I don’t remember the first time I ate sticky toffee pudding. Most of the time when I’ve been tempted by it as a menu option, it has followed a hearty pub meal, and these are times when I am more tempted by options such as brownies and ice cream or lemon tart. However, once I tried it I was sold on it. Not so sold that I’ll never again choose brownies and ice cream or lemon tart over sticky toffee pudding, but sold enough for it to always be a viable contender. A couple of weeks ago, it won the pudding-menu-option-fight and I had an average to good sticky toffee pudding. Since then, I’ve been craving more sticky toffee pudding. However, I decided to try making it in cake form rather than as a steamed pudding. This had the advantage not only of being much quicker to prepare but also meant that I was able to sneak a quick slice for ‘elevenses’ yesterday morning (not something I usually have). This is good served hot from the oven in the same way you would serve sticky toffee pudding (my preference is with custard, but, if you’re not familiar with this pudding, cream or ice cream also work well) or cold. The sauce on top sinks to the bottom to make a thin gooey layer, although this does seem to dry pretty quickly once the cake has been cut. The cup measurements below are all based on a 250 ml mug as equal to 1 cup and I baked it in a baking pan (actually a roasting tin) which measured about 12 inches long by 9 inches wide by 2 inches deep. This cake is quite sweet – decrease the sugar slightly if you’d prefer yours less sweet. You can also vary the taste slightly by using ground ginger in place of the mixed spice and/or add a generous handful of nuts, such as walnuts of pecans, either to the cake batter or sprinkled on top after adding the sauce. If you’d like extra sauce to serve alongside the cake, make another batch using the same quantities as those given below, but with extra milk or cream to bring it to an easy pouring consistency.
What you’ll need:
For the cake:
250 gram package of stoned dates
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups self-raising flour
1 heaped teaspoon ground mixed spice
For the sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
What to do:
1. Roughly chop the dates. Put them in a heatproof bowl and then cover them with the water and set them aside for later.
2. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F) and grease the pan well with butter or margarine.
3. In a new, clean bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer.
4. Beat the eggs into the creamed butter and sugar, one at a time, with an electric mixer.
5. Sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into the butter/sugar/egg mixture and fold in.
6. Tip the soaked dates and any unabsorbed water into the butter/sugar/egg/flour mixture and fold in thoroughly. My batter looked slightly curdled at this stage – probably because my butter and eggs were pretty cool; however, it did not seem to affect the cake so don’t worry if yours looks curdled too.
7. Tip the cake batter into the greased pan and spread out evenly across the pan and then set aside whilst you make the sauce.
8. To make the sauce, put in a small saucepan the butter, sugar and milk and then put the pan over a low heat. You may need to give it a quick mix once or twice or swill the milk/melting butter around the bottom edges of the pan to ensure that all the sugar is incorporated. The butter and sugar should soon melt fully and the mixture will reach a rolling boil. Once this point is reached, keep the pan over the heat for a further minute or so, at boiling point, and then remove from the heat. Leave the sauce to cool in the pan for a minute or two.
9. When the sauce has cooled slightly, pour it over the top of the cake batter and then swirl it into the batter with the end of a butter knife.
10. Bake the cake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until done. You will need to test it but checking to see that it is beginning to pull away from the sides and is springy to the touch – a skewer may not come out clean as the sauce will have settled at the bottom of the pan and made a thin layer of gooey goodness. Please excuse the little bit of ‘quality control’ in the corner of the pan – I was initially confused when this came out of the oven as the cake looked cooked but I didn’t expect the gooey layer at the bottom and so was confused about why my skewer wasn’t coming out clean…
11. When the cake has cooked, remove it from the oven and either leave to cool in the pan on a cooling rack or serve immediately with your choice of sauces and accompaniments.