British food gets a bad rap. But I think some of that comes from the tourist trade. When an American traveler heads to the UK, they generally want a lot of “ye olde” and this often involves chain restaurants, much like a Denny’s or a Shoney’s. Even some of the most charming, half-timbered, stain-glassed pubs in England are run by companies that market “traditional” English fare, smack-dab in the middle of the most visited attractions. But much like at home, beware any menu that has pictures. So Fish and Chips are soggy, Steak and Ale pie is gluey and Spotted Dick just makes people laugh.
But I have a fondness for British food. I think it is homey and comforting and when done properly, amazingly rich and satisfying. Maybe it’s a little strange that I have developed this fondness, for a lot of my early introduction to real Brit food was either the tourist traps or institutional. I have spent, summer, college semester and grad school as a student and the food in the dining halls of England is as dismal as it is so often in the States. Meals were generally gray, and positively swimming in some form of greasy gravy, unidentified sauce and custard covering every imaginable dessert. I could, however, see the beauty underneath the gravy – recognizing that any wonderful dish can be made poorly. I have an ongoing obsession with creating versions of British classics that are true to original intentions, but move past the bad reputation. I search them out when I am in England each year, read cookbooks and most importantly glean information from British friends.
All this being said, Sticky Toffee Pudding is a British classic that is good on every level. There are a few foods I fell this way about – even bad Sticky Toffee Pudding is still pretty good. There is a museum café in London that serves a Sticky Toffee that is so stodgy and heavy, it would never make someone want to recreate it. But that sugary, treacley sauce will make you eat every last bite. And one of the first things I do when I arrive in London at my rented flat is hit the grocery store that is sure to have a small tin of Cartmel Village Shop Sticky Toffee Pudding ready to heat up.
First off, pudding is a generic term for British desserts. This is cakey and moist and has nothing to do with Jell-O. The dates lend moistness and sweet depth – this does not taste like a date cake. After many years of eating Sticky Toffee Pudding, and many, many tries at duplicating it, here is my version.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
This is just nothing but good. The toffee sauce is also fantastic on its own over ice cream. For the stickiest results, start this a day before you plan to serve it.
For the Cake:
8 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Toffee Sauce:
2 sticks butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon dark corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the chopped dates into a bowl and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of the baking powder. Pour over the boiling water and stir slightly. Leave to soak until soft and cooled.
Mix the flour, remaining 1 teaspoon baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the corn syrup and vanilla. Add the date mixture and the flour mixture and beat until just mixed.
Spread the batter into a thoroughly greased 8 – inch round or square cake pan. Smooth the top and bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs clinging.
Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan then stir in the sugar and corn syrup until dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and salt and simmer over medium heat until thickened and reduced to about 2 1/2 cups. Stir frequently and watch carefully so it does not overboil.
When the cake is done, remove from the oven and invert the cake onto a plate to loosen it from the pan. Return the cake to the pan. Poke holes all over the cake with a skewer or a fork.
Spoon over about a cup of the sauce. Leave the cake to soak for several hours, but it is best left overnight. When completely cool, loosely cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to serve. If you’d like, you can warm the cake gently in a low oven but watch it closely so the sauce doesn’t burn.
Invert the saucy cake onto a platter. Pour about a 1/2 cup more sauce over the cake and let it soak in for a few minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with additional sauce poured on each slice.
This is one of those Lick the Screen moments! It looks soooo good. Do you pour the sauce on the cake when it’s still warm or do you wait for it to cool first?
Mmmm….my favourite. The first food that I fell in love when I landed in Scotland is sticky toffee pudding. It tastes so good with the toffee and vanilla ice cream. I think everyone has to try this.
Dee Anne Sjogren says
My husband will love this! It is the best!
Lane Whitehead says
Our favorite restaurant in Grand Cayman, Calypso Grill, serves sticky toffee pudding as their signature dessert. Trust me, from a confirmed chocoholic, it is outstanding!
Jill O'Connor says
Well, you know I love all things “sticky, chewy, messy, gooey” and after living in England, I love all the classic English dishes too! You just can’t beat a good sticky, toffee pudding. Your version looks great!
Yes, I pour the first part of the sauce over the warm cake and let it sit overnight. Then the next day, I pour over more sauce before serving. You can gently reheat the cake if you prefer.
It is a most gorgeous rich dessert. Have you tried a steamed syrup sponge? Not quite as rich but that same sticky sweetness as the syrup has soaked into the sponge.
Nutmeg Nanny says
This looks great! Anything that has toffee in the title is bound to make me happy 🙂
Oh, I adore Sticky Toffee Pudding and have been searching for a good recipe for some time! I will definitely give this a try!!! I’ll never forget the first time I tried this — in Manhattan Beach, CA, of all places — but I fell in love!
I have been searching the web for this recipe. We also love the Calypso Grill in Cayman. We visited in February 2011. We can’t wait for our vacation next year. Thanks for the recipe.
OMG….just got back from Cayman last night…..ate sticky toffee pudding for the first time at Calypso Grill on Thursday night!!!!!! Fell in LOVE!!!! Will be attempting your yummy sounding recipe today!!! Thanks for sharing:)