Put away any pre-conceived notions you have about Sticky Toffee Pudding. Unless your pre-conceived notions about Sticky Toffee Pudding is that you like it very much. In that case, keep your pre-conceived notions and go take 1½ sticks of butter out of the fridge.
Look, when I check out a dessert menu, my eyes glaze over until I see chocolate. I can appreciate a good apple tart and I like ice cream, and raspberries are awesome, but friends – dessert is chocolate. Period. But. This time of year, something happens. I never lose my chocolate affinity but my mind opens just a bit. It would never occur to me that I would like a cake that has puréed dates in it and it may not occur to you either, which is why I am asking you to put aside those notions of yours.
A couple of years ago, I took a holiday cooking class with Olaiya Land. She is now one of the co-founders of The Pantry at Delancey and she is a very good cooking teacher indeed. In that class, we made Sticky Toffee Pudding and I silently pooh-poohed it and decided to eat my dessert’s worth of calories in savory bread pudding instead. Big mistake. The cake, which really looks like nothing special, smelled like the very best of everything (butter, brown sugar, cinnamon) and, with a caramel-y toffee sauce poured over the entire cake and the same sauce served alongside it, I realized my short-sightedness. It’s not chocolate. But it’s easy, crowd pleasing, and can be made in advance and frozen.
One Year Ago: Over the Top Mushroom Quiche
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Gingerbread Bundt Cake
Three Years Ago: Fennel and Brie Risotto Wedges (yum!)
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Adapted from Olaiya Land
Makes one 8-inch cake
I make this cake in a round cake pan but you can certainly use a square. And because I have two of them (actually I have four – don’t ask), I usually double the recipe and freeze one for later use. Don’t glaze the cake you are going to freeze. Olaiya serves this with whipped cream but I just like to pour on extra sauce.
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for the cake pan
8 ounces Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
½ cup light rum
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ stick (¼ cup) butter, cut into small pieces
1/8 cup light rum
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan and set aside. Put dates, rum, and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until dates are very soft, about 5 minutes. If the dates have not fallen apart, mask with a fork or potato masher to break up any large chunks. (If you prefer to not even know the dates are there, you can blend the mixture with an immersion blender or put it in a stand mixer.) Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the ixer bowl as needed.
Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the date mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325ºF and bake until cake tester inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean, 15-20 minutes more. Let pudding cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen and invert onto a serving plate.
In a medium saucepan, bring cream, brown sugar, and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 3 minutes. Stir in rum and cook for 2 minutes more (you should have about 1½ cups sauce). Put a piece of parchment or waxed paper under the rack (this will catch the drips). Pour half of the sauce, slowly, over the warm pudding, allowing it to drip down the sides. Serve the other half of the sauce along side.
(Make ahead: I made this cake, glazed, one day ahead and loosely covered it with foil. I let the remaining sauce cool completely, covered and refrigerated it. When we were ready to serve it, I reheated the sauce gently.)