The following recipe makes a wonderful dessert on a chilly winter day. Living in Los Angeles and enjoying 75 degree temperatures in February, it's sometimes hard to imagine that many parts of the country are still blanketed in snow. A slice of this pudding, which is actually not a pudding but a sponge cake, will do wonders to take the edge off winter. Serve it with whipped cream and a cup of steaming hot coffee or tea as the grand finale to a special meal. Keep a crackling fire going and enjoy comfort food at its best. I think you can tell that I like cold winter days. My love for snow (in moderation) comes from growing up in Austria, a country with four distinct seasons. I thought you might enjoy this picture of a mountain road in the Alps, which I took on a trip a few years ago. Well anyway, once you have tried this recipe, you'll understand why I could eat Sticky Toffee Pudding, drenched in sweet delicious toffee sauce any day of the year.
Again, don't take the word pudding literally, as it is not a milk and egg based custard in the American sense. English pudding usually refers to a baked or steamed sponge cake, which can be sweet or savory. To make matters even more confusing, Brits like to serve their sweet puddings with custard on the side, which is basically a vanilla sauce of rather thin consistency. To further add to the intricacies of food terminology, the word pudding is often used as a synonym for dessert in general. So, a typical after dinner question from British kids would be: "What's for pudding?"
The date studded sponge cake is often called a modern British classic, since it is a fairly recent addition to Britain's culinary tradition. It was introduced in the 1960s by Francis Coulson, who supposedly was the first to serve it at his hotel in the Lake District in North West England.
I have tried many different recipes, but I always come back to the one posted on David Lebovitz's blog. The terrific recipe is an adaptation from Mani Niall's book Sweet. This version includes chopped candied ginger, which adds a spicy twist to your pudding. If you are not a ginger fan, it can easily be omitted to keep with a more traditional flavor. My local Whole Foods market sells crystallized ginger in bulk, which is great, because you can buy exactly as much as you need for your recipe.
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup demerara or muscovado sugar (brown sugar), found in specialty stores
2 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup (found in specialty stores or British food stores) or molasses
pinch of salt
6 oz. dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup water
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup candied ginger, chopped - optional
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350degrees. and butter an
- 8 inch porcelain souffle dish. Make toffee sauce by bringing cream, dermerara sugar, golden syrup (or molasses), and salt to a boil, stirring often to melt sugar.
- Lower heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and coats the spoon. Pour half the sauce into the prepared souffle dish and place the dish in the freezer. Reserve the other half of the sauce for serving.
- To make the pudding, in a medium sauce pan heat the dates and water. Once the water begins to boil, remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. If using, add ginger, set aside, but keep slightly warm.
- In a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- With a mixer beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
- Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla. Mixture may look a bit curdled.
- Stir in flour and date mixture alternately until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Remove souffle dish from freezer and and pour batter into the dish. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Let cool slightly before serving.
Cut cake into portions and serve with warm toffee sauce. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream are delicious accompaniments.
To make the pudding in advance, bake the cake without the toffee sauce on the bottom. Cover cooled cake until serving time. Poke the cake with a wooden skewer and distribute half of the sauce over the top. Cover with foil and reheat for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.