I once walked along the line of Hadrian’s Wall from Newcastle (on the west coast) to Bowness-on-Solway (on the east coast) over a period of 8 days. Every evening we ate at the local pub and almost every evening I’d finish my meal off with a sticky toffee pudding. I just couldn’t get enough of it and it felt totally guilty free – surely I deserved it after all that walking! For years I only ever ate sticky toffee pudding as a special treat when eating out but then I came across this recipe, attempted to make it myself, and that was when I discovered the secret.
You see I know why sticky toffee pudding is nearly always on the dessert menu in pubs and restaurants. Firstly, it’s not particularly difficult to make, secondly, it keeps for up to a week in a tin, thirdly, it can be frozen, and fourthly, and most importantly, it tastes pretty much the same reheated in the microwave as it does fresh from the oven. Don’t be put off by the fact that there are two separate elements (sponge and sauce) and some whizzing of dates in a food processor – it’s really not that complicated (although there is a little more washing up than an all in one sponge cake).
This recipe is adapted from the one in James Martin’s book ‘Desserts’ – nauseatingly subtitled ‘a fabulous collection of recipes from Sweet Baby James’ (seriously, who came up with that TV series title?). He in turn attributes the recipe to the owners of the Sharrow Bay Hotel on the banks of Lake Ullswater in the Lake District who he believes invented the dish. Apparently there is some dispute over this, but regardless of who thought it up, in my view it’s one of the best puddings there is.
I’ve also included a recipe for classic vanilla ice cream which makes a perfect accompaniment. It also tastes wonderful with just the toffee sauce if you have no room left for stodge and the end of a meal.
Sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce
Serves at least 9 cut into squares but I would recommend slicing into 18 small rectangles as it is really rich (especially with toffee sauce and ice cream)
For the sticky toffee pudding
- 55g soft butter, plus 15g for greasing
- 175g demerara sugar
- 200g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 ½ tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 ½ tablespoons black treacle
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 200g pitted dates
- 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda
For the toffee sauce
- 100g demerara sugar
- 100g butter
- 200ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 190oC fan.
Grease a 20cm squared tin (or one with the same area) with 15g of butter, then dust the inside of the tin with flour.
Mix the sugar and butter together with an electric hand whisk or by hand with a wooden spoon. Then add the golden syrup, black treacle, eggs and vanilla extract and mix again for a minute or so until well combined. Add the flour and fold into the mixture carefully with a metal spoon.
Put the dates in a saucepan with 300ml of cold water and bring to the boil. Transfer to a blender and whizz up for a minute until smooth. Add the tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda and whizz again for a second. The mixture will foam up quite excitingly.
While it is still hot tip the date mix into the other ingredients and fold with the metal spoon until well combined.
Transfer to your prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack, before cutting into portion sized squares or rectangles. I like to trim the edges if I’m trying to be fancy but these are perfectly good to eat as leftovers. If you are making this pudding in advance then wrap in foil when it is completely cool and store in a cake tin or Tupperware.
For the toffee sauce put the sugar and butter into a saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream and bring to boiling point. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes until the sauce has turned golden and has started to thicken.
When you are ready to serve you just need to reheat the sauce in the pan on the hob or in a jug in the microwave for a minute or two. The sponge can be reheated as a whole in the oven covered with foil for about 5 minutes at 180oC fan or in individual portions in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
You can also freeze individual portions of toffee and sauce.
The prepared tin.
The frothy date mixture.
When the toffee sauce has turned this colour remove it from the heat.
Vanilla Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 pints
- 4 egg yolks
- 100g caster sugar
- 300ml milk
- 300ml double cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar together.
Heat the milk in a saucepan slowly until it is almost boiling and then stir this into the egg and sugar mixture.
Tip the whole lot back into the pan and place on a medium heat stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Whatever you do don’t let it boil or it will curdle and ruin.
Cover the mixture and leave it to cool first to room temperature and then in the fridge. Stir in the cream and the vanilla extract and churn in an ice cream maker until thick. Place in a plastic container and transfer to the freezer to finish hardening.
NOTE: I have a Magimix Le Glacier ice cream maker – the cheaper sort where you have to freeze the bowl overnight before using. If you don’t have an ice cream maker then you can still follow this recipe but you will need to whip the double cream first before adding it to the milk/egg/sugar mixture. Fold the cream into the custard and then freeze, beating every couple of hours with a fork or in a food processor until it is firm enough to scoop (usually about 6 hours).