A rich molasses-like sponge cake made with golden syrup and dates topped with a buttery toffee sauce, these easy Sticky Toffee Pudding individual cakes are quintessentially British and absolutely delicious!
[August, 2020: I've reworked the recipe and updated this post with all new pictures. Enjoy!]
Why this recipe works
- Traditional British Sticky Toffee Pudding is made with dates, molasses, and golden syrup giving the sponge cake a rich flavor
- Individual portions are easy to bake, freeze, and serve
- The Toffee Sauce comes together in a snap
A traditional British Sticky Toffee Pudding made authentically with dates, molasses (aka black treacle in the UK), and golden syrup fits the bill nicely!
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 by 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?
What you need
To my American eye, the names of some of the ingredients you'd find in a traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe (black treacle, bicarbonate of soda, stoned dates) seem exotic and precious.
But tell me that those items are just molasses, baking soda, and pitted dates, and the picture becomes clearer.
Maybe that’s just me.
One item that might be unfamiliar is golden syrup. It's an invert sugar product along the lines of honey, agave, or brown rice syrup, and has a flavor like melted brown sugar crossed with butter.
You can usually find golden syrup in major supermarkets where the British foods are displayed. If you can't find golden syrup, order it online or check below for substitution suggestions.
The English Toffee Sauce only needs 4 ingredients and about 5 minutes to make.
How to make Sticky Toffee Pudding
The method for making this recipe differs slightly from that for a normal sponge cake because you need to soften the dates prior to their use.
Step 1: Soften the dates
Boil the pitted dates, roughly chopped in some water for a couple of minutes, then add the baking soda (photo 1). This helps to keep them soft as they bake.
Step 2: Make the sponge cake batter
Beat the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar with the molasses with a hand mixer until soft and creamy, then beat in the vanilla and eggs (photo 2).
Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt and the dates (with their liquid) and mix to a smooth consistency (photo 3).
Step 3: Bake the sponge cake
Pour into ramekins (sprayed with baking spray) and bake the cakes at 350°F for 30 minutes (photo 4).
I use a combination of 4-oz ramekins and 6-oz ramekins to make individual portions. Having single serving ramekins helps with portion control. I’ve even seen recipes where the puddings were baked in a standard muffin pan.
Plus the individual cakes (without the sauce) can be frozen and reheated for later.
Step 4: Make the Toffee Sauce
While the sponge cakes are baking, you can whip up a quick Toffee Sauce. Just throw the ingredients into a saucepan and heat until the brown sugar is melted (photo 5).
It really doesn't get any easier than that.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
Use golden syrup as you would corn syrup, maple syrup, or honey in recipes, like in Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge or even in Whisky Marshmallows. The flavor is a little deeper than honey, more like liquified brown sugar.
If you can't find golden syrup, you can substitute honey, agave syrup, or brown rice syrup. Just be aware that these substitutions can affect the flavor of the sponge cakes.
Instead of individual portions, you can make one large cake in a 9- x 9-inch baking pan that's been sprayed with baking spray and lined with parchment paper. Bake the sponge cake for 30 minutes, then lightly cover with foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
One American's opinion of this British pudding
The final product? Absolutely wonderful!
Sticky Toffee Pudding has the deep flavor of a molasses cake or gingerbread, but sweeter. The dates melt into the cake, adding richness without being cloying. Truly, you wont know they're there.
The toffee sauce brings its own unique buttery flavor. It's also yummy poured over vanilla ice cream or eaten straight with a spoon (although I will not confirm nor deny having done that).
This easy traditional British Sticky Toffee Pudding belongs on your dessert table.
Maybe for a Harry Potter watch party!
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?
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Easy Traditional British Sticky Toffee Pudding Cakes
- hand mixer
For the sponge cake
- 1¼ cups dates, pitted, roughly chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons golden syrup, see Recipe Notes
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses, unsulfured, not blackstrap
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the toffee sauce
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4½ tablespoons golden syrup
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- Make the sponge cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray your preferred combination of 4-ounce ramekins and 6-ounce ramekins with baking spray (the 6-ounce ramekins serve two in our house). Set aside.
- Put the dates into a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up so be prepared.
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar with the molasses with a hand mixer 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 to a smooth consistency. Spoon into the prepared ramekins and place them onto a half sheet baking pan.
- Bake the cakes on the middle shelf for 30 minutes or until a cake tester poked into one of the ramekins comes out clean.
- Remove the baking pan from the oven and place the ramekins onto a wire rack to cool about 15 minutes. Unmold them onto the wire rack to cool to about 5 to 10 minutes more.
- Make the toffee sauce: 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 cakes are still warm, pour over the toffee sauce and serve.
- The individual puddings (without the sauce) can be frozen and reheated for later.