It’s been years since I’ve made a sticky date pudding. I really cannot tell why it took me so long to get back to this too-good-to-be-true dessert when I had the main ingredient, i.e. dates, freezing to a rock at the back of my fridge. These dark, shrivelled fruits from the palm tree, the phoenix dactylifera, are very popular during the Ramadan period where they are traditionally used to break the fast along with water.

Dates are sweet, maybe overly sweet for some, with a high concentration of simple sugars. They also contain health-benefitting antioxidants and are a good source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein, and xanthine when eaten fresh. When boiled with soda bicarb, they give off a funny smell and do not look so good; you might think that you got it wrong at that point but hold on. Keep yourself from throwing away the whole thing and tip it into your batter. Trust me, it’s gonna turn out to be one of your best bakes ever!

Because I have un petit faible for recipes by David Lebovitz, I urge you to try the same and by all means,do add the candied ginger. It makes all the difference to the classic sticky date pudding you have known all along. In my opinion, the pudding is definitely better when it has absorbed most of that lovely toffee sauce as you let it soak overnight.

STICKY TOFFEE DATE PUDDING

Ingredients:

For the Toffee Sauce

2 cups (500ml) heavy cream

1/2 cup (90g) demerara or muscovado sugar (or another dark brown sugar)

2 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup or molasses

pinch of salt

For the Pudding

6 ounces (180g) pitted dates, snipped or chopped

1 cup (250ml) water

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup (40g) candied ginger, chopped

1 1/4 cups (175g) flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F (190C) and butter an 8 1/2-inch (24cm) porcelain soufflé dish (or similar-sized baking dish.)
  • Bring cream, sugar, golden syrup (or molasses) and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring often to melt the sugar.

  • Lower heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and coats the spoon.
  • Pour half the sauce into the prepared soufflé dish and place the dish in the freezer, and reserve the other half for serving.

  • To make the pudding, in a medium saucepan, heat the dates and water. Once the water begins to boil, remove from heat.
  • Stir in the baking soda. Add the ginger, if using, then set aside, but keep it slightly warm.

  • In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

  • Gradually beat in the eggs, then the vanilla. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks a bit curdled.
  • Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the date mixture, then add the remaining flour mixture until just mixed.

  • Don’t overbeat the batter. Remove the soufflé dish from the freezer and scrape the batter into the soufflé dish.
  • Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.

  • Remove the pudding from the oven, and let cool slightly before serving. Spoon portions of the cake into serving bowls.
  • Douse with additional warm toffee sauce. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream are good accompaniments. Serves 8.

  • To make the pudding in advance, bake the cake without the toffee in the bottom. Let cool, then cover until close to serving time.
  • Poke the cake with a skewer. Distribute half of the sauce on top, cover with foil, then re-warm in a 300F (150C) oven, for 30 minutes.
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