Sticky toffee pudding is a classic English dessert. The traditional version of the recipe calls for a steamed date cake that is drenched in toffee sauce after cooking. The result is a cake that is moist, sweet and – of course – very sticky. I am a big fan of sticky toffee pudding because I love the richness of it, and it is hard to resist all that butter and brown sugar. I am not a big fan of steamed cakes, however, and find that I get even better results with my Sticky Toffee Pudding by baking them.
My Sticky Toffee Pudding starts out with a cake made with brown sugar and dates, just like the classic recipe. The dates have a natural sweetness to them that goes well with the brown sugar. They must be soaked before you can bake with them to rehydrate and soften them, then they are pureed in the food processor (or chopped as finely as you can if working by hand) with their soaking liquid and added to the batter.
Once the cakes have baked, a buttery toffee sauce is poured over them. The toffee sauce is fairly thick and it can be difficult to encourage the cakes to absorb it, so I always poke a few holes in my cakes to help it get inside. Since the sauce is thick, I recommend using a skewer or even a chopstick, rather than a toothpick for pricking the holes. I place all my baked cakes in a large baking dish, douse them with syrup, then turn them over (poking more holes as necessary) and give them a second coat. Any remaining syrup should be reserved for serving, and the cakes should be reheated in the oven or microwave before you plate them.
This English classic also happens to be Gordon Ramsay’s signature dessert and it appears on the menu at every restaurant that he is affiliated with. The chef at the Gordon Ramsay at the London Hotel here in LA, was kind enough to outline his recipe for their version of the pudding for me. I don’t often ask for a recipe at a restaurant, but this one was just too good to resist. There, it is served warm with homemade brown butter ice cream, which is a delicious accompaniment. It is also very good just as it is, with extra warm sauce poured over the top before serving.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
1/2 cup boiling water
8 oz dates, seeds removed
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 recipe Toffee Sauce (below)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan.
In a small bowl, combine boiling water and dates. Allow to stand for 15 minutes to soften the dates, then transfer mixture to a food processor and process until mixture is smooth. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. Blend in date mixture until completely incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of flour remain.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin pan.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn them out of the pan.
Place all the cakes right side up in a large baking dish or rimmed sheet pan. Use a chopstick or skewer to poke 6-8 holes in the top of each cake. Spoon warm toffee sauce over the cakes and allow it to soak in.
Turn the cakes upside down (so the bottom is facing up). Poke more holes and spoon toffee sauce over the cakes again. The exterior of the cakes should be completely covered in sauce.
Serve cakes slightly warm, drizzled with any remaining sauce.
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp bourbon (optional)
While the cakes are baking, combine all ingredients except the bourbon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a spatula to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the bourbon. Allow to cool slightly then spoon over baked cakes as directed above.