“Sticky toffee pudding” is a bit of a confusing name for Americans (like me). It’s a cake, not the stuff Bill Cosby loves to eat in commercials. And the “toffee” is a sauce, not that chewy stuff in the middle of Heath bars. Oh, and there are dates involved.
In part because I had no idea what it was, I never tried sticky toffee pudding when I was at university in London (I actually don’t remember the dining hall ever offering it, or seeing it on restaurant menus). But I did order some when I was in London for a few days last year for work… and while it wasn’t very picturesque, it was delicious. Think moist, sweet and buttery cake with a warm, buttery brown sugar sauce.
I also bought a frozen one to take home (it leaked a bit but still tasted amazing after baking), and I had planned to try to make my own. Then I forgot about it… until the other day, when I came across a simple-looking recipe in the Gourmet Comfort magazine/book, and realized it would be a good way to use up my extra bourbon-brown sugar sauce.
It turns out that this cake is very easy and quick to make, and the bourbon-brown butter sauce works perfectly as a substitute for the regular toffee sauce (though I will provide the super-simple recipe for that, too, in case you don’t want bourbon and pecans American-ing up your British dessert).
I made it in a 9-inch round cake pan, but you can make it in an 8-inch round cake pan, similar sized baking dish or even an 8×8 square pan.
Just make sure you have a plate big enough to hold the cake and all the ooey gooey sauce. And here’s a pro tip: It’s even better with vanilla ice cream.
Sticky toffee pudding (Serves 6-8, Cake/pudding adapted from Gourmet Comfort)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, set out at room temperature for about an hour
1 cup pitted dates (5 oz)
1 cup water
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup self-rising flour (self-raising cake flour if you have it)
pinch of salt
Sauce (two options below)
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the dates into small pieces and place in a small saucepan with the water. Turn the heat on medium for a minute, then cover. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit (still covered) for another 5 minutes.
Use a handheld electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar together for about 4 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy (and sorta light brown). Add the egg and beat to combine, then add the flour and salt and mix on low speed just until combined. Pour the the bits of date (along with the liquid remaining in the pot) and mix just until well combined.
Spray or butter a 8- or 9-inch round cake pan or dish, then pour the batter in (it will be very liquidy, but don’t worry). Bake the cake/pudding for 25-30 minutes, until the center springs back when poked lightly with your finger or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cake/pudding is baking, make or re-heat the sauce.
After you take the cake/pudding out of the oven, keep it in the pan but put the pan on a wire rack. Poke a bunch of holes in the cake/pudding with a chopstick or cake tester (or whatever), then slowly pour about half of the warm sauce over it and let it soak in for 20 minutes or so.
Place the cake plate upside down on the top of the cake pan (so the bottom of the plate is facing up), then hold the plate and pan together as you flip it over. Carefully remove the pan, leaving the cake/pudding and sauce on the plate. Pour the rest of the sauce over the cake and serve warm.
Bourbon-brown butter sauce(Adapted from an old edition of the Joy of Cooking)
1/4 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature, if possible)
1 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1 cup cream (regular, not heavy cream – let it sit out on the counter for a bit, if you have time)
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Combine butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan (I used a hand-held electric mixer, but you can use a whisk if you want). Warm the cream and add it in the brown sugar-butter mixture gradually, mixing as you go.
Turn the heat on low or medium-low and continue stirring or whisking until it boils (this may take about 10 minutes). Turn off the heat and add the bourbon. Whisk or beat with electric mixer until the sauce is smooth. Pour about half over the warm cake, then stir in nuts.
Regular sticky toffee sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup water
pinch of salt
Melt butter in a small or medium saucepan on medium heat and stir in the brown sugar, water and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and allow to cook, uncovered, for a few minutes — until it reduces to about 1 1/4 cups. Remove from the heat and cover until ready to pour over cake.