s Day. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to share in their unique Valentine’s creation at their recently opened boutique in the heart of Paris’s 10th Arrondissement for an exclusive article!

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris

Kevin Bézier is no stranger to teaching patisserie and with a serious line-up of 20-years’ experience at the hotel Lutétia, Georges V and Ritz-Escoffier school, on meeting his wife, Gnagalé the couple created Baisers Sucrés in 2013. As of April 2017, their boutique is more of a showroom for their patisserie consultancy/catering business already based in Bagnolet, east of Paris.

Their showroom boutique is not far from Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est and around the corner from the 10th’s Town Hall or Mairie: perhaps not the most romantic side of Paris, and when I visited last week during the floods in Paris, the nearest Metro stop at Château d’Eau seemed particularly appropriate.  Needless to say, taking photos for you wasn’t in the best of conditions with such a lack of sunlight but the colourful display of cakes and pastries made up for it.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris cakes

An astonishing showcase boutique it is: from macarons in the window, to all sorts of shining éclairs, cakes (from traditional French “cakes” to patisserie items) and seasonal fruit tarts from lemon to apple or pear tartes aux pommes ou poires. The velvet red cube, “L’entremet Révolution”, is another of their specialities with a chocolate and Earl Grey mousse with a slightly bitter raspberry ganache.

It’s unusual for a patisserie to also sell bread, but I could see it was just as popular with the locals. By the time we’d finished in their lab, most of the oversized brioches, rustic baguettes, and other Viennoiseries – the umbrella term for croissants, pains au chocolat, chaussons aux pommes, and the likes – had pretty much disappeared!  I hear they also make giant Kouign Amman pastries for 6 people.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris bakery

The real star of the show at Baisers Sucrés is the house speciality, carried on from the tradition of the previous boutique, Tholoniat, and it’s here that they’ve been breathing their own new life back into the boutique.

Etienne Tholoniat originally opened the boutique in 1938 and went on to become a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1952, spreading her reputation as far as Japan and the Vatican, where Pope Paul VI ordered a sugar basket in Vatican colours. It was her Semifreddo, however, that stole the show and continued with her son, Christian.

Sweet Kisses patisserie Paris Speciality

I watched the Baisers Sucrés dream team in the back lovingly prepare this frozen dessert, spreading a mixture of whipped cream and caramelised nougatine between génoise sponges, then finishing it off like a crème brûlée.

Moreover, we can’t forget it’s also a chocolatier, chocolate shop. I cheekily asked Kevin and Gnagalé if they were tempted to follow the Nutella riotous promotions and reduce their Chocolate Caramel spread – but of course, chocolatiers don’t do that with such quality!

sweet kisses patisserie paris chocolate shop

Which brings us to the Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine’s creation they were about to show me backstage in their lab, situated at the end of the most charming Parisian courtyard.

With severe lack of light and yet another downpour, let’s keep it romantic and steer our attention to the glistening cobbles and green plants before entering a tiny sweet haven in the midst of the 10th.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris

First, the wafting smells of traditional, artisanal bread from their gigantic oven had me in raptures. I’d already had breakfast chez moi, but when the sizeable prize loaf was revealed then transported across the courtyard to the boutique, I was hoping I could grab a fruity-nutty slice en route. They make this pain aux fruits every Wednesday and Saturday.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris bakery

Chocolate Valentine Creation

It was time to get cracking on with the first stages of the Valentine’s creation, The Hibiscus Flower, or Fleur d’hibiscus. There were no hearts in the creation; instead they were saying it with flowers – and their love for chocolate as a couple.

Already the chocolate was being tempered to 31°C.

Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris chocolate tempering

A loaded tray of dark chocolate half sphere shells were waiting in line, as a large pot of simmering water acted as a Bain Marie to melt the tops of each, then plunge them into cocoa nibs coated in silver edible glitter.

sweet kisses patisserie Paris Valentine chocolate

It’s at this point that Chef Kevin shows me a tip. As he’s tempering the chocolate and using a thermometer, he finds the best test is to dip in a ripped off piece of baking parchment and leave it on the counter to see if it hardens correctly.  It’s ready, as he peels a bit off the paper.

sweet kisses patisserie paris chocolate tips

As they both roll up baking paper into mini cornets to pipe out the chocolate, the ingredients now come into place.

