Friday, December 23, 2005


Sticky Toffee Pudding

I love the Chateau Marmont hotel. I would do PR for them for free, only they don't seem to need it. (And, I sort of am right now anyway) The fabulous history, sublime decadence and hedonistic memories (cheeky blush) brings me to a surreal corner of LA living that cannot be replicated anywhere. The parties I have had there and attended there have all been outrageous. The staff there, well, they go above and beyond in accommodating your every whim and desire and they do it with such style you cannot imagine. Sure, it's a bit trendy, but if it's been trendy for several decades, well, I call that a trend I am happy to follow.

What is all this rambling about? Well, its about that fantastically interesting British dessert Sticky Toffee Pudding. Let me just clarify that to the Brits, who claim this dish, all desserts are called pudding. If we had to give it a North American counterpart/pseudonym it would be Steamed Date Cake, but that's not quite as romantic a name, now is it. Anyway, back to the Chateau. For a few winters now (winter in LA, AHHHhhh. The best. A balmy 75 today. That's what? 28 celsius?) the fab kids over at the Chateau have offered a Sticky Toffee Pudding on their lobby bar dessert menu that I have become fixated on. It just warms me to the soul. And then what happened? It disappeared. That's right. Gone. In a pout a few weeks ago upon finding this out, I ordered some other confection, and while being satisfied, it just wasn't what I had wanted.

So being the girl I am, I made a comment. And in the bestest-happiest turn of events, they promised to make me some if I called 24 hours in advance of my next visit. I felt like a high-roller. I mean seriously kids, is that the coolest ever or what? Truth be told though, I was a little bit guilty at the thought, but dove in and called once to let them know I was coming a few days down the line. And it was worth it, unfortunately, I could also vividly imagine the kitchen staff cursing me at adding to their tasks and never did it again. It was with that that I just figured maybe I could make my own.

I searched some cookbooks (Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver) and came up with nothing. Maybe everyone already knows how to make this? I checked the BBC Food site and found a few somewhat passable sounding recipes, but not wanting to A. microwave it or B. buy golden syrup and/or treacle, I went with this version as a launching point. (You can see, I strayed quite far.) In the now classic television-chef recipe writing tradition, there is a lot to be desired here. Specifically, a description of what the heck a small pudding mold is, how many people this should serve, mentioning you should chop the dates, and well, a few other things.

So I made my own version and it was beyong amazing. Imagine if you will, a time when sugar was something most people never tasted, so a dried date, chewy and naturally sweet that had travelled from an exotic locale would be a treat indeed. This is like that. Tasting something exotic and delicious, tremendous and sweet, decadant yet accessible. The cake itself is just beyond compare. It is indeed sticky, sweet, fruity, warming and dense. It tastes like thick, rich, sugar. Of course my version is not at all traditional, but it is just too, too wonderful and a snap to pull together. Try it, and enjoy.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
For sauce
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons rum or brandy

Preheat your oven to 350F

Sift (or stir, whatever) together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a food processor, cream the butter and sugars for five minutes (stop to scrape the bowl if need be) until throughly combined (don't skimp here. The more you cream the better). Add the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated. Add the dates and flour mixture and pulse to combine (do not over mix at this point)

Pour the batter into a 4 cup, heavily buttered oven proof dish or six (also heavily) buttered ramekins. Leave 3/4 inch room at the top, so they can puff up in the oven (they fall when cooled though)

Place the dish(es) into a 2 or 3 inch deep pan and add carefully add enough water to the pan to come almost 1/2 way up the dish(es). (Be sure not to get any water into the puddings!) With great care, put the pan in the oven and bake for an hour and ten minutes.

Turn the oven off and open the door. Allow to cool this way for 10 minutes.

In a small sauce pan melt the additional butter with the sugar over low heat. Add the alcohol and stir to combine. Spoon half of this onto your serving plates.

Pull out the whole pan out of the oven and carefully remove the puddings. Invert and serve with more of the butter sauce poured over.

