OK. Since everyone is so grinchily anti-fruitcake – and Christmas pudding is essentially dark fruitcake – how about a nice moist, sticky toffee pud? This one is baked, so you don’t have to mess about with a pudding mold and cheesecloth and steaming… technically it’s more of a cake, but what’s in a name? It’s milder than gingerbread, loaded with soft dates and fragrant pear and doused in caramel, which should make everyone suitably jolly.
Traditional sticky toffee pudding is made with dates – I’m a fan of the big, soft, sticky Medjool dates you can find in the produce section of most grocery stores; they’re nothing like the hard, dried-out dates of my childhood, or the bricks of dates you can still find in the baking section that require chiseling with a kitchen implement.
They’re simmered with water, then added to a basic butter-sugar-egg mixture along with a grated pear – it’s that time of year when I buy too many pears, which then turn overripe in the fruit bowl, but are perfect for grating into cakes and muffins and such. Move over, overripe bananas.
It can be baked in a bundt pan, but I currently have a collection of odd shaped bundt-esque pans and pudding molds in my basement, acquired over a lifetime of garage sale-ing, that are generally reserved for fruitcake and were perfect for a holiday pudding. (Or cake. Whatevs.)
The sticky toffee sauce is made thus: 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup cream, 1/4 cup butter. Bring to a simmer. Done. You could add some whisky or bourbon, but in this case I like the flavours of fruit, butter, sugar, vanilla and cream at the forefront.
The caramel can be made ahead, and really needs no more than a spoon… but I’m happy to have a wedge of cake to lap up all that caramel. (Next time, I’ll lob a spoonful of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream into the mix as well.) This is what big long Christmas afternoon walks are for.
And hey! Some of my Calgary food blogging pals organized a Sweet Holiday Blog Hop, sharing some sweets for the season. Check out Food Mamma’s Candy Cane Bark, Bakers Beans’ Orange Gingerbread Cookies, Vegan Nanaimo Bars from Because I Like Chocolate, Dish n’ The Kitchen’s Salted Pistachio Sablés, Heather’s Eats Butter Tarts, Merry About Town’s Nutella, Pretzel and Cranberry No-Bake Cookies, Hazelnut Shortbread from Miss Foodie’s Adventures, and Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies from Scrumptiously Fit Food. Yum.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
1 1/2 cups chopped, pitted dates
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 very ripe pear, coarsely grated
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla or maple extract or 2 Tbsp. bourbon
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small-medium saucepan, bring the dates to a simmer with 1 1/4 cups water. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. It will foam up – make sure you have room. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until sandy; add the eggs and vanilla and beat until pale and light. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the dry ingredients and stir (or beat on low) just until combined. Stir in the date mixture and pear, then the remaining dry ingredients, stirring just until blended.
Pour into a well buttered Bundt or similar shaped pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until deep golden, cracked on top and springy to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack, and invert onto the rack or a plate while still slightly warm.
To make the sauce, bring the brown sugar, cream and butter to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla or bourbon. Set aside to cool.
Serve the cake topped with caramel sauce, with whipped cream or ice cream.
This sticky toffee pudding post was brought to you by Natural Delights Medjool Dates – one of my favourite ingredients I’m happy to be able to share more of! As always, all words and thoughts are my own.