Updated: Feb 4, 2022
Elegant comfort food for any beginning baker. This dessert satisfies any sweet tooth and warm your soul with every bite. Sticky toffee pudding is actually not pudding but are mini cakes made in individual ramekins, covered with a homemade toffee pecan sauce and a drizzle of cream. Why is it called pudding? Honestly, no idea. Let's chalk it up to a another oddity by the British, since STP or Sticky Toffee Pudding originated from England sometime during the 20th Century.
Similar to bread pudding, this dessert however uses chopped up dates that are soaked in boiling water and baking soda before being mixed into the cake batter.
If you are looking for an easy, make-ahead, but show stopping dessert then look no further! This dessert is ready in about 90 minutes (with prep, bake, and cool time... distraction time from running around toddlers) AND the sauce can also be made ahead of time and simply warmed up just before you serve.
You don't need many speciality items for this recipe except for the ramekin bowls which are individual, oven safe bowls, that you also use for souffles as well as other desserts. If you do not have these, you can bake this dessert in a regular pan and cut out the slices like brownies, but you do lose a bit of the wow effect.
You also MUST HAVE Medjoul dates, they are the big dates that come from Israel. They are the absolute best quality with a soft skin on the outside and a soft candy like texture in the middle. They have a large pit and the other issue with these dates is that you will be tempted to eat them before actually baking with them. Seriously though, I buy these dates whenever I see them in the store. They are the perfect 'Before Workout Bite.' They are all natural and have just enough sugar and fiber to keep you energized. So buy extra if you can.
These dates are not found at every German grocery store. I have been lucky in the past and once in a blue moon, I have found them at my local Penny. However, this winter our Rewe has always had them in stock next to the walnuts and other speciality dried fruit. When in doubt, I have always found Medjoul dates at Denn's Biomarkt or at any of the weekly farmer's markets.
The major step that you have to do is to soak these chopped up dates in boiling water, baking soda, and some vanilla extract. I did a little digging at the chemical reasoning behind this. It is because the dates have a substance called tannin and this can be astringent. The baking soda is somewhat alkaline and this actually neutralizes the astringency while removing the tannins making the dates less bitter when cooked. Equally as important, this soaking process plumps up the dates making them incredibly soft and goopy. When it comes time to fold in the date mixture into the batter it mixes in very evenly requiring very little folding.
In the first picture you can see how I chopped up just a few dates. They are SO sticky but try your best to chop them after removing the pit of course. After the soaking process it looks like the second picture shown.
Once you combine the wet and dry ingredients just make sure to lightly fold in your date mixture. Then fill each ramekin about 3/4 the way full. Let bake for about 30-35 minutes. Then let cool before taking the cakes out of their ramekins.
Can you tell that I used 2 different types of mini-bowls? The ones on the right are a traditional ramekin and the ones on the left are Corningware. Both actually worked equally well but I think I will stick to the traditional ramekins for next time. I felt a little experimental which is why I used two different kinds. The cake came out a bit taller in the ramekins, but apart from that, I think you can barely see a difference.
After baking I let the cakes sit in the oven (oven turned off) with the oven door open. This lets the cake come to room temperature at a slower rate. When hot cakes that are light and fluffy are blasted with cold air (It's January here in Germany and freezing outside!) the cakes will be shocked and they might sink in the middle. If they do sink a bit, don't worry. You eat the cakes flipped over and you can't even see or tell that is bit of a sink in the cake.
After cooling, run the edge of a knife along the rim of the ramekin dislodging the cake. Flip it over and boom you have perfect little mini cakes.
Make sure to use your knife and scrape out any leftover cake that stuck to the ramekin. It is best if your kids or spouse is also gone so they will not disturb you from taking a sample bite of this warm sweet cake.
Now you have to make sauce. I love this sauce. Not only it is sweet, salty, warm, smooth and perfect... it is EASY! I call it a dump, stir, and go sauce. Just put all of your sauce ingriedients into a sauce pot, stir for about 5-7 minutes once the butter has melted, and you are ready to spoon some sauce onto your cake. I like to toast my pecans beforehand, you don't have to but toasting them a bit brings out the nutty flavor even more and the toasting adds a better element of crunch. Many recipes will say that pecans are optional. I LOVE them in this dish and find them to be essential. You can put them directly into your toffee sauce or add them separately, I added the pecans directly to my sauce and it was fantastic.
Right before serving, pour the pecan toffee sauce directly on top of your cake. Finish by drizzling a bit of cream. Then sit down, take a forkful, have a nice glass of red wine (we drank Glühwein (a local hot mulled spiced wine) and take in the sweet, sticky, nutty luxury of this comforting sticky toffee pudding.
Recipe source: This recipe was adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.