Sticky Date Pumpkin Pudding with Salted Caramel Rum Sauce

Organic dates and Sex? This is what I encountered as I recently drove down Highway 111 near Indio in the California desert. I was in search of some of the old date stands that lined the desert highway back in the 1950’s and 60’s that my family used to visit when we traveled to nearby Palm Springs for a vacation. Our family ‘station wagon’ (the name ‘SUV’ hadn’t come into our vocabulary yet), would stop in front of one of the date stands, we would load up on delicious dates and even swig down a ‘date milk shake’. Later on, if we were lucky, we might even get a glimpse of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack that used to hang out in glittery Palm Springs.


Unfortunately, I found that almost all of the date stands in Indio have disappeared over the decades, replaced by miles of gated communities and shopping malls that stretch continuously for about 25 miles from Palm Springs to Indio. My last grasp at childhood memories had almost disappeared until I came upon Shields Date Gardens on Highway 111 in Indio. This business was started by Floyd Shields in 1927 and is a major producer and exporter of dates for the U.S. and the rest of the world.

As I drive into the Shields parking lot, I like the ‘retro’ feel of the old building, but am even more amazed at the sign that advertises the free film, the “Romance and Sex Life of the Date.” Fortunately, this is not an X-rated film, but shows how the pollen from one ‘male’ date tree is used to hand pollinate 100 ‘female’ trees using a small Ketchup Squirt Bottle. Seems like sex has lost all of its romance these days ……

Shields buildingIMG_5792As I continue into the main building, I am transported back into the 1940’s and 50’s with the real-life soda fountain that offers Date Shakes and even Root Beer Floats!

IMG_5794Behind the Shields building, there is a 17-acre landscaped date garden, with the beautiful San Jacinto mountains as a backdrop.

IMG_5800There are also 23 biblical statues that give a serene atmosphere to the garden, recently purchased from a biblical garden in Vancouver that was closing down.


 IMG_5811But why are Dates so expensive?

I’ve always wondered why dates are so expensive. Well, they are very labor and time-consuming. It takes 15 years for a date palm to mature and each new date tree is created by transplanting ‘pups’ from the parent tree; these pups then take another 15 years to produce.

Workers climb the date trees with ladders to cover the date bunches with bags to protect the fruit from insects and birds and these trees can easily reach 100 feet tall. Once the dates are harvested, it then takes time and patience to sort the dates by hand, removing the unripe ones that need more time to ripen.

Date trees also require a huge amount of water irrigation – about 9 ‘acre-feet’ of water each year for each tree. This is equal to the volume of water that would cover 9 acres of land to a depth of one foot! And it has to be irrigated water – date palms do not like natural rain water.

Worker Climbing the Date Tree

Worker Climbing the Date Tree

Date 'Pup' extracted to generate new tree

Date ‘Pup’ extracted to generate new tree

Covering the Dates with bags

Covering the Dates with bags

Patiently sorting the Dates

Patiently sorting the Dates

End of an Era!

As I later drive back to my luxurious Palm Desert hotel with my large box of dates in hand, I feel a twinge of nostalgia. Yes, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack are gone, and also the little  date stands that used to dot the dusty highways. But I walk away with a small smile – knowing that Shields Date Garden is still here to continue the tradition of dates ….and their sex lives … in the desert.

Now how about a Date Recipe:


