English Matrimonials

These are sometimes just called “matrimonial bars,” or “date squares.” The Dec. 27, 1939 edition of The Milwaukee Sentinel calls them “date bars” and describes them as: “those delicious date bars or squares with the crumbly oatmeal crusts on top and bottom.”

What I’m not sure about is what makes them Matrimonial or English. The March 5, 1970 edition of The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review describes them as “Matrimonial Date Bars.” One pay-per-view archive had a result that described them as Scottish Date Bars. And more than one source identifies the matrimonial name, though not the recipe itself, as having a Canadian origin. In case there weren’t enough potential origins, the Southern Cooking section of About.com lists matrimonial bars as a traditional Southern recipe.

Good grief. These must be pretty good, with this many people looking to claim credit. (You don’t see the nations of the world jumping to claim ownership of English Steak and Kidney Pie, do you?)

EDIT: Thanks to Hap in the comments for finding a line I skipped! Fixed, now!

From a box sold in Canby, Oregon.

English Matrimonials

1-1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. butter
1-1/2 c. ground rolled oats
1 c. brown sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp. soda
1 c. brown sugar
2 c. pitted dates
1 c. water

Mix flour, butter, oats and one cup sugar together very well. Spread half of mixture in bottom of greased flat pan.

Mix remaining ingredients and cook until thick. Stir to prevent burning. Spread on top of crumbs and cover with the rest of crumbs. Bake at 325 for 1 hour. Cut in strips and roll in powdered sugar.


  1. Hap

    “and cover with the rest of crumbs” – line skipped in typed-up version of the recipe. 🙂

  2. ilex13

    My mother’s from Vancouver, BC, and in her family these are known as “matrimony cake”. Most other recipes for them I’ve seen link them to Canada generally or to Nova Scotia. They show up in the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook as “Edinburgh tea squares”. King Arthur Flour includes the lemon juice; my mother’s family recipe doesn’t.

  3. ilex13

    PS Never encountered the rolling-in-powdered-sugar step before.

  4. Tamara P

    Am enjoying my new (to me) discovery of your website. Especially enjoy all the historical notes- although your references to those long ago times in the 70s make me uncomfortable-wink wink. Question- what is a “pay-per-view archive?”

    • Sorry, randomly revisiting and realized I didn’t answer this long-long ago question from the Before Times! (I was there for some of the 1970s myself!) But a “pay-per-view archive” is a subscription service for old newspapers. I’m semi-salty that the old papers aren’t available to the public and I can’t link to them.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By My Mom's Date Squares - Cooking By Laptop October 14, 2020 at 1:38 pm

  2. By English Matrimonials Recipe: Blending Tradition August 18, 2023 at 4:42 am

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