If you're not familiar with this iconic British treat you're about to be introduced to one of the most delicious desserts on the planet!
I must admit though, before I wrote this post, I had a major misconception about it.
In the past, whenever I thought of sticky toffee pudding, my mind would conjure up images of England in days gone by. I pictured rustic little pudding/cakes swimming in sweet, sticky toffee sauce being eaten by kings, knights, lords and ladies-in-waiting. In my imagination, they might have even gathered around a round table or partied in a huge, guilded banquet hall as they indulged in this decadent and crazy-delicious, dessert.
Was I ever misinformed! I hate to disillusion you too, but the truth must prevail; Sticky Toffee Pudding is actually a relatively modern dessert - and didn't originate in England! The story is told that the dessert was first served in the 1970's by Francis Coulson at his Sharro Bay Country House Hotel in the Lake District of England. It's claimed that he received the recipe from a friend and fellow hotelier who had originally gotten the recipe from two Canadian air force officers who had stayed at her hotel during the second world war. Canadian? Yes!
Not quite how I imagined, but you know what? It doesn't matter a bit, it's still one of the most delicious desserts on the planet and no history (or lack of history) can change that!
I've been making this Sticky Toffee Pudding since 2002, when it first appeared in Food and Wine, but I have adapted it a bit over the years. I'm a bit lazy, so instead of using a food processor and a mixer (as instructed in the Food and Wine recipe), I've figured out how to get the same results with just the mixer. And, in a nod to my affection for delicious, yet simple recipes, I've switched out the 40 minute caramel sauce for my Ridiculously Easy Caramel Sauce, which comes together in 5 minutes. To me, it tastes just as good (actually ridiculously good). I've made a few other small adaptions, but for the most part, I follow the Food and Wine recipe with wonderful results.
The directions call for slicing the cakes in two after baking and drizzling each layer with the delicious, buttery toffee sauce. The layers are put back together and then returned to the oven for a short stint. This is where the sauce and the cake magically become one, and an ordinary little cake is transformed into something super extraordinary!
So pin or bookmark this one in your upcoming holiday recipe collection. Serve it slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of the caramel sauce. Don't worry if you notice one or two guests picking up their dessert plate and licking it clean - that's perfectly normal behavior for Sticky Toffee Pudding!
P.S. If you missed our last post, London Life, you might not be aware that we're posting from London this week, where we're visiting our daughter and her family. Hence the classic British recipe today.
Tomorrow, Scott and I will be heading to France, where we've rented a flat in Provence for a week. We'll be sharing our adventures (including a day of cooking at a Provencal cooking school!) as well as some wonderful southern French recipes, starting with this amazing Beef Daube, an incredibly delicious, make-ahead dinner in a bowl. Beef stew, Provencal style!
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- For the sticky toffee pudding cake:
- 6 ounces chopped pitted dates
- ¾ cup water
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the sticky toffee pudding sauce:
- 1 stick butter 4 ounces
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar you can use light brown sugar too, but the sauce will be a bit lighter in color
- ½ cup whipping or heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla bean paste
- a pinch of sea salt
For the cakes, simmer the dates and the water in a medium-size pan over moderately low heat until the water is nearly absorbed and the dates are soft, about 15 minutes. With a sturdy spoon, vigorously stir the date mixture till smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generous grease six ½-cup ramekins. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well, then add the date puree and mix until combined.
On low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and smooth the tops.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean; let cool slightly.
Using a sharp, serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes level with the rims of the ramekins.
Unmold the cakes and invert them onto a wire rack. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Wipe out the ramekins and spoon 1 tablespoon of the toffee sauce into each. Return the bottom layers of the cakes to the ramekins, cut side up. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce into the ramekins and top with the remaining cake layers. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce over the cakes and spread evenly. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the toffee is bubbling around the edges.*
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
While the cakes are baking, make the sauce. Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk vigorously till combined and bubbly.
Add cream and continue stirring until completely incorporated.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add vanilla and a pinch of sea salt. Stir until combined.
Serve warm or allow to cool. Stir vigorously, then store in refrigerator. Mixture will thicken as it cools. After refrigeration, warm slightly in the microwave or on the stovetop.
*If you like your dessert a little less sweet, feel free to skip the step of slicing the cakes and adding the syrup in between. They are still very good served warn with just a drizzle of the syrup.
I sometimes use 3-ounce ramekins for these little puddings which gives me 8 desserts.