Originally posted December 19, 2013.
I’ll start by saying that this isn’t a pudding in the North American sense: it’s not a spoonable custard like, say, butterscotch pudding. Sticky toffee pudding is a cake with dates in the batter, covered in butterscotch sauce. In Britain the word “pudding” refers to dessert, generally, or to specific preparations that usually take the form of a moist cake. Figgy pudding and bread pudding are two examples. This is a good article for more info on British puddings.
Anglophiles will excuse me if I refer to sticky toffee pudding as a cake for the remainder of this post.
Sticky toffee pudding is actually a great cake that is nearly fail-proof. Between the dates and the high ratio of liquid in the batter, it’s impossible for the cake to be anything but moist.
Though the toffee is on the marquee, the dates give the cake a lot of its character. Happily, Lisa and I receive a large shipment of dried fruit and nuts from a BC distributor around this time of year, just in time for Christmas, when we go a little crazy with baking and confectionary. The hazelnuts go into fruitcake, the prunes, cranberries, and walnuts into sugar plums and crackers, and the dates into sticky toffee pudding.
The two most common types of dates are medjool and deglet noor. In my experience medjool are larger, softer, and taste more like brown sugar, while deglet are smaller, firmer, and taste more like honey. I prefer the darker flavour and jammy texture of medjool dates for sticky toffee pudding.
Originally sticky toffee pudding was steamed, but the batter is so slack you can bake it in a dry oven like any other cake and still produce an exceptionally moist dessert.
The toffee sauce is made from butter, brown sugar, and heavy cream, making it almost identical to butterscotch sauce. In most recipes all the sauce ingredients are simply combined and simmered. I think it’s best to make a true butterscotch sauce by withholding the cream at first and aggressively cooking the butter and sugar to develop complexity of flavour.
It’s a good idea to coat the cake with a bit of the sauce for the last few minutes of baking. It creates an amazing, tacky coating. Even better, fully bake the cake, remove it from the oven and cool to room temperature, then portion it into squares in the baking tray and pour warm toffee sauce over the tops and into the crevices. Then return to the oven for 5 minutes. Then pour more sauce over each piece just before serving. Maximum stickiness.
Originally served with cold cream. I like ice cream.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
adapted from a recipe from Jack’s Grill (RIP)
The Cakey Bit
- 180 g pitted Medjool dates
- 300 g cold water
- 4 g baking soda
- 60 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 180 g dark brown sugar
- 100 g egg (2 large eggs)
- 4 g vanilla extract
- 180 g all-purpose flour
- 6 g baking powder
- 1 pinch kosher salt
The Saucey Bit
- a batch of this butterscotch sauce
- Cover the dates with the cold water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up briefly as the alkaline soda interacts with the acidic dates. Let stand until cooled to room temperature.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the date mixture to the creamed butter while mixing. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time while mixing. Add the vanilla, too.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined.
- Bake the cake in a casserole in a 350ºF oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake emerges clean, roughly 30 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Let cool then cut cut the cake into squares.
- Heat the butterscotch, then pour it over the cut cake. Return cake to the oven and bake briefly to let the sauce set, about 5 minutes.
- To serve, remove individual squares and coat with even more sauce. Consume with vanilla ice cream.