My fondest memories from childhood are of being allowed to help my mother with the baking. I’m afraid this recipe isn’t very calorie conscious, but then nothing was in the 1950s. Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix was often a staple in most homes back then but you may not be able to find it today. If not, you can substitute any yeast bread mix, or frozen dough, or your favorite made-from-scratch version if you’re that ambitious!

1 recipe unbaked yeast bread dough



1 cup each coarsely chopped dates and walnuts
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) melted butter plus one more tablespoon for brushing the top before baking.


1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir all ingredients together. Mixture should be soft but not runny, and will be spread over the baked, slightly warm cake.


Optional syrup icing:

¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon vanilla or orange extract, or rum or bourbon

Boil sugar and water for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add butter and flavoring. Spread over slightly warm cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a sheet pan, or a pizza pan works well. The coffee cake will spread to about 11 or 12 inches in diameter so make sure that your pan is large enough.
In a medium bowl, stir together the dates, walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Add the ¼ cup melted butter and stir until well blended. With a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll the bread dough into a rectangle approximately 1/8 inch thick. (The measurements are not critical.) If you use a surface covered with plastic wrap, the wrap will make it easier to form the coffee cake later.

Note: if you are making dough from scratch, this step will be executed after the first rising. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, making sure to spread it out to all four edges.
tarting at either of the long edges, roll the dough up over the filling to create a cylinder as you would for a jelly roll. On your greased pan, form a circle with the dough and pinch the ends together. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Next, using kitchen shears (they actually work better than a knife), make cuts about three quarters of the way in towards the center, about 1½ inches apart. Carefully turn each piece over to reveal the filling, creating a pinwheel effect. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
While the cake cools slightly, prepare your choice of icing or syrup. Transfer the coffee cake to a serving platter and pply the topping as directed. Store the leftovers (if there are any!) in a covered container.
This rich and beautiful confection works as well for desert as it does for breakfast or brunch, and you may substitute different dried fruits and nuts to suit your taste buds. Cranberries and pecans are a great combination, and red and green candied cherries with slivered almonds and amaretto liqueur in the icing make a colorful holiday treat. But beware – they are all irresistible!