Sticky Toffee Pudding is a deliciously moist, date-speckled cake drenched in a warm butterscotch-toffee sauce. It’s a classic and iconic dessert popular in Britain, Scotland and Ireland, and it’s easy to see why!
A little quick terminology: the word “pudding” is misleading for those of us not from the United Kingdom where it is more of a generic term meaning “dessert”. Our idea of pudding in America is more equivalent to what the British or Irish might refer to as a custard. So you could think of this more as “sticky toffee dessert” or to be more specific, “sticky toffee cake”, if that helps.
Now, I’m making no claims to this being an authentic Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe. Like I mentioned in my post about Dublin Coddle (which, by the way, is the perfect thing to eat before having this for dessert!), while my heritage is predominantly Irish, I’ve never been to Ireland myself and didn’t grow up eating Irish food in my home. But if you are looking for the perfect dessert to serve on St. Patrick’s Day, one that you might find in Ireland and not just something dyed green with food coloring, Sticky Toffee Pudding is delicious and the way to go!
While researching this recipe, I learned that there are a lot of different approaches to making this moist, rich, sticky dessert. I couldn’t for the life of me find anything that explained with authority what a truly authentic sticky toffee pudding would be like other than it most definitely needs to be made with dates soaked in hot water and baking soda. Other than that, some versions are steamed, some contain treacle or golden syrup (a sweetener that is difficult to come by in the U.S.) in the sauce, others have it in the cake itself, other versions include molasses, some call for white sugar, some for brown, nuts or no nuts, etc. and so forth!
Not to be deterred, I went ahead and made a version using only ingredients that are readily available in the U.S., all of which I already had on hand in my pantry, thanks to an impulse purchase of Medjool dates at Costco a while back.
You can bake the date cakes in individual ramekins, muffin tins, or even mugs, if you like. I have a couple of mugs that have dome-shaped bases that I thought would create a fun look for these cakes and they worked perfectly as ramekin stand-ins since they are essentially the same thing. In fact, I ended up choosing the cakes made in the mugs for these photos because I liked how they were not as squat as the cakes made in the ramekins and had a fun, unique shape to them.
I haven’t tried using mugs as ramekin substitutes for Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes yet but I’m guessing they would work just as well there too! Just make sure to divide your batter evenly between 6 similarly sized oven safe containers and pop them in the oven on a baking sheet.
Make sure not to overbake these as part of the magic of a Sticky Toffee Pudding is its, well, stickiness, not just from the sauce but the cake itself, and if you overbake it you will end up with dry, not-so-sticky cake, which will spoil the effect. Definitely err on the side of underbaking, rather than overbaking.
You must, must, must serve your Sticky Toffee Pudding warm. The butterscotch-toffee sauce soaks into the rich warm cake and creates a totally unique dessert experience.
Because I don’t plan ahead and don’t like to wait, we ate these the night I made them, while still warm from the oven. But I read somewhere along the way that apparently, you really are SUPPOSED to make the cakes and the sauce in advance, let them cool completely, then reheat both to serve. Like, the next day. Um, what…? That’s not how dessert works in this household.
Blarney, I say. I’m eating it day of when it’s still warm out of the oven. Maybe next time I’ll save enough to try it again the next day and see if the reheating method changes the flavors at all.
Oh, and one final note is that you can serve these just as they are, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or drizzled with a little bit of cream, which was utterly delicious. I definitely recommend trying that last approach.
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