A moist molasses-like cake topped with a sticky-sweet toffee sauce...this Sticky Toffee Pudding is quintessentially British and absolutely delicious!
It all started with Harry Potter.
My family was obsessed with the boy wizard...we read the books, listened to the audiobooks in the car, and went to all the movies (then bought them on DVD).
Yes, we were at Barnes & Noble at midnight for the release of books 6 & 7 (dressed up, of course). And while I wouldn’t let my then 9th grade younger daughter go to the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (it was a school night…a decision for which she still is grumbling), I relented the following year when Deathly Hallows, Part 1 came out.
I blame my complete ignorance of the Outlander books on having small children around (and no sleep) when they were first released in 1992, then our Harry Potter addiction completely consumed my reading back then.
Otherwise, I have no excuse as I love historical fiction, romance, and science fiction. Luckily, I eventually found Outlander (the show and the books) and have once again been consumed. I think I’m better for it.
Let's cook Harry-Potter-style
My younger daughter wanted to try and make the famous treacle tart that Harry so loved at Hogwarts. I had never heard of it before, but gamely decided to try. It seemed that the main ingredient was a British product called Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
Hmmmm…living in Southern California at the time, my access to Lyle’s was very limited (I actually had no idea where to find it). We eventually tracked down a can, and made the tart. I seem to recall that we liked it (it was very sweet), but never tried it again because of the hassle of finding the golden syrup.
So why am I babbling on about Harry Potter, treacle tarts, and Lyle’s? Well, I went to a Scottish Festival in Maine, and one of the vendors had a can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup on display. Coincidentally, I had just been to two different restaurants here in Boston that served Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert, and had since been wanting to try and make it at home.
As an important ingredient was the golden syrup, finding the can at the Festival seemed like a sign. And since I’m very into making British desserts these days (thanks, Outlander!), Sticky Toffee Pudding seemed like a good item to try.
What is Sticky Toffee Pudding?
To the British, pudding is a broader term referring to any dessert (although you can have savory puddings as well...think Yorkshire pudding). Here’s how pudding is defined at British Food: A History, "If you are British and trying to explain the word to a foreigner the answer is surprisingly difficult. In America, it is a simple answer: a dessert. ... The true puddings are those that are boiled or steamed. Christmas puddings, suet puddings and sponge puddings fit into this category. In fact, anything boiled or steamed in a basin, cloth or handy piece of intestinal tract is a pudding."
The site goes on that Sticky Toffee Pudding isn’t really a true pudding (it's not boiled or steamed), blah, blah, blah…frankly my head started to hurt and really, does it matter?
Let’s just agree that Sticky Toffee Pudding is a sponge cake made with chopped dates and served warm with toffee sauce (and vanilla ice cream).
(Why didn’t you say so in the first place?)
Finding an authentic Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe
I asked the members of one of my Outlander Facebook groups if they had a favorite Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe. I was pointed to several different online recipes, but a popular choice was Lyle’s Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe. That's the authentic British version that I adapted for an American kitchen.
To my American eye, the names of some of the ingredients (black treacle, bicarbonate of soda, stoned dates) seem exotic and precious. Maybe that’s just me.
Here's how I adapted Lyle's recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding for an American audience:
- I used Grandma’s Molasses (unsulfured, not blackstrap) for the black treacle
- Stoned dates just means pitted dates (get any Jerry Garcia references out of your head)
- Self-raising flour is just all-purpose flour with baking powder & salt added. For the 6 oz of flour in this recipe, I added 2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt
- Instead of one large pudding in a 9- x 9-inch baking pan the recipe calls for, I used six 4-oz ramekins and two 8-oz oven-safe bowls for ten servings total, and decreased the baking time to 30 minutes
- The individual puddings can be frozen (minus the toffee sauce) and reheated for later
By the way, I don't know if it was the specific can I purchased or a problem with Lyle's Golden Syrup in general, but when I held the can, there was a definite metallic taste on my fingers. I had to wash my hands each and every time before proceeding to the next step.
Maybe some kind soul can tell me if this is normal.
How to make Sticky Toffee Pudding
The method for making this recipe differs slightly from that for a normal cake because you need to soften the dates prior to their use. Other than that, the rest of the method is the same...creaming the sugars with the butter, adding eggs and vanilla, then mixing in the flour and the dates. Easy peasy.
Creating the toffee sauce is just as simple...throw everything into a pot and heat until the brown sugar is melted. It really doesn't get any easier than that.
Sticky Toffee Pudding at home
The final product? Absolutely wonderful! Sticky Toffee Pudding has the deep flavor of a molasses cake or gingerbread, but much sweeter. The toffee sauce is yummy on its own poured over ice cream, or eaten straight with a spoon (although I will not confirm nor deny having done that).
I liked having the serving size portion controlled. The 3-oz ramekin was a good individual serving, although I would have shared it (maybe) so as not to over-indulge. I’ve even seen recipes where the puddings were baked in a standard muffin pan.
Pairing this dessert with a cocktail from Hochstadter's Rock & Rye was exceptional. I can see also pairing it with a smoky Highland scotch to balance the sweet with the smoke.
Sticky Toffee Pudding is definitely going into my repertoire, especially since it’s something not often made in these parts.
I've since used Lyle's Golden Syrup to make Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge, and believe me when I say it's better for it! Now you have to excuse me…I hear toffee sauce calling to me…
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
More recipes for British desserts
Do you want to continue with our focus on British desserts? How about holding a High Tea?
Traditional High Tea (or more technically, Cream Tea) calls for Cream Scones with jam and clotted cream. But other finger treats or tea cakes are great as well. Here are some ideas to try...
Scone & condiment recipes
Cookies, tarts, and tea cake recipes
- Shortbread Cookies
- Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Mini Lemon Tarts
- Pound Cake
- Pumpkin Bread
- Honey Cake
- Limoncello Cake
- Mint Lemon Lime Bars
Authentic British Sticky Toffee Pudding
- 1¼ cups dates, pitted, roughly chopped (6 oz, 175g)
- 1 cup water, (8 oz, 227g)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature (3 oz, 85g)
- 6 Tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup, (4-1/2 oz, 125g)
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, (2 oz, 50g)
- 1 Tbsp molasses, unsulfured, not blackstrap
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour, (6 oz, 175g)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, (3 oz, 85g)
- 4½ Tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup, (3-1/2 oz, 95g)
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, (3 oz, 75g)
- ⅔ cup heavy cream, (5-1/3 oz, 150g)
- Put the dates into a pan with the water, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda.
- Beat the butter, Lyle's Golden Syrup and brown sugar with the molasses until soft and creamy, then beat in the vanilla and eggs.
- Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, and dates (with their liquid) and mix well to a soft consistency. Spoon into the prepared pan, and bake on the middle shelf for 30 minutes. Lightly cover with foil and cook for a further 15-20 minutes (until a fine skewer comes out clean when poked through the center).
- Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the sauce into a medium-sized non-stick pan and stir together over a low heat until the brown sugar has dissolved.
- When the pudding is ready, cut into portions, pour over the warm toffee sauce and serve.