This is a popular British dessert featuring a date cake smothered in warm sticky toffee sauce. The sponge is studded with chopped dates and upon coming out of the oven a portion of the toffee sauce is spooned over top to soak into the cake. The toffee sauce is made on the stove by combining heavy cream with brown sugar and butter. It’s rich and caramelly. Without the sauce the cake isn’t all that special. But once the sauce hits it a transformation of epic proportions ensues.
The ‘sticky’ is appropriate for describing this cake in two ways. The dates are sticky sweet. Packed with natural sugars they can best be described as nature’s candy. I like to compare them to crystallized maple syrup. They add a rich sweetness to the cake and incredible moistness. The toffee sauce is sticky too – just imagine eating a piece of caramel and how it sticks to your fingers. And teeth. In it’s fluid state, as a sauce, it doesn’t have the strength to do that. But it just might leave an everlasting impression stamped upon your soul. I know it did mine.
I searched recipes from one side of the internet to the other and found all sorts of variations. I wanted to stay as true to the original as possible. But what was that? I may have struck gold with this recipe from the Udny Arms Hotel in Aberdeenshire who claim the recipe originates with them. I even discovered a handwritten recipe that, depending on how true you hold information across the internet to be, was penned by a chef of the hotel for a patron.
It is not at all difficult to make, like I thought it might be upon first hearing of it. I checked with British Chef Jaime Oliver and he says if fresh dates aren’t available dry ones are fine to use. And they come with the advantage of being already ‘pitted’ or ‘stoned’ as he calls it.
From this classic dessert I made another – the English trifle! I made individual servings by layering cubed cake drizzled in toffee sauce with whip cream. These can be eaten immediately, warm, cold or at room temperature.
This is deeply satisfying on so many different levels. With just one bite I was smitten. Greedy gobbling ensued. About half way through I started to slow down. There was benefit to making it last. Gooey, soft and luscious. Intense. Positively sinful. Comforting like your favorite sweater. Dangerously delicious. Sticky toffee pudding is all these things and more. In a restaurant I would not hesitate to lick the plate clean. No matter who was looking. It’s an experience you must have first person to fully understand. So why are you still here? Go forth and bake!
A popular British dessert featuring a date cake smothered in warm, sticky toffee sauce.
- A 1/2 hour before making cake in a medium sized bowl pour the boiling water over the chopped dates and baking soda. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.
- In a large mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Beat in eggs gradually.
- Fold in flour and baking powder. Combine dates and all of the liquid stirring until just combined.
- Pour batter into greased pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from center.
- About 25 minutes into the baking time make the sauce. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
- When cake comes out of oven poke holes over top of cake using a fork. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce over top. Allow to cool off a bit. While still warm cut cake into squares and spoon warm sauce over top. Serve with whipped cream if desired. Store unused sauce in refrigerator, heat in a saucepan.
- Chill a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer with the beaters for a half an hour ahead of time. Add cold whip cream to bowl and beat just until soft peaks form. (If you keep on beating you will make butter, some of the freshest tasting, most delicious butter!)
Adapted from The Udny Arms Hotel