This classic dessert was invented a stones throw from where I grew up and is, frankly just delicious and comforting. You will want to lick your plate and that is fine with me. This pud contains wonderful warming winter spices, making it perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The smell of it cooking is one of the best smells in the world.
If you’ve ever tasted this you’ll know why I was itching to get it into my cooking classes in California where this is a pretty unknown dessert. One of the first things I needed to get across was the word ‘pudding’ which in America refers to something more akin to a blancmange or a custardy dessert. Whereas this is a warm spongy muffin-like cake cooked with an oozy toffee sauce. It went down a treat in California and has also passed muster with all the Brits I’ve served it too.
Feel free to freeze it once it is cooked and then thaw it before popping into the oven for 10 minutes under a foil lid to avoid it drying out before serving. You can also freeze the sauce in a small container. Defrost the sauce then reheat it in a small pan on a low heat, stirring to make sure it comes together as it may separate slightly when it is first defrosted.
The genius of the dish (other than the fact it can be mostly prepped ahead) is the edition of Medjool dates, which add a rich, sticky sweetness without making it any heavier than such puddings should be. Be sure to spend the extra on Medjool dates as they are much more toffee-esque than regular dates. If you have any leftover, use them in my almond butter and sea salt stuffed dates , my date and chocolate crispy bites or in my Palm Sprigs date shake.
Leftover sauce is delicious on ice cream. When I was testing this for class we had a lot of leftovers in the kitchen. My husband decided he likes it with a cup of tea, when the cake is cold and the sauce has cooled to a stiff paste. He spreads the cold sauce on top like peanut butter. He is pretty greedy so I’m not really sure he is going for maximum flavour – just maximum speed between plate and mouth. You can also make the cake part without the accompanying sauce as a winter tray bake.
I have made this with wholegrain spelt flour (in place of the plain/all purpose), almond milk (in place of regular milk) and coconut oil (in place of butter) and it works. Handy if you are catering to people with dietary needs.
Note – Please weigh in metric, it gives much more precise reliable results! American translations are in brackets below.
Active prep time: 25 minutes. Cooking time: 30-40 minutes although oven temperatures vary
You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe, along with a few of the ingredients, through the UK and US Amazon links below. Just click on the link and you can add the item straight into your Amazon cart to buy later. If a price is shown in dollars and you are in the UK, it will take you through to the Amazon UK item in pounds once you put it in your cart. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools. You can also buy my other bits of essential kitchen equipment through my this post.
- 8 inch x 8 inch (20×20 cm) ceramic or glass pan that is around 2 inches deep, or something that holds 6 cups, 1.5L water. The bigger your pan, the quicker this will cook
- Kitchenaid or Kenwood stand mixer
- silicone spatula
- 2x saucepans
- small mixing bowl
- measuring jug
- measuring spoons
- ice cream scoop
- digital scales
200g (7oz) Medjool dates, quartered and stone removed (weigh them before removing the stones)
250ml (8fl oz) milk
100ml (3.5fl oz) water
1 teaspoon baking soda (check that yours is less than a year old or it won’t work!)
115g (4oz) butter at room temperature. Salted is fine.
115g (4oz) soft dark brown sugar. The darker and stickier the better – Stateside I use the Trader Joe’s organic brown sugar or C&H dark brown.
200g (7oz) plain (all purpose) flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes or ¼ teaspoon grain sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
For the sauce
115g (4oz) salted butter
115g (4oz) of the same brown sugar you used in your cake
140ml (5oz) double (heavy) cream
¾ teaspoon sea salt flakes or ¼ teaspoon grain sea salt
Maldon sea salt flakes
Good (i.e. no weird ingredients) vanilla ice cream
- Heat the oven to 190°C or 170°C fan (375°F or 340°F convection) and get your baking dish out. I use a 8 inch x 8 inch (20×20 cm) ceramic or glass dish that is around 2 inches deep and holds 6 cups or 1.5l water. The bigger your pan, the quicker this will cook.
- Put the dates (quartered and stoned), milk and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil on a high heat then immediately drop the heat to medium and simmer for around 5 minutes.
- While the dates simmer, put the butter and sugar for the cake in a large bowl and mix with either a handheld electric or stand mixer (such as a Kitchenaid or Kenwood stand mixer) and beat for 3 minutes on a medium high speed until pale and creamy. Half way through you’ll probably need to scrape the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula to be sure it is well mixed.
- Take the dates off the heat and add the baking soda to the pan. Stir and the soda will create frothy bubbles in the liquid.
- Add the date mixture to the butter and sugar in the bowl, it is fine that it is hot. Mix for a minute, scrape the sides of the dish if needed.
- In a separate bowl, add the spices, salt and baking powder to the flour and mix together before adding it to the butter and sugar mixture. Use a silicone spatula to gently fold the flour into the batter rather than the stand mixer.
- Pour the batter into the baking pan and cook for 30-40 minutes until the cake is golden on top and it springs back when pressed. Check it after 30 minutes as different ovens and different sized pans will yield faster cooking times. Being a little underdone is no big deal.
- To make the sauce (I usually do this while the cake is in the oven), put all the ingredients in a saucepan on a medium heat and simmer for around 5 minutes. Stir with a silicone spatula every minute to avoid the sugar catching. The longer you leave the sauce to cook, the darker and more caramel like the flavor will be. Be brave! After 5 minutes take off the heat, be careful and avoid the temptation to lick the spoon as it is crazy hot.
- When you are ready to serve the pudding, cut slices or squares of the cake. I don’t turn it out of the baking pan, I just assume I’ll have to cut the first square out messily to allow me to get the others neatly. A little cooks treat!
- Serve the cake warm with the hot sauce spooned over and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt flakes on top to balance out the sweetness. I love this with good vanilla ice cream to balance out the hot sauce.