What is sticky toffee pudding?
Sticky toffee pudding is a British dessert composed of a moist date-based sponge cake, fully covered with a toffee sauce. It is traditionally served with vanilla ice-cream or vanilla custard. This modern classic English delicacy is known as sticky date pudding in Australia as well as New Zealand
What is the origin of sticky toffee pudding?
There are three main theories about the origin of this decadent British dessert.
Despite a lot of controversy, it seems that the original Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe was developed by Francis Coulson at the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel in the Lake District, north west of England. The hotel was purchased in 1948 by Mr Coulton, joined by his co-owner Brian Sack only 4 years later. The recipe of the “icky sticky toffee sponge” appeared on the menu in the 1970s.
Coulson admitted that he got the idea from a recipe by Patricia Martin, who first served the dessert at her hotel, The Old Rectory in Claughton, in Lancashire. She herself obtained the recipe from two Canadian air force officers who had stayed at her hotel during the Second World War. Patricia Martin published the sticky toffee pudding recipe in a compilation that eventually became The Good Food Guide Dinner Party Book. It is also said that the recipe may have been inspired by Brian Sack’s time as a Royal Air Force Spitfire pilot, where he saw Canadian RAF Pilots use maple syrup.
Francis Coulson’s recipe for the sticky toffee pudding is such a culinary secret that each member of staff at Sharrow Bay has to sign a secrecy agreement that forbids them from revealing the recipe that is kept in the vault of the hotel. Coulson’s and Martin’s recipes actually only differ in the sauce.
The second theory is based on the belief that the dessert originated from Scotland. The main reason being that “Nobody loves sugar more than the Scots!” The paternity of the sticky toffee pudding aka STP is claimed by two Scottish hotels, the Udny Arms, in Newburgh, which supposedly started serving the dessert in 1967, as well as as the Saplinbrae House in Mintlaw.
The third theory claims that the sticky toffee pudding was invented in 1907 by the landlady of the Gait Inn in Millington, Yorkshire. Current landlord Stuart Stephenson, however, is not as certain: “We still serve sticky toffee pudding here but don’t know the origins. Many people drop in to try it and we don’t know whether there’s a bogus story linking us to the pudding on the web.”
Soaked cake around the world
The concept of soaking a cake in a syrup or a liquid in not new, and there are several examples of such cakes around the globe.
The malva pudding is a South African cake that is very similar to the sticky toffee pudding in its execution. However, it contains apricot jam instead of dates. It also has a spongy caramelized texture, and is served with a creamy sauce poured over it while it is still hot. It is traditionally served with custard and/or ice-cream.
The popular Central American tres leches cake is also a sponge cake. This time, the cake is soaked in three kinds of milk, namely evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream.
The dessert known as basbousa or harisah (aricha) in Egypt and many Middle-Eastern and North African countries, is a semolina cake that is soaked in a sugar syrup, often traditionally perfumed with orange blossom or rose water.
The baba au rhum (rum baba) is a small cake that is soaked in a syrup prepared with hard liquor (usually rum). It can be filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. This classic French pastry was created in the early 18th century.
Tiramisu is another classic soaked cake. This deliciously decadent Italian dessert is prepared with ladyfingers that are soaked in coffee, and layered with a mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavored with cocoa.
Rum cake is a holiday season dessert that is popular all over the Caribbean. Dried fruits are traditionally soaked in rum for months and then added to the dough.
Most Middle Eastern and North African pastries are traditionally soaked in a sugar syrup, often flavored with citrus, orange blossom water or rose water. Some of the most popular pastries using this technique include baklava, thiples, debla, yoyo, samsa, makroud or griouech to name a few.
This sticky toffee pudding was a monster hit at home. Each bite delivers a wonderful combination of gooey caramel and squidgy chopped dates. The vanilla ice cream is a perfect pairing, offering a refreshing creamy contrast to this otherwise ultra rich and decadent dessert.
- 1¼ cup chopped dried pitted dates
- ¾ cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
- 2 tablespoons black treacle (molasses)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 knob butter (to grease the baking dish)
- ½ cup unsalted butter , softened
- 1½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon black treacle (molasses)
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- Baking dish (11x8 inches / 24 x 28 cm)
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.
- Lightly grease the baking dish.
- Add the dates, boiling water and baking soda into a bowl. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Whip the butter and black treacle together in a stand mixer until well incorporated.
- Add the sugar and mix again.
- Add an egg and keep beating until incorporated, then add the other egg and continue beating to incorporate.
- Reduce the speed, then add the flour and baking powder until obtaining a thick smooth batter.
- Pour the chopped dates and their liquid into the batter, then beat gently to incorporate.
- Pour the batter into the baking dish.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 minutes.
- Melt the butter, brown sugar and treacle in a saucepan over very low heat.
- Stir gently until everything is melted.
- Then stir in the heavy cream, and increase the heat.
- When it starts bubbling, take the saucepan off the heat.
- As the cake is out of the oven, prick the pudding with a fork all over its surface.
- Pour about a third of the sauce over, making sure that the sponge cake is entirely covered.
- Put a lid on the remaining sauce in the pan to keep it warm.
- Set the pudding aside for 30 minutes.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream or custard, and the rest of the toffee sauce.