Sticky Toffee Pudding for the Celebrations

Popular in Australia and New Zealand, Sticky Toffee Pudding is essentially known to be a British dessert consisting of a moist sponge cake, made with finely chopped dates, dipped in toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or vanilla ice cream. Although considered to be a British classic by several culinary experts, the origins of the recipe have only been traced back to the middle of the nineteenth century.

The popularity of the contemporary pudding can be dated more confidently back to the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel in Cumbria, where Francis Coulson and Robert Lee developed and served the dish in the 1970s. Food critic Simon Hopkinson claimed that Coulson admitted to receiving the recipe from Patricia Martin of Claughton in Lancashire, and that she herself had received this from Canadian air force officers who had lodged at her hotel during the Second World War.

Although it’s often lumped in with similarly lumpen dishes involving syrup and treacle, sticky toffee pudding is actually much more like a giant muffin than a sponge pudding, made with a distinctly liquid batter, rather than a creamed mix of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.

The genius of the dish are the dates, which add a rich, sticky sweetness without making it any heavier than such puddings should be. However, a preparation of sticky toffee pudding without (the horror for so many!) is very much a possibility if you want to bite into your sponge cake without the restraint of anything fruity. You may use prunes as a substitute or choose to eliminate any fruit or nut altogether. The toffee sauce can also be experimented with either caramel or butterscotch flavoured sauce.

In 1989, the owners of the Village Shop in Cartmel, also in Cumbria, developed a version of their sticky toffee pudding, which they had been making since 1984, that could be taken home and heated in the oven or microwave. Their dish became popular, and by the late 1990s was being sold in supermarkets across the UK, with multiple retailers now selling versions of sticky toffee pudding to be eaten at home.

A finely baked sticky toffee pudding is identified by two things – the dates that go into the dough and the moistness of the sponge cake. The sponge is usually light and fluffy, closer to a muffin consistency rather than a heavier traditional British sponge, and is often lightly flavoured with nuts or spices such as cloves. The second key element is the toffee sauce, usually made from double cream and then different dark sugars, depending on recipe. You know your sticky toffee pudding has been made right if it is light in texture with a crumb structure that stands up when baked but it also somehow collapses inside your mouth into a dense, sweet, sticky, soft texture.

There’s nothing better than a sticky toffee pudding for no occasion to all occasions, and nothing better than to celebrate the nostalgia of childhood with your friends and family. A healthier, vegan version of this dessert can also be prepared for elderly, diabetic and health conscious members to devour. Similar to Malva, a South African dessert, vegan sticky toffee pudding holds resemblance to the classic favourite by using a few vegan substitutes. Nutmeg, coconut cream, soy/almond milk, ginger and vegan butter can be used to ensure the vegan consistency while also retaining the flavourfulness.

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