In Southern cooking, dates show up in all sorts of breads, pies, puddings, and, of course, dark fruitcakes, and one of the most popular canapés found at snazzy cocktail parties is dates stuffed with cream cheese. I was served this particular pudding at a stately home in Charlottesville, Virginia, prepared, no less, by the family’s private chef for an elaborate Christmas buffet. Suffice it to say that it’s nothing less than sumptuous. Like bread-and-butter pudding, this one almost has to be baked in a water bath for the right delicate texture. The pudding is just as delicious served at room temperature as warm.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, butter, and sugar with an electric mixer till light, then add the eggs one at a time, beating till well blended. Add the lemon juice and zest and beat till well blended. Sift the flour and baking powder directly into the mixture, stir well, then gradually add the milk, beating steadily as it is added. Add the dates and stir till well blended.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Place the dish in a large baking pan, pour enough boiling water into the pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the dish, and
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