Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake is a deliciously moist, date cake drenched in a warm butterscotch-toffee sauce. It’s a classic and iconic British dessert popular in all of England, Scotland and Ireland, and it’s easy to see why!
When it comes to Harry Potter desserts, or authentic Irish dessert ideas for St. Patrick’s Day, this Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake is my favorite! It’s also perfect as an easy Christmas pudding if you want to celebrate Christmas in Victorian fashion!
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 pudding cake”, if that helps.
Now, I’m making no claims to this being an authentic Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake 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 Cake 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 cake 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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- 6 ounces pitted Medjool dates (about 1 cup or 8-10 dates), chopped
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- Pinch of coarse kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 6 individual ramekins or mugs or 9 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray.
Combine the chopped dates, boiling water, baking soda and vanilla in a bowl (or just put them together in a food processor to chop the dates) and let the dates soak for 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the butter and sugar and cream together using a mixer until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and mix well to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir just until combined. Do not overmix.
Fold in the dates and water just until combined, but do not overmix.
Divide the batter evenly between the ramekins, mugs, or muffin cups, then bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean and the top springs back at your touch. Don't overbake.
In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar and butter over medium heat. Cook and stir until the butter and sugar melt together, then lower heat to a simmer add the cream and salt, stirring and cooking for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
To serve, place one cake on each serving plate and top with toffee sauce and a little cream or vanilla ice cream.
The easiest way to pit your dates is to just tear them open with your fingers and dig the pits out. And since they are super sticky, rather than chopping them with a knife on a cutting board, I just dumped my dates, boiling water, baking soda and vanilla into the food process and pulsed a few times until the dates were chopped pretty fine and everything was combined. If you want to make these ahead of time, let the cakes cool completely and store them in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to serve them, drizzle each cake with some toffee sauce and heat in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes until warmed through. Lightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.
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