Sticky Date Pumpkin Pudding with Salted Caramel Rum Sauce
Serves 6
Sticky Date Pudding with your favorite pumpkin pie flavoring- topped with salted caramel rum sauce
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
55 min
For the Pudding
  1. 1 cup (165 g) pitted dates, halved
  2. 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
  3. 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  4. 80 g unsalted butter
  5. 1/2 cup (135 g) mashed cooked pumpkin or Butternut squash
  6. 1 1/2 cup (225 g) white flour
  7. 1 tsp baking powder
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1 1/2 tsp Allspice
  10. 1 tsp salt
  11. 2 Tbsp maple syrup
For the Caramel Sauce
  1. 1 cup (160 g) lightly packed brown sugar
  2. 60 g unsalted butter
  3. 1 tsp corn syrup
  4. 1 tsp Kosher salt
  5. 1/2 cup (125 ml) thickened cream
  6. 4 Tbsp Rum
  1. Pre-heat oven to 365 F (185 C)
  2. Bring the water to a boil; remove from the heat and let the pitted dates soak for 10 minutes until soft. Use a spoon to mash the dates until they become pulp.
  3. Cream together the sugar and butter with electric beaters until soft.
  4. Fold in the mashed pumpkin (or squash) and date mixture until smooth.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and beat with electric beaters for several minutes until thoroughly combined.
  6. Grease the ramekins or cupcake tins with melted butter or cornflour oil. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until done (the pudding should spring back when lightly touched).
  7. Remove the puddings from the oven; gently remove them from the ramekins and let cool while you prepare the Caramel Sauce.
For the Salted Caramel Rum Sauce
  1. Stir the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat slightly; stir occasionally for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Reduce the heat and gradually add the cream and Rum. Stir a few more minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Serve the individual puddings on a plate, topped with the Caramel Sauce. If desired, garnish with whipped cream or ice cream.
G'day Soufflé



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  • Daniela
    October 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    So glad I discovered your blog.
    This was a truly enjoyable post to read, funny and interesting.
    The sticky date pudding looks delightful and I’m sure it tastes even better than it looks!
    Looking forward already for your next post 🙂
    Daniela recently posted…Goat Cheese Au Gratin With Figs in Red Wine Syrup and Rocket SaladMy Profile

  • Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen
    October 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    You are hilarious, Fran. There sure is not romance at all for the poor old date! You made good use of your bounty, though. This pudding looks rich and sticky. Glad you had a lovely trip!
    Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen recently posted…Camembert and Walnut Bites – accentuate the positive…My Profile

  • [email protected]
    October 21, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Who knew dates had a romantic sex life? And that there’s a movie about it? 😉 Thoroughly entertaining post, and a wonderful recipe. Really good stuff – thanks.
    [email protected] recently posted…Penne alla VodkaMy Profile

  • Fran
    October 22, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Thank you John. I understand that the “Date Sex’ movie created quite a stir in its day!
    Fran recently posted…Sticky Date Pumpkin Pudding with Salted Caramel Rum SauceMy Profile

  • Rachel
    October 22, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Wow! I had no idea how much time and work was involved producing dates! I do love them and your recipe sounds absolutely delicious. My mouth is watering!! 🙂

  • Juliana
    October 22, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Wow, so interesting and informative this post about dates…I must admit that only recently I kind of acquired the taste for dates…maybe because of the look, which to me was not to appealing…now I add to my oatmeal or cereal almost every morning.
    This date pudding sounds and looks delicious, love the words sticky…and the sauce with rum, just yum!
    Fran, thank you so much for the kind words, I really appreciate.
    Have a wonderful week ahead 😀
    Juliana recently posted…Last Post…My Profile

  • [email protected]
    October 23, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Humans discover romance in everything, even dates!! This was a fun read, and very different too. Dates are integral part of the culture that I come from, and I never gave them much thought growing up. Of course, now I miss them. Now I get to buy more dates, though the kids have not really acquired a taste for them, yet.The date pudding looks delicious, sticky and all.

  • GourmetGetaways
    October 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Sticky Date Pudding and caramel sauce must be one I my all time favourite desserts… I just love it, especially with a delicious good quality vanilla ice-cream. Thank you for sharing )
    GourmetGetaways recently posted…Bali’s Best RestaurantsMy Profile

  • Joanne
    October 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Haha that is kind of hysterical (about the movie). And it kind of makes me love dates all the more! This date pumpkin pudding sounds lovely!
    Joanne recently posted…Vegan Puffy Tacos with Cumin-Spiced Hummus #thenewsouthwest #cookbookspotlightMy Profile

  • Anneli Faiers
    October 27, 2013 at 3:18 am

    Wow – who knew that it was so much work to cultivate dates! That is so interesting! And it has made me laugh that one poor male plant has to go and spread himself around to 100 females by way of a ketchup bottle! 🙂 Funny indeed. Love your little cakes too. They sound delicious and anything smothered in salted caramel sauce gets my vote every day of the week 🙂 x

  • Simply Sweet Justice
    November 1, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Awww, I grew up in Rancho Mirage (right by Palm Springs!). We used to often get date shakes. 🙂
    Simply Sweet Justice recently posted…PastramiMy Profile