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matrimonial cake

I love a good craft fair.  I really love a good craft fair with a homemade baking table.  Some friends and I attended a craft fair on the weekend and lucky for me there was a bake table.  I spotted a favourite treat of mine - date squares - or what Manitobans refer to as matrimonial cake.  I first heard the term matrimonial cake about 3.5 years ago just after I moved to Manitoba and it has always puzzled me.  Is it a dessert that is served at weddings in Manitoba? Should I be making this for my husband? Do singles make it in hopes of attracting a mate?

I've asked around, and nobody really seems to know as date squares have just always been called matrimonial cake in Manitoba.  Some Manitobans even find it funny that I think it is strange to call it matrimonial cake. 

I am a bit of a geek so I decided to do some research.  My initial hunch was that it was named matrimonial cake as it was originally served at weddings.  In the east coast where I am from, besides having a regular wedding cake, it is an old tradition to serve fruitcake at weddings too and it is referred to as "groom's cake", so I thought matrimonial cake would be similar.  My research did not produce a definitive answer.  It appears to be a western Canadian thing to refer to date squares as matrimonial cake.  Some feel it is called matrimonial cake because of the two separate layers brought together by dates which symbolizes two people courting and solidifying the relationship in marriage.  Others feel that the smooth and rough textures of the date squares represent the easy and difficult times of a marriage.  Some believe that it was individually wrapped, handed out at weddings, and then single gals would place it under their pillow and dream about their future husband. 

No matter what the history or what you call them, they sure are delicious.  My package of matrimonial cake from the bake sale are almost gone, and they sure are tasty!

Reader Comments (4)

Hello LGB! I found you while looking for Confusion Corner buttons!

I think we've all wondered about this name.
My folks were born in Saskatchewan, and this cake has been a staple in my family for almost a century.

Perhaps this date crumb cake was called matrimonial cake, because the earliest pioneers
or those who survived the Depression would not always have had the luxury
of hard-to-acquire white sugar, flour and eggs for cake--
or a variety of dried fruit for a traditional fruitcake

Or, when one had to feed large extended families, and/or a community at a wedding on a limited
or non-existent budget, perhaps all that was affordable was simple ground oats,
and dates hoarded for a special occasion.

Our family has always melted the butter which is mixed in with the oats.
It produces a better flavour and improves the texture--less crumbly dust--
so less crumbs to sweep up after guests eat too!

And the dates are yummier with roasted sliced almonds, or lemon juice or orange rind.
We also have used dried cranberries or dried blueberries.
We don't live in the prairies now, so haven't used dried saskatoons,
but I wonder if my Grandmas resorted to this?

With All Good Wishes, Carol

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Smith

Thanks for checking out my blog Carol! I hope you were able to purchase confusion corner buttons. Your tips for matrimonial cake sound yummy! LGB

August 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Gray Bird

I know this is an old post, but my Albertan great-gran used to say that it was matrimonial cake because it had 'a firm foundation and a sweet centre, though it looked a bit rocky.'

November 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterT

I don't think that it is only called matrimonial cake in western Canada. I grew up in Ontario (and now live in the UK) and it was called that by my friends. It was also called matrimonial cake in the Purity Flour Cookbook which must have been used across Canada from the late 20s. I have a batch in the oven now, made using the recipe in the Purity cookbook. I haven't made them in years so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.

April 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

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