Sticky toffee pudding, with its rich, mocha-brown color, its dense, decadent interior and its sweet-and-salty, tacky topping, is not for the faint of heart. It is dark and brooding. It is lavish. It is distinctive. And it is a serious showstopper.
Why is it different from any other cake? Because the fruit is the star of the show, literally outweighing every other ingredient in the recipe. By macerating the fruit, you turn it into an integral part of the batter, making the cake incredibly moist while packing it with flavor. Our friends at ChefSteps wrote in with a recipe this week, adding some freshly scraped vanilla beans and a bit of butter along the way to create a deeply decadent, complexly flavored sweet. It’s perfect for the holidays but also just right for spring, as it’s not too heavy! Check out the instructional video and full recipe below.
550 grams medjool dates, whole
3½ cups water
½ tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla bean, about 9 pods (optional)
2¼ sticks room-temperature butter, divided, plus more to grease pan
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 ½ teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
2½ tablespoons baking powder
270 grams cake flour (bleached), plus more to dust the pan
225 grams dark brown sugar
100 grams heavy whipping cream
25 grams whiskey
Flake salt, as needed
- Use a pairing knife to pit the dates (you’ll end up with about 500 grams).
- Combine dates with the water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring the water to a boil away for 1 minute. Stir in the baking soda. After 15 seconds, remove the pan from heat. The mixture will foam, turn green, then turn dark.
- Blend the dates and water with an immersion blender until the mixture has a consistency like applesauce. Allow the mixture to cool to about 120°F.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Combine just under two sticks of butter, sugar, salt and vanilla beans in a stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, set the mixer to low, then gradually increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the ingredients are incorporated and take on a thick texture. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each one is incorporated before adding the next and stopping once or twice to scrape down the inside of the bowl with a spatula. The resulting mixture will be a bit lumpy. Mix in the cooled date puree on medium speed.
- Whisk the baking powder and cake flour together in a medium mixing bowl and, with stand mixer on medium, use a serving spoon to add them to the date mixture until the batter has an airy, almost gelatinous texture.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom of the springform pan. Grease the springform pan with butter. Set the parchment inside the pan, butter the paper, flour the whole thing, then invert the pan and tap out the excess flour.
- Pour the date mixture into the springform pan, leaving the top third of the pan empty. Set it in the oven on the middle rack. You’ll be letting it bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.
- While the cake is in the oven, combine the brown sugar, remaining butter and whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter and sugar have melted, allow them to boil for 30 seconds to ensure that the brown sugar crystals have dissolved. Drop the heat to low, stir in the whiskey and cover the pan until the cake is ready.
- Remove the cake from the oven when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the cake reads at least 180°F.
- Use a pair of toothpicks or skewers to poke about 100 holes into the top of the finished cake. With the cake still in the springform pan, set it onto a baking sheet or rimmed plate and pour the hot toffee over the warm cake. Let cool to room temperature or sit overnight. Sprinkle with flake salt and serve.
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