Sticky Toffee Pudding

While we were in Grand Cayman last month, we enjoyed sticky toffee pudding two nights in a row (at two different restaurants). As a British territory, we did see a few UK-related bits and bobs here and there (including Queen E on the currency) but I think the most memorable was this amazing dessert.

I knew I was going to have to try and recreate it at home so I did a little research to make sure that I could make a super fluffy cake and a really decadent toffee good enough to rival the amazing memories we made whilst on holiday. I discovered that most sticky toffee puddings are made with dates (which I'm sure are what make this super sticky and sweet). As I always do with English cuisine, I turned to the Nigella Lawson to guide me through. I strayed from her recipe a bit to try and mimic the cakes we enjoyed on the islands (which consisted of insanely fluffy and airy cakes with the densest, richest, treacle-y toffee sauce) and came up with something pretty spectacular, and also a bit more suited to my American tastes (re: mainly, I largely increased the ingredient amounts to yield larger portions)*.
225g pitted dates (2¼ cups)
225 mL water (1 cup)
2 teaspoons baking soda
6 tablespoons softened butter
225g dark brown sugar (1¼ cups lightly packed)
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 eggs, room temperature
225g flour (1½ to 1¾ cups)

toffee sauce
75g dark brown sugar (⅜ cup lightly packed)
3 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
2 tablespoons golden syrup
75 mL heavy cream (⅓ cup)

*You will notice in the photo diary below that the quantity of ingredients I am working with down below don't quite match up to what is written above. That is because I only made a photo diary of the "test batch." So as not to waste a bunch of extra stuff (in case it goes badly), I usually do a test run with a reduced recipe. The full batch was given a go (on Thanksgiving) and was successful, which is why I feel confident in the quantities listed above. That being said, if you want to maybe watch your waistline a bit more strictly, reducing the recipe will allow you a taste without being overly indulgent.

Start by roughly chopping the dates. Add them to a saucepan with water and baking soda and then pop onto the hob over low heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Watch the pot as it will boil over if left alone too long.
Some sort of weird chemical reaction will cause the dates to turn black but don't mind that. Leave the dates to cool and then puree in a food processor until completely smooth.
To assemble the batter, start by creaming together the dark brown sugar, softened butter, and baking powder until smooth. Crack in the egg and whip furiously until light and fluffy. Then, fold in the date puree, golden syrup, and flour until the batter just comes together.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured cake pan or individual ramekins. The batter will rise pretty spectacularly so be sure not to overfill the pans. Stick to somewhere between ½ and ¾ full.
Bake the cake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cooking times may change depending on the size of your containers so just keep an eye on the oven.
While the cake is baking, get going on the toffee sauce.
Combine brown sugar, butter, and golden syrup in a saucepan and heat over low, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes together, the sugar dissolves, the it starts bubbling furiously. Stir in the heavy cream and bring the mixture back up to a bubble.
And that's the toffee sauce, done. So quick and easy and it doesn't require the use of thermometers or anything.
Use a skewer to poke holes in the still-warm cake and then pour over a generous amount of toffee sauce. Pour a little more than you think you need, as it will absorb into the cake.
Slice up a generous portion of cake (which ideally should still be warm), pour over some extra toffee sauce, top with ice cream, pour over a little more toffee sauce, and serve. If you're planning on serving this a few hours after you've made it (or even a day or two after), warm the cake up in the oven a bit as the major appeal of this particular treat is that it is still warm and comforting and nicely contrasts the cold ice cream.
The cake itself is rather fluffy and moist and soft and pairs so well with the decadent and sweet toffee sauce. This is a total winner and probably going to be a winter staple in our house, not just for its warm and comforting quality but also because it will remind us of our trip to Grand Cayman. If that doesn't cure the winter blues, then I have no idea what will.
And just as proof that it works extremely well in a larger quantity:
Here's the recipe page: