Published September 1, 2008.
Studded with dates and coated in a sweet toffee sauce, this moist, rich cake is a British favorite. How would it translate to the American kitchen?
Too many versions of sticky toffee pudding cake are sickeningly saccharine or possess the bland, floury flavor of undercooked pancakes.
We wanted a cake packed full of date flavor, with a tolerable sweetness level and a moist, tender crumb.
This pudding cake is not complicated—it's a simple batter of flour, butter, sweetener, and eggs to which dates are added. Tweaking ingredients produced most of our desired improvements. We cut down the conventional amount of butter but kept the sauce rich and flavorful—eggs and all-purpose flour gave our sauce body and stability. We maximized the fruit flavor by first soaking the dates, then processing only a portion with sugar while leaving the remainder coarsely chopped. We broke with tradition when it came to choosing the sweetener. Typically treacle is used, but it’s almost impossible to find stateside. Brown sugar proved a good substitute. The toffee sauce also required tweaking the butter-sugar ratio as well as a splash of rum and of lemon juice to cut through the sticky richness.
We also needed to alter the technique a bit. Some recipes call for simply placing the ramekins in the oven or baking them in a water bath. But baked without steam, the puddings were unappealingly dry. The best approach was placing the batter-filled ramekins in a roasting pan, adding boiling water, and then covering the pan with aluminum foil before baking. (It proved to be especially important that the aluminum foil form an airtight seal around the pan.) Finally, to bring everything together, we poked the cakes with a toothpick to allow the sauce to be thoroughly absorbed.list of recipes