Jenn Giblin, pastry chef of Blue Smoke, came up with this stellar version of sticky toffee pudding. She uses stout beer, giving it the most compelling flavor of any I have tasted. The cake, which in England is referred to as a pudding, dissolves in your mouth. The toffee sauce is the ideal accompaniment, as it absorbs deliciously into the top of the date cake. (If you desire more texture, reserve two of the dates and pulse them in, after you have processed the date purée, until only small pieces remain.)
An additional and unusual accompaniment served at Blue Smoke, from pastry chef Letty Flatt, is vanilla ice cream flavored with root beer extract.–Rose Levy Beranbaum
LC Sticky, Sticky Pudding Note
Chances are you’ve heard of the legendary sticky toffee pudding. But if asked, could you describe it? For the uninitiated, the sticky in sticky toffee pudding is a toffee sauce, and the pudding is actually a cake, smothered in said toffee sauce. If you’re on the fence, you may take comfort in learning the cake contains a generous pour of stout, as ought all proper British desserts.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 1 H, 40 M
- Serves 12
- For the batter
- Solid shortening, for the baking dish
- Nonstick cooking spray
- About 6 large dates, pitted
- 1 cup stout beer, preferably Guinness extra stout
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (it ought to be sifted into the cup and leveled off)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- For the butterscotch toffee sauce
- 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, preferably Muscovado
- 1 vanilla bean
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- For the pecan and crème fraîche topping
- 1 1/4 cups pecan halves
- 3/4 cup crème fraîche, lightly whipped
- Make the cake
- 1. Slick the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with solid shortening and line it with parchment paper. (No need to coat the parchment or sides of the baking dish with shortening.) Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and coat it as well as a cutting board or a second baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
- 2. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) for at least 20 minutes. [If using a Pyrex or dark pan, adjust the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C)].
- 3. Place the pitted dates in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the beer to a boil. (When measuring the beer, pour it carefully against the side of the measuring cup to prevent foaming. If there is some foam, allow it to settle so you can get an accurate measure.) Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. (It will fizz up a lot.) Pour the beer mixture over the dates. Let cool to room temperature.
- 4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the dates to a food processor. Add a little of the beer mixture and process until a paste forms. With the motor still running, continue to process, gradually adding the rest of the beer mixture, until the mixture is very smooth, dark, and glossy. Scrape the date paste into a bowl and keep it covered until ready to use.
- Make the batter and bake the cake
- 5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. (The mixture may appear curdled, but not to worry; later, after adding the flour, it will be smooth.)
- 6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed just until incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half the date mixture and mix just until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining date mixture, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the batter is uniform in color and no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly. The pan will be about one-third full.
- 7. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a tester comes out clean when inserted in the center and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto the prepared baking sheet. Reinvert it onto the second sheet or cutting board. Serve at once or reheat for 5 minutes in a 350°F (175ºC) oven. The cake will be about 1 1/4 inches at the sides and 1 1/2 inches in the center.
- Make the butterscotch toffee sauce
- 8. While the cake bakes, place the brown sugar in a small saucepan. With a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar. Rub the seeds in with your fingers. Remove and reserve the vanilla pod. Stir in the butter with a spatula.
- 9. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream, lemon juice, salt, and the reserved vanilla pod. The mixture will be slightly grainy but will become totally smooth on standing. Reheat, if necessary, and remove the vanilla pod before serving.
- Make the pecan topping
- 10. Spread the pecans evenly on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for about 7 minutes to enhance their flavor. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid overbrowning. Cool completely. Break or chop them coarsely and set aside.
- 11. Cut the sticky toffee pudding into thirds the long way and fourths the short way. Set each portion on a serving plate. Pour 3 tablespoons of the toffee sauce on top of each serving, allowing it to cascade over the sides and pool onto the plate. Sprinkle the lightly toasted pecan pieces over billowy dollops of crème fraîche.
Individual sticky toffee puddings
- Bake as individual puddings in small ramekins or brioche molds filled about half full. (Using 3/4-cup ramekins will yield 12 puddings; the standard 1/2-cup brioche mold will yield 18 puddings.)