The tempered chocolate acts as a delicious glue, holding a half sphere of chocolate filled with a previously prepared dome of hibiscus jelly covering a lemon and Earl Grey sponge.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Baisers Sucrés chocolate

Next come the hibiscus chocolate petals, previously prepared using half-sphere chocolate moulds. Each chilled chocolate petal is stationed in line before being sprayed with a coloured white chocolate velours. The effect is magic, with micro particles coating the chilled petals.

velours spray on valentine chocolate

Kevin and Gnagalé prepared 3 different versions: a plain chocolate-petaled flower, a fully sprayed version and this version of just half sprayed on the petals, which the couple eventually decide to choose for the Valentine’s Hibiscus Flower.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine creation

On goes the chocolate glue to stick on the petals, followed by quick freezing sprays to hold them in place.

The flower’s dome topping of Pink Champagne mousse perfumed with hibiscus flowers is given a neutral glaze with added silver lustre for that special je ne sais quoi.

Hibiscus flower Valentines Chocolate

Meanwhile, picture the scene as the team is swarming around our table in such a small space, carrying off their latest tarts and cakes to the shop.  Totally distracted I was, watching this pineapple coconut tart being topped with mango and lime then finished off with coconut shavings – a taste of the exotic which I gather is from Gnagalé’s native Senegal.

Pineapple mango tarts at Baisers Sucrés or Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris

Another tip from the chef came as these lemon cakes were being prepared.  He adds the final touch: a thin piping of butter in the middle to help crack open the cake in the middle.

Isn’t that funny?  In the UK, we’d be in horror with cracks in our cakes but in France, they encourage it!

sweet kisses patisserie paris cake tips

More petals for another dessert were sitting ready for their turn in the lab but back to the Hibiscus Chocolate Flower.  Gnagalé carefully tops each dome with silver leaf and the Valentine’s chocolate is ready to go.

sweet kisses Patisserie Paris Valentine Creation

Hibiscus Flower Valentine’s Chocolate

Now for the cross-section and tasting!  Here you have it in a Hibiscus Flower: a Mexican 66% dark chocolate dome filled with hibiscus jelly with lemon and Earl Grey tea sponge, topped by a silver-glazed dome of Pink Champagne and hibiscus flower mousse, all encased in red chocolate velour petals.

The verdict: a tour de force of textures from the soft, crispy and fondant with light and subtle flavours to be enjoyed at room temperature (since this was still chilled.  It also wasn’t that sweet – something I keep mentioning about why French patisserie is in another league: they don’t add too much sugar so that you can appreciate the flavours.

All that was missing?  A glass of pink Champagne and my Valentine!

hibiscus flower chocolate Valentine Paris

With huge thanks to Chefs Kevin and Gnagalé Bézier for inviting me into their lab and Tholoniat Boutique of Baisers Sucrés.  Now it’s over to you to visit them and taste their specialities for yourselves. I discovered that they’re true to their credo: to share in the pleasure.

Baisers Sucres Sweet Kisses Patisserie paris

Wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day with the Fleur d’hibiscus from Baisers Sucrés, or let’s say from Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris.

Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris Baisers Sucrés Valentines Chocolate

Baisers Sucrés – Sweet Kisses Patisserie Paris

Baisers Sucrés
Pâtisserie Chocolaterie
Boutique Tholoniat
47 Rue du Château d’Eau
75010 Paris

Métro: Château d’Eau
Tel: (+ 33) 01 42 39 93 12

 

Update!  This has proved so popular with clients that Baisers Sucrés have decided to continue with the Fleur d’Hibiscus, even after Saint Valentine’s!

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

The upside of last week’s rain showing off in Paris is that it has been ideal baking weather. At this time of year I’m always looking for ways to bring a smile to my teenagers’ faces in the mornings. Let’s face it, it’s easy to get on that downward spiral of fatigue with a general lack of winter sunlight, the girls’ mock lycée exams and crescendo-ing snatched snooze alarms before reluctantly pushing aside the duvet (sound familiar?). We’ve needed to cheer up by starting the day with quick and easy comfort food that’s a bit nostalgic. Baking up a batch of these warmed healthy breakfast bran muffins with dates and apple has added a wee smile on my face too, thinking of Granny.

First let me show you some bright and cheery Scottish heather, snapped in Princes Street Gardens over the weekend in Edinburgh, with my French heather back in the garden, just after I got home. There, that’s a sunshine fix for us – now for the muffins!

scottish heather Edinburgh

Looking for some cheery nostalgia, I brought out Granny’s Black Book of Scottish recipes again. I took it as a sign as the book opened directly at page 43, with Miss Adams’ recipe for Bran Muffins.

Breakfast bran muffins

Granny’s handwritten recipe for Bran Muffins and Hamlyn’s Porridge Oats & Bran

Only Granny would have known who Miss Adams was, as I can’t find any family members who had heard of her.  In any case, it was the perfect time to make these healthy breakfast bran muffins, as I’ve just discovered Hamlyn’s of Scotland’s new Oats and Bran. It took me right back to the time my Mum used to make bran muffins using a well-known breakfast cereal but when I checked the company’s website, it wasn’t up there – but who knew that Granny had a recipe?

So bring on these deliciously moist Breakfast Bran muffins, adapted from Granny’s Black Recipe Book with added healthy oats, dates and apple – and using weights (grams/ounces) to volume (cups).

Incidentally, if you’re curious why I always use weights rather than volume, see my post on measuring your baking here. And if you’re not curious and use cups, then I thoroughly recommend you read it now, as it will change the way you bake.  It’s not as important for making easy muffin recipes like this one, but boy – you can’t make macarons, fancy cakes consistently well, or French patisserie without digital scales!

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

As you can see from Miss Adams’ recipe, granny suggested using dates. I love that squidgy concoction.  She often mixed dates with apple in her recipes, so I added the apple in these too for old times’ sake. This makes the bran muffins extra moist and with the dates’ natural sweetness, there’s no need to add anything to them (Mum, if you’re reading this, no extra butter – there’s plenty in there already). If you make them the night before, just warm them slightly to serve for breakfast.

****

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post but was thrilled to receive Scottish Porridge Oats & Bran from Hamlyns of Scotland in return for this recipe in their ‘Oat Cuisine’ collection (I wish I’d thought of that one!)

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

 

5 from 3 votes
Breakfast Bran Muffins
Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins with Oats, Dates & Apple
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

Irresistibly moist bran muffins with oats, dates and apple for a delicious healthy start to the day

Course: Breakfast, Snack, teatime
Cuisine: American, British, Scottish
Servings: 9
Calories: 153 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 100 g / 3.5oz plain flour all-purpose
  • 50 g / 1.75oz porridge oats with bran (Hamlyn's) or oats with 1 tbsp wheat bran
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt fleur de sel
  • 1 organic egg
  • 100 ml / 3.5fl oz milk
  • 70 g /2.5oz butter (unsalted) melted
  • 50 g /1.75oz soft dark brown sugar (Muscovado)
  • 100 g /3.5oz soft dates (Medjool) roughly chopped
  • 50 g /1.75oz apple finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp mixed/apple spice optional
  • 1 tbsp porridge oats for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (180°C fan); Gas 6.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats with bran, baking powder and salt. Add the dates and apple (and apple spice if using) and coat in the flour mix.
  3. In another smaller bowl, beat the egg with the milk, melted butter and sugar. Mix together then add to the dry flour ingredients, stirring well until the batter is smooth.
    healthy breakfast bran muffins
  4. Spoon the mixture into paper cases inserted in buttered muffin tins (or directly into silicone muffin moulds). Fill ¾ of the way up.
  5. Sprinkle with a few porridge oats and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Leave to cool completely for about 10 minutes before taking out of the tin.
Recipe Notes

Best served fresh on the day but for busy bakers, make the night before and store in an airtight container once cool.

Variations: Instead of 100g dates, mix 50/50 of dates and sultanas. Another variation is to replace the dates with soft dried apricots – particularly the organic dark ones.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

 

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