Makes six servings


A study published in the BMJ, confirms that even experienced bartenders tend to unwittingly pour more alcohol into short, wide glasses compared to tall, skinny ones. That means two cocktails from a squat tumbler might actually pack the punch of 2 1/2 drinks. So instead of that martini glass, those watching their drinks might want to ask for a highball glass instead. - Washington Post

WOW. How cool is THIS? It has five leaves, stands 14 inches high and is nicknamed Methuselah. It looks like an ordinary date palm seedling, but it is a piece of history brought back to life. Planted on Jan. 25, the seedling growing in the black pot in Solowey's nursery on this kibbutz in Israel's Arava desert is 2,000 years old. It is the oldest seed ever known to produce a viable young tree. The seed that produced Methuselah was discovered during archaeological excavations at King Herod's palace on Mount Masada, near the Dead Sea. Its age has been confirmed by carbon dating. Scientists hope that the unique seedling will eventually yield vital clues to the medicinal properties of the fruit of the Judean date tree, which was long thought to be extinct. - SF

Check out this inspiring post on Gluten Free Girl. I simply adore Shauna. what a sweet, sweet girl.

Toffee is
a chewy and tender candy made of sugar and butter boiled together. It must be a reference to the sauce this cake is served with.


I was once at dinner with a girl who has a bit of a problem with other women - especially Asian women. When her date (who is a good mate of mine) asked if we were all ready for pudding, I asked him what was for pudding. Before he could answer, she started sneering at me about not knowing what pudding was. She got terribly quiet when we told her we call dessert pudding. I was embarrassed for her but I must admit to having an unkind giggle in the loo later at her expense.

Interesting how the same word can mean so many things.
A big joke in my family is when my dad asks "What's for pud!?", even before we've started the meal.

I made Jamie Oliver's sticky toffee pudding a few months ago. It was easy and tasted divine. It's in the Jamies Dinner book - will have to comapare it to this one.
Thank you, my dear. For mentioning me. And, you know. Everything else.

I adore Sticky Toffee Pudding. I have to work up a gluten-free version soon!
Serendipitous that you should post this. My grandmother used to make something like this when I was very little. I can remember reveling in the rich aroma and the sweetish but not white sugar flavor of it. I adored it.

I've recently been thinking about it, longingly, wishing I could have it again, but no one in my family seems to have this particular recipe. So I'm dying to try your version. Thanks!
I've never had sticky toffee pudding before! :( I would love love love love love to have it...if someone else made it for me. Sounds delicious.
Just wanted to jump in and wish you happy holidays, Rachael!
Lovely post as usual. I was thinking about pudding a lot over the holidays and since my mother brought three pre-made christmas puds over from britain, I thought about it even more. I somehow managed to destroy the first one (I admit to microwaving them to reheat - we didn't have three hours in a steam bath at my friends house to spare) and the microwave directions were more than a little faulty - so after the flames were out and the fire department had left and we discovered that the microwave still worked, we had the other two - and bloody good they were too! (I made brandy butter to go with). And in the process I aquired two nice pudding basins (in which the puddings came) so now I can make more puddings more easily! And I also got a Jane Grigson English Cooking book and the definitive answer to sticky toffee pudding is guaranteed to be in that book! So I'll look it up and post it here...
MM - How sad for that woman to go through life with a closed mind. I hope she learned a little that night! (And Im glad you got a giggle! Hee hee)

Sam - Funny! My four year old nephew asks the same thing! LOL. If you have a sweet tooth, its just there for life I suppose. Excellent. I always admire a dessert addict. As for JO's recipe, I must have looked in the wrong book.

Shauna - Well, if anyone can do it, its you! Cant wait to read how it turns out!

B'Gina - I hope you will try it and let me know how it worked out. Its always fun to revisit an old favorite.

Robyn - Oh sweetie! Its a simple dish, you MUST try it yourself! You will be amazed!

Nic - Thanks doll, you too!

Owen - Oh DEAR! A fire??? Eek. I do hope you will email or post your version...while I found this to be spectacular, I have no idea what the real thing should taste like (Other than what I ate at the Chateau.)

Thanks for all the awesome comments!
What a fantastic recipe, one well worth trying!

Love your site
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