Makes 12 -16

When moving to the UK for a while I didn’t think I was speaking the same language as everyone around me. The small words that didn’t line up. Words like nappie, bin, vest, tube, underground, all meant something different, but nothing in my brain was able to line up Pudding. Pudding in America was a type of dessert of the jiggly kind, it came in two flavors: vanilla and chocolate, and if you were really lucky sometimes butterscotch. That was pudding.

In the UK, Pudding is so much more, it at times acts as the all-encompassing term for the dessert course. And at others refers to a specific dessert itself, but there is also a world of savory puddings that hark back to medieval times.

While I contemplate the sheer magnitude of the word pudding. Allow me to offer you the recipe for one of the very best versions of a British pudding. The Sticky Toffee variety. Had someone told me the first time I ate one, that dates were involved I most probably would have given it a pass. But the sticky toffee pudding was not just a revelation but also helped me get over my date phobia and embrace dates in all other recipes as well.

Cook’s notes: I have over the years added an extra step to this recipe. After the date and boiling water mixture has cooled down, I puree it. This is an additional and not strictly necessary step. I added it because my children inherited my date phobia, and were happy to eat this as long as there were no large pieces of dates in evidence, thus the puree. Do what works best for you, either way, the results are delicious.

For the sponge cake:

  • 160g (1 ¼ cups) stoned chopped dates
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 300ml (1 ¼ cups) boiling water
  • 175g (1 ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon) plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 175g (¾ cup) butter (or vegan alternative), softened
  • 175g (¾ cup + 1 tablespoon) dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg

For the sauce:

  • 100g (7 tablespoons) butter (or vegan alternative)
  • 100g (½ cup) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 100ml (6 ¾ tablespoons) double/heavy cream (or non-dairy alternative)

For serving:

  • A pinch of flakey sea salt (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 180℃ (350℉). Grease the pudding molds or cupcake tin (pan) very very well and set aside.
  2. Place the dates and baking soda in a heatproof jug and top with the boiling water, give it a stir and leave to cool to lukewarm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Optional step; using a handheld blender puree the lukewarm date miniature and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the butter (or vegan alternative) and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg until well combined. Gently mix in the flour mixture, removing the bowl from the mixer stand and finishing up the mixing using a spatula.
  5. Stir the dates and their liquid (or puree) into the batter, making sure it is well incorporated.
  6. Fill the prepared pudding cups or cupcake tin with the batter, DO NOT OVERFILL, fill up to ¾ of the way but no more. If you have leftover batter, fill more molds/tin/pan whatever you have to hand.
  7. Bake 15-18 minutes (depending on size) until firm when gently pressed in the center.
  8. Remove from oven and leave to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out, serve warm, topped with sauce and only one or two flakes of salt

For Sauce:

  1. Melt the butter (or vegan alternative) with the sugar and bourbon over low heat, then bring to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream (or vegan alternative). Pour into a heatproof serving jug.

****To serve on a Friday night, if you are careful about heating food on Shabbat. Place the sauce in a heat proof jar with a heat proof lid and close tightly. Place a pot of just boiled water on a hot plate, submerge the sealed jar of sauce in the water, so that the water comes up ⅔ of the way on the outside of the jar, cover the pot with the lid. Keep the cakes near the hot plate, so they are a bit warmer than room temperature. Once ready to serve, place the cakes on a serving dish or individual dessert dishes and top with sauce and no more than one or two flakes of salt per cake.