I have a newly discovered love of all things British since my daughter moved to London over three years ago. Before that I’d never been to England, but we’ve been visiting her quite a bit. She’s a good excuse to cross the pond, so to speak. She’s a very good tour guide, and does especially well taking us to her favorite restaurants and gastropubs in London.
It was at one, called Vinoteca, where I decided to have dessert after brunch. It was Mum’s Day, after all, so I splurged. My daughter was attempting to explain to us that all desserts in England are called puddings. I mean, I was served my Sticky Toffee Pudding, and it’s a cake! But there, it’s a pudding! Why is it called a pudding?!
The “pudding” didn’t look like much. It was a square of golden brown cake. But it was hot, and topped with gooey caramel sauce and slowly melting vanilla ice cream, so I knew it would be good.
Well, I have to say. It was sweet heaven on a plate.
I never wanted to have it again because that experience was so perfect, but about a year after that, my husband and I went with our daughter to the Lake District of Northern England, in Cumbria. We stayed at a delightful bed and breakfast outside of Coniston that served fabulous meals. And, one night, they served us Sticky Toffee Pudding.
It was even better than what I had in London. I later discovered that the birthplace of Sticky Toffee Pudding is the Lake District!!! But why it was even better I’ve never been able to figure out.
I’ve looked at many recipes for Sticky Toffee Pudding since, and they’re all similar. The “cake” is made with dates, which no one knows. But they’re in there. It’s quite unique. So here is my recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding. You’ll love it, too!
Sticky Toffee Pudding
6 ounces finely chopped dates
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 ounces boiling water
6 ounces self-rising flour
2 1/2 ounces butter, at room temperature
6 ounces white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
7 ounces brown sugar
3.5 ounces butter
5.3 ounces heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, cut into fourths
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8″ square baking dish; set aside.
Place the dates in a small saucepan along with the baking soda. Add the boiling water and give the dates a stir. Place the pan over a burner and once they’re boiling, boil them gently for about a minute; this breaks them down a little more. Set aside the pan and let the dates cool for at least 30 minutes.
Sift the flour into a small bowl and set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, and mix thoroughly.
When the dates have cooled, add them to the butter-sugar mixture and beat well; you can’t overbeat. Switch to a spoon, and add the sifted flour. Stir to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce:
Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Heat the pan slowly over medium heat, until the butter has melted. Let the mixture cook for about five minutes: it will have thickened.
After the cake has baked for 30 minutes, remove it from the oven. Put about 4 or 5 tablespoons of the caramel sauce on top of the cake and spread it around to cover the cake completely. Then return the cake to the oven for 2 minutes.
Serve the cake hot or warm, drizzled with the sauce. A scoop of ice cream is optional!