My friend Lucy throws amazing bonfire night parties and at one, a couple of years ago, she made this. Now, I don’t like sticky toffee pudding or any sort of steamed pudding or treacle tart or anything like that. They all make me feel ‘claustrophobic in my mouth’ is the only way I can describe it. So when my partner said “have you tried this sticky toffee pudding” I said “er no, I hate that sort of thing.”
But he persisted and it was so good I ate his portion and then immediately asked Lucy for the recipe. It comes from a book called Friends at My Table by Alice Hart, which seems to be out of print now. And I wanted the original recipe so badly that I actually tracked it down and bought it second hand.
I’ve made this a few times, although nothing comes close to what I remember Lucy’s being like. It makes quite a lot but I’m pleased to report it freezes beautifully – (see note at the bottom).
It’s best made either the day before you want to serve it, or a few hours before and then reheat it before serving (as said, I do it piece by piece in the microwave but you could do the whole cake – or as much as you know you want to serve – in a 120C oven for about ten mins, you just want to revive it). This is in order to let the sauce soak in. But honestly if you serve it all immediately it’s just not the end of the world. But if you want to make the whole thing way in advance and freeze it, it works amazingly that way too – see note at the bottom.
The cakey pudding
250g medjool dates, stoned, chopped
100g dark brown sugar
150 unsalted butter, soft
4 little balls of that stem ginger you get in syrup, in jars – finely chop it (don’t throw away the syrup)
2 room temperature eggs
250g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
1 rounded teaspoon of ground ginger
a pinch of salt
60g finely chopped pecans (or walnuts will do but pecans better)
The toffee sauce
300ml of double cream
200g dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons of syrup from the ginger jar
a pinch of ground ginger
This is what you do
Oven to 180C. Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with baking parchment.
Cover the dates with 150ml boiling water and set aside for 20 mins or until you remember them (don’t throw away the liquid they’re in).
Beat together the sugar and butter either by hand or in a food mixer with the whisk attachment. Add three tablespoons of the syrup from the jar (this is separate to the 3 tablespoons you need for the sauce).
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Now add the flour, baking powder, ground ginger and salt. You can either fold these in gently or just add them to the processor bowl on a slow whisking speed. I am lazy and often do the latter. Add half the nuts, the chopped ginger and all the dates and their soaking water.
Pour into the tin and cook for about 45 mins. I have to check mine after 30 mins as my oven is capricious and does what the hell it wants.
Whilst that’s cooking, and when it’s about 20 mins from being ready, make the sauce as you’ll need to pour it on whilst the cake is warm, but the sauce is warm-but cooled slightly. Nothing is easy in good pudding making.
So to make the sauce you put all the sauce ingredients into the pan and simmer whilst stirring until they are all one beautiful sauce.
When the cake is baked and out of the oven, and the sauce is still warm you prick the cake all over with a skewer and pour over half the sauce (retain the other half for serving with the cake, later). This takes time and if the sauce has gone too cold then warm it up again. It needs to soak in. I don’t always get this right and I often end up with a cake that’s just got sauce on top. Lucy’s was wonderfully unctuous. It’s still nice but not really gooey.
It’s best if you cover and leave it over night, but see above.
To serve, sprinkle over the rest of the nuts and serve with the rest of the sauce (warmed through) and ice cream or cream.
Freezing note: This freezes amazingly well. Just cover with any remaining sauce/nuts and put in an air-tight box. If you wanted to make this way in advance, for a really easy pudding on the day, you could freeze the whole lot: just put all the sauce on the cake and all the nuts and freeze it. If you really wanted to you could then make extra sauce for pouring over on the day but really you don’t need to.
Defrost it for 24hours in the fridge and then either heat up the whole lot in the oven – I would probably do it at 160C for 20 mins for the whole cake but in truth have never done it so see how you go. What I do with left overs is microwave it piece by beautiful piece and then serve with cream.