I love Sticky Toffee Pudding; it had become a Christmas holiday tradition since first trying it decades ago. I have to admit that at first the name sort of turned me off, you know that pudding business? But it’s an English dessert and an English thing; what they call pudding is by all rights a rich and dense cake. That is covered in a maple/toffee caramel sauce. Topped with some whipped cream with a bit of Irish Whiskey. Perfect right?
Well close. I haven’t made this dessert in the last couple of years and this time around I decided it needed the entire British Empire! Cake recipe from England (sort of), Whiskey from Ireland and Maple Syrup from Canada…all put together by a cook in the USA.!
This is really not what could be considered an ‘old’ English recipe; as a matter of fact some history indicates it’s not really English at all. A gentleman named Francis Coulson developed and served sticky toffee pudding at his Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel in the Lake District, a mountainous region in North West England, in the 1970’s. Food critic Simon Hopkinson reported that Coulson told him he got the recipe from a Patricia Martin of Claughton in Lancashire, England. Martin had published the recipe in a compilation that later became The Good Food Guide Dinner Party Book, and first served the dish at her country hotel. As the story further unfolds, her son later told Hopkinson that she had originally been given the recipe by two Canadian air force officers who had lodged at her hotel during the Second World War. This Canadian origin makes sense, as the pudding referred to results in a cake more similar to that of an American muffin, rather than an English sponge.
I mentioned last month when I posted this recipe for Maple Roasted Turkey with Sage and Bacon that I’m working with The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers as a Brand Ambassador. Do you know what a lovely job that is? My role is to develop some recipes using maple syrup. Really? That’s a job? I don’t suppose it would fly if I just did a post one day with a photo of me guzzling from the bottle would it? I could do it. I love the stuff. Which makes me wonder…who doesn’t? I have yet to hear one person say, “Oh no Barb, please anything but maple syrup on those pancakes!” It’s like a universal love connection although I have to admit, I might have taken love to a new level. There might be some obsession involved. If I can use maple syrup in a recipe for turkey you can imagine I don’t think there are many things that won’t benefit from it’s presence. This cake? No brainer indeed.
My goal was not to make the cake taste like a maple cake, it is after all a date cake, but I wanted to include the syrup as one more ingredient that would result in an appealing flavor profile. There is a bit of the syrup in the cake and another bit in the toffee caramel sauce and together I do think it’s safe to pronounce this fact to be true; it is truly divine. Something about an older recipe with years of tradition combined with a warm cake, a delicious sauce and some slightly boozy whipped cream that just screams ‘HOLIDAY!’ doesn’t it? Yes, it’s rich but that’s good; this cake will serve a nice size crowd. Served after a holiday dinner or at a party, it’s just a little slice of heaven.
A very British dessert that is perfect for the holidays.
For the Cake
- 8 ounces dates, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups packed)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (packed golden brown sugar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 4 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
- 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
For the Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 3/4 (packed) dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Whipped Cream sweetened with powdered sugar
- 1-2 Tablespoons Irish Whiskey (optional)
To Make the Cake:
- Pour boiling water over dates and let cool, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Butter 9-10 spring form pan. Line bottom with parchment paper and butter paper.
- Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl to blend. Add maple syrup and mix well.
- Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add half of flour and beat to blend. Add remaining 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Add remaining flour and beat until blended.
- Combine instant coffee and baking soda in small bowl. Pour into date mixture, stirring to dissolve coffee granules. This will foam slightly. Once granules are dissolved, pour date mixture into batter and beat to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean. 50-60 minutes.
- Cool pudding until just warm. Un-mold, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
To Make the Caramel Sauce:
- Bring cream, brown sugar, butter and maple syrup to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer sauce until reduced to 1 3/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Before using, re-warm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.)
- Gently combine the Irish Whiskey with the whipped cream if using.
- Cut the sticky toffee pudding into wedges and serve with Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream.
Can be a royal pain...but I've found that adding some sugar to the mix helps a lot. Whether in your processor or if using a knife; sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and it helps to keep things from sticking and making this part of the job one you hate!
I have been compensated for featuring Canadian Maple Syrup in this post however all commentary is my own.