Sticky Toffee Pudding

updated Dec 21, 2023
christmas

This classic British dessert has a moist sponge cake topped in a delicious toffee sauce.

Serves9

Prep15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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The first time I went to visit my best friend in London, she insisted we go to a traditional Sunday roast. While the roast beef was exceptional, the real standout to me was the traditional sticky toffee pudding served at the end of the meal. It was decadent without being cloyingly sweet, and felt somehow celebratory and comforting all at the same time.

Now, this isn’t pudding in the American sense of the word. It’s a classic English pudding of a moist date sponge cake with a tender crumb that gets draped in a generous layer of toffee sauce and served with a side of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or custard. After trying and testing dozens of sticky toffee pudding recipes over the years, I’ve landed on this one being my absolute favorite.

Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

How to Make Sticky Toffee Pudding

  1. Make a date purée. Soak dried dates in hot water, then run through a food processor to make a date purée.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients. Cream butter and brown sugar together, then beat in the date purée, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Mix in the dry ingredients. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Many British recipes call for black treacle, but because it’s not readily available in the States, I’ve opted to spice the sponge with this blend of spices instead to give it a rich flavor.
  4. Bake the cake. Often at restaurants, sticky toffee pudding will be served in individual ramekins, but for ease at home this recipe is baked in a 9×9-inch baking dish instead. Bake until the cake is set, 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Make the toffee sauce. Heat melted butter, dark brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt together until warm, smooth and glossy.
  6. Add the sauce and bake. Poke holes over the hot cake and pour some of the toffee sauce into the holes. Return to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbly.
  7. Serve with more sauce. Serve the cake warm with the remaining toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream.

3 Tips for Sticky Toffee Pudding

  • Use room-temperature ingredients. Sticky toffee pudding is all about the leavening agents here. Make sure to use room-temperature eggs in order to ensure a tall, tender sponge. If you don’t have time to let your eggs come to temperature, you can slip them into a bowl of warm water for five to 10 minutes and they’ll be ready to use. 
  • Keep an eye on time. This recipe bakes quickly! After just about 30 minutes the sponge will be set and ready for a generous blanket of toffee sauce. It gets popped in the oven for five more minutes just to let the sauce properly soak into the sponge. 
  • Plan ahead. Toffee sauce can easily be made ahead of time (up to one week!). The batter can be prepared and set out at room temperature for a few hours so that it can be baked when you’re nearing time for dessert. Sticky toffee pudding is best served warm, so this really helps with timing.
Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

The History of Sticky Toffee Pudding

While the exact origins are a bit murky, sticky toffee pudding is a decidedly British dish. Multiple people and restaurants throughout the 20th century across the country claimed to have created the popular dessert, but most have been disputed. While sticky toffee pudding has a reputation for being an old-timey dessert, it wasn’t until the 1970s that it really became popularized. Fun fact: In New Zealand and Australia the dish is called sticky date pudding.  

Because no one knows exactly where sticky toffee pudding was created, it’s unclear how the addition of dates was added, but it’s certain you can’t make the recipe without them.  While you can’t distinguish the flavor of dates once it’s baked, they add a rich, almost caramel-like flavor to the sponge. Dates also keep the sponge moist, which is crucial to absorbing the toffee sauce. 

Other Toffee and Sticky Toffee Recipes

If you love toffee and sticky toffee desserts, give these recipes a try:

Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe

This classic British dessert has a moist sponge cake topped in a delicious toffee sauce.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 9

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 8 ounces

    dried pitted dates (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1 cup

    boiling water

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cloves

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 3/4 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

For the sauce and serving:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 1/4 cups

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • Flaky salt, for sprinkling (optional)

  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Instructions

Make the cake:

  1. Place 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 2 large eggs on the counter. Let both sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350˚F. Coat a 9x9-inch square baking dish with butter.

  3. Place 8 ounces pitted dates and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a medium bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the dates and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Scrape the date mixture into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and process until puréed, 20 to 25 seconds.

  4. Wipe the bowl the dates were in dry. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg in the bowl. Whisk until combined.

  5. Add 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add 1 of the eggs and beat on medium speed until combined, then add the second egg and beat until just combined. Add the date purée and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixer.

  6. Add the flour mixture to the date mixture and beat on the lowest speed until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the batter to the baking dish and smooth into an even layer.

  7. Bake until the cake is set and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Immediately use the tines of a fork to poke holes all over the cake, poking all the way down to the bottom and spacing the pokes about 1/2-inch apart.

Make the sauce:

  1. Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute.

  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Drizzle 1 cup of the sauce over the warm cake. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flaky salt if desired. Serve the toffee pudding hot with the remaining sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover cake and sauce can be refrigerated in separate airtight containers for up to 4 days.