In life there are teams.
There are Republicans and Democrats. Carnivores and vegetarians. Marathon runners and sprinters. Sam’s vs Costco (ha, as if that’s a competition… #teamcostcoforlyfe). And how can we forget Team Edward and Team Jacob? Annnnd, now I have to go wash my brain out with Scope and read Anna Karenina to replenish the brain cells that just died with that thought.
But- most importantly?- there is chocolate vs toffee.
You might not think this a big deal, but let me ask you- do you know someone who doesn’t like chocolate? Or are you this type of tortured soul? Everyone thinks you’re kidding, then they realize you’re a freak for not liking chocolate, and pretty soon you’re not invited to any parties. Sad.
I’m not saying I don’t like chocolate- oh, NO. I love love love me some chocolate. I mean, I spent some of my formative years in Belgium, ground zero for chocolate-loving folk. No, I’m not saying I don’t love chocolate. What I am saying is that I just might like toffee…
Maybe it’s because I am a sucker for the sweet-salty perfection of… toffee. Or that my favorite chocolate bars contain… toffee. Or that I’ve met many a sub-par chocolate dessert, but am rarely disappointed with ones built upon… toffee. Like. This. CAKE.
If you have ever been to the UK or even just a good British pub stateside, sticky toffee pudding is a classic. It’s a buttery, rich sponge cake made with pureed or tiny chunks (or sometimes both, like this one), covered in a warm toffee sauce that soaks its way into the cake, nestling in every nook and cranny until you slice the first bite off with your fork, and it oozes toffee sauce from the inside. It makes you glad to be alive. And this one, from Cook’s Illustrated, is the best there is. Period.
So in the battle of team chocolate vs. team toffee, I’m going to have to go with…
- Pudding Cakes
- 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for ramekins
- 1¼ c (6¼ ounces) AP flour, plus more for dusting the ramekins
- 1½ c (about 8 ounces) whole dates, pitted, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
- ¾ c warm water
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ c (5¼ ounces) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 2 eggs
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- Toffee Sauce
- 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 c (7 ounces) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 c heavy cream
- 1 T rum
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- For the pudding cakes: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour eight 4-ounce ramekins. Set prepared ramekins in large roasting pan lined with clean dish towel. Bring kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat.
- Combine half of dates with water and baking soda in large liquid measuring cup (dates should be submerged beneath water) and soak for 5 minutes. Drain dates, reserving liquid, and transfer to medium bowl. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in another medium bowl.
- Process remaining dates and brown sugar in food processor until no large chunks remain and mixture has texture of coarse sand, about 45 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. Add reserved soaking liquid, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter and process until smooth, about 15 seconds. Transfer this mixture to bowl with softened dates.
- Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined and date pieces are evenly dispersed. Distribute batter evenly among prepared ramekins. Fill roasting pan with enough boiling water to come ¼-inch up sides of ramekins, making sure not to splash water into ramekins. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, crimping edges to seal. Bake pudding cakes until puffed and small holes appear on surface, about 40 minutes. Immediately remove ramekins from water bath and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
- For the toffee sauce: While cakes cool, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in brown sugar and salt until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and slightly darkened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add ⅓ c cream and stir until smooth, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in remaining ⅔ c cream and rum, whisking constantly until smooth. Reduce heat to low and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
- To serve: Using a toothpick, poke 25 holes in each cake and spoon 1 T toffee sauce over each cake. Let rest 5 minutes until sauce is absorbed. Invert each ramekin onto plate or shallow bowl and remove ramekin. Divide remaining toffee sauce evenly among cakes and serve immediately.
- **If you want to make this in an 8x8 square dish instead of individual ramekins (like I did), do the following: Butter and flour 8x8 dish. Bake until outer 2 inches develop small holes and center is puffed up and firm to touch, about 40-50 minutes. Cool as directed above. Using toothpick, poke about 100 holes in cake and glaze with ½ c toffee sauce. Let rest 5 minutes until sauce is absorbed. Cut cake into squares and pour remaining toffee sauce over each square before serving.
PS- this cake is sweet. Very, very sweet. It always amazes me that people say certain desserts are too sweet, as if they're expecting them to taste like soy sauce. But this one is sweeter than most. You have been blissfully warned.