Sticky, gooey and spongy with a luxuriously delicious toffee flavor, one bite of this famous dessert will have you hooked for life!
Dessert just doesn’t get any better than this!
Unlike many of the other very old, traditional British recipes I’ve published, this one is a modern classic. Though thought to have originated more “recently” in the 1940’s, Sticky Toffee Pudding quickly became a popular dessert and today this date sponge cake drizzled with toffee sauce stands as one of Great Britain’s most iconic and beloved desserts.
A Brief History of Sticky Toffee Pudding
While Francis Coulson is commonly credited as having created it in the 1960’s at his Sharrow Bay Country House in the Lake District of England (where he was the first to make and sell it commercially), sticky toffee pudding’s origins go back a few decades earlier. Though there is some debate as to its exact origins, food historians believe it was first introduced by Patricia Martin, a hotel manager in Lancashire, in the 1940’s. Francis Coulson years later during an interview admitted that Mrs. Martin had given him the recipe and that he made some slight adaptations. So where did Mrs. Martin get it? It is believed that the recipe was shared with Mrs. Martin by two Canadian soldiers who were staying at her hotel during World War II. Years later her son reported that his mother had received it from a “Canadian friend.” In either case the finger points to Canada.
A Canadian origin makes sense because sticky toffee pudding is not like most other traditional dessert “puddings” in the British sense of the word. It isn’t steamed like Spotted Dick or Christmas Pudding, it isn’t baked in a pudding mold (it’s usually a sheet cake), and its batter is more like an American muffin than a traditional English sponge.
On a side note, Sticky Toffee Pudding is also very similar to its Australian cousin, Sticky Date Pudding, which is also excellent.
In any case, having cherished it as a favorite national dessert for nearly 80 years and spreading its fame across the world, I think England has earned the right to celebrate Sticky Toffee Pudding as a quintessential British dessert. So to our Canadian friends we say “THANK YOU” for creating this delectable dessert and to our British friends for making it famous!
And of course in the end all the really matters is that this dessert is absolutely incredible and you absolutely must make it – pronto!
I was first introduced to Sticky Toffee Pudding when I lived in England. During those 6 wonderful years I was introduced to a great many things that I fell in love with, and sticky toffee pudding was one of them. My husband likewise lived in the UK for a couple of years as a young man and had this dessert many times, though only the store-bought versions. He’s been asking me for years to make him some and when I finally did he was in absolute heaven.
We’re confident you’re going to love it, too!
This past Summer we took our kids on a 3-week vacation to Great Britain where we toured Scotland, Wales and England. One of our stops in the Lake District was the ancient village of Cartmel.
And we went there for a very specific (and delicious) reason.
Besides being famous for its 12th century priory, Cartmel is also home to what they claim is “The Best Sticky Toffee Pudding in the World.”
The Cartmel Village Shop (below left) is delightfully quaint with a variety of delicious treats and gift items. They also make and sell handmade puddings made with 100% all-natural ingredients. You can choose from a variety of flavors including Sticky Ginger Pudding, Sticky Banana Pudding, Sticky Chocolate Pudding, Sticky Toffee Apple Crumble, Christmas Pudding, Lemon Drizzle Pudding and, of course, Sticky Toffee Pudding. We grabbed a Lemon Drizzle and Sticky Toffee Pudding and were very eager to dive in.
Once we got to our vacation cottage we heated it up, took it outside on the deck, and all four of us went at it with spoons, scooping it up with such vigor that scarcely a crumb or drop remained after 3 minutes. So good!
When we got back home from our vacation I went to work replicating Cartmel’s delicious sticky toffee pudding in my own kitchen.
In my version you will experience a wonderfully flavorful, tender, slightly chewy and moist date-infused cake with a mouthwatering toffee sauce. Give it a try – we think it’s destined to become a regular part of your dessert lineup!
For a fun and attractive presentation we’re making individual sticky toffee puddings using a king-sized/jumbo muffin pan. Alternatively, you can also bake it in a 8×8 inch (or slightly bigger) buttered cake pan. Pour some of the toffee sauce over the cake (broil it briefly in the oven until bubbly if desired), cut and serve with extra toffee sauce on the side.
Let’s get started!
Coarsely chop the dates and place them in a bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and stir in the baking soda. Let the dates soak until cooled down. Using an immersion blender or placing them in a regular blender, puree the dates to make a chunky-smooth mixture (don’t puree it completely smooth).
In a large mixing bowl, cream the brown sugar and butter until smooth and pale.
Beat in the eggs and oil.
Add the black treacle and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Gradually beat in the flour mixture just until combined.
Add the chunky date puree and beat just until combined.
Generously butter a jumbo/king-sized muffin pan (holds roughly 1 cup).
Spoon the batter in until about 2/3 full.
In an oven preheated to 350 degrees F, bake the cakes on the middle rack for about 25 minutes (about 40 minutes if using the 8×8 inch cake pan) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for a few minutes in the tins and then remove and place them on wire rack.
OPTIONAL: For a more caramelized and moist cake, add about 2 teaspoons of brown sugar and 1/4 tablespoon of butter in the bottom of each muffin mold before spooning in the batter. We highly recommend it!
While the puddings are baking, prepare the English Toffee Sauce (this can also be made in advance and reheated).
Homemade English Toffee Sauce (click link for recipe)
Serve the puddings topped with English Toffee Sauce and, if desired, some ice cream, vanilla custard sauce or a drizzle of cream.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
- 6 ounces pitted dried dates , roughly chopped
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (a very sweet cake, I prefer to reduce it to 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter , softened at room temperature
- 2 large eggs , at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon neutral tasting oil
- 1 tablespoon black treacle (can substitute dark molasses)
- 1 teaspoon quality pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Homemade English Toffee Sauce , for serving
- Coarsely chop the dates and place them in a bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and stir in the baking soda. Let the dates soak until cooled down. Using an immersion blender or placing them in a regular blender, puree the dates to make a chunky-smooth mixture (don't puree it completely smooth).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large mixing bowl cream the brown sugar and butter until smooth and pale. Beat in the eggs and oil. Add the black treacle and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat in the flour mixture into the wet mixture just until combined. Add the chunky date puree and beat just until combined.
- Generously butter a jumbo/king-sized muffin pan (holds roughly 1 cup). Spoon the batter in until about 2/3 full. Bake the cakes on the middle rack for about 25 minutes (about 40 minutes if using the 8x8 inch cake pan - SEE NOTE) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for a few minutes in the tins and then remove and place them on wire rack.
- Optional: For a more caramelized and moist cake, add about 2 teaspoons of brown sugar and 1/4 tablespoon butter in the bottom of each muffin mold before spooning in the batter (see blog post pictures). We highly recommend it!