Travel Nostalgia in the Kitchen: Sticky Toffee Pudding

There are a lot of foods I missed when I was in the UK. Cheez-Its were nowhere to be found, Reese’s Puffs cost £10 a box at the local candy shop, and of course I missed the coffee and chocolates from my favorite local shops in Oswego. But now that I’ve been back for nearly 7 months, I think I’d gladly trade all that for my favorite British foods — Cadbury dairy milk bars, Ribena, prawn cocktail crisps, quality tea, and of course sticky toffee pudding.

Sticky toffee pudding is not, in the American sense, pudding. It’s not custard-y and it doesn’t come from one of those little Jell-O mixes. If it was, I wouldn’t miss it a bit, because that shit is gross. Thing is, in the UK, just like biscuit doesn’t mean something savory that you serve with chicken, pudding doesn’t mean what you think it means either. Sticky toffee pudding is like a super-moist sponge cake and it is delicious. It’s also kind of ubiquitous there — I first tried it at the Stanmer Tea Rooms, and when I was too lazy to hike over the hill to get some there, I’d pick up a package of it at the Co-op and stick it in the microwave for dinner. #responsibleadult

In America, though, it sure doesn’t show up in the refrigerated foods section and I haven’t even seen it on any menus. So, you know, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. Google pointed me to a recipe from Bon Appetit and I set off to try and make it myself.

My finished product.

Bon Appetit’s Sticky Toffee Pudding

You’ll need:

(For the pudding)

  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (~6 oz) pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs

(For the sauce)

  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and tackle the pudding first.

  • Bring dates and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan with tall sides. Remove from heat, stir in baking soda, then set aside and let cool. The baking soda should make the mixture foamy.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.
  • Use an electric mixer to beat butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend into a grainy mixture. Blend in one egg. Add half of date mixture and half of flour mixture, then beat to blend. Repeat with remaining egg, then with remaining date and flour mixtures.
  • Grease a Bundt pan and pour in the mixture. Make sure the pan is well-greased, I missed a couple of spots and had trouble getting the cake out of the pan later.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean — for me, it took precisely 40 minutes.
  • Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for half an hour. Bon Appetit recommends that you then invert it onto the rack to cool further, but I just put it on a plate and it was fine, so do whatever’s most convenient for you.

While the cake’s in the oven, you can whip up the super-easy toffee sauce.

  • Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once boiling, continue to stir for 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
  • Can be refrigerated and rewarmed if necessary — after refrigerating overnight, I microwaved mine for 30 seconds, stirred it up, and it was good to go.

When I had this dish at the Stanmer Tea Rooms, it was always a single-serve portion, so the slices of Bundt were a bit different presentation-wise. But in terms of taste, this recipe is on point. It’s somewhat time-consuming and it leaves you with a mountain of dirty dishes, but oh man is it worth it.

Pair a slice with a cup of tea and you've got yourself a fantastic snack.
Pair a slice with a cup of tea and you’ve got yourself a fantastic snack.
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