Sticky toffee pudding is a classic dessert made of moist sponge cake, covered with toffee sauce and usually served with a vanilla custard or ice cream.
Its origin is a little convoluted. The invention is often attributed to English chef Francis Coulson of the Sharrow Bay Country House hotel sometime in the 1970s, but Coulson may have obtained his recipe from chef and country hotel owner Patricia Martin of Claughton in Lancashire. Martin then apparently traces the recipe back to two Canadian air force officers who had lodged at her hotel during World War II. I’ve always assumed that sticky toffee pudding was an English dessert, but it turns out that us Canadians may be able to claim it as homegrown. 🇨🇦
Adapted from Food & Wine.
Servings: 6 small or 2-3 large portions | Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Ready time: 2 hours 20 minutes
- 2½ cups heavy cream
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 ounces pitted dates (about 7 dates)
- ¾ cup water
- ¾ cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspooon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Crème fraîche, for serving
Preparing the toffee sauce
1) In a medium saucepan, combine 1¼ cups of the cream with the butter, corn syrup and sugar; bring to a boil. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 40 minutes. Carefully whisk in the remaining 1¼ cups of cream. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl.
Preparing the cake
2) In a small saucepan, simmer the dates in the water over moderately low heat until the water is nearly absorbed and the dates are soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer the dates and any liquid to a food processor and puree until very smooth.
3) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter six ½-cup ramekins. We used two larger ramekins instead. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the date puree. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients.
4) Spoon the batter into the ramekins and smooth the tops. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean; let cool slightly.
5) Using a small serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes level with the rims of the ramekins. Unmold the cakes and invert them onto a wire rack. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Wipe out the ramekins and spoon 1 tablespoon of the toffee sauce into each.
6) Return the bottom layers of the cakes to the ramekins, cut side up. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce into the ramekins and top with the remaining cake layers. Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce over the cakes and spread evenly. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the toffee is bubbling around the edges.
7) Let the puddings cool for 5 minutes. Rewarm the remaining toffee sauce and spoon some around the puddings. Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche.
👨🍳 Notes from Mr. Chuckles
The ready time for this recipe is quoted at over 2 hours, but we were quicker by preparing the toffee sauce and cake simultaneously rather than sequentially. This also allows the toffee sauce to remain warm once the cake is baked.
We recommend reducing the ingredient proportions if you want to produce fewer cakes, rather than using larger ramekins. In this case, a Magic Bullet in place of the full sized electric mixer and bowl would be adequate for making the cake mix.
As you can see in our adaptation, we attempted to prepare two large portions rather than the six small ones dictated in the original recipe. Our ramekins were not quite big enough, so the cake ended up overflowing.
We increased the baking time by about 10 extra minutes and did ultimately get the cakes fully cooked. With some nimble knifework on behalf of Mr. Chuckles, we were able to reshape them into a more aesthetically pleasing form. After addition of the perfectly prepared toffee sauce, the final product was still delicious!