Sticky Toffee Pudding (a Pudding-Cake)

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

by Cat, Jan 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)


This wonderful dessert comes originally from the British Isles.  The texture of this treat is more like a cake, but the Brits call this type of dessert a “pudding.” In fact, this resembles Plum Pudding, but with the addition of toffee sauce.  Traditionally the batter is poured into a mold, which is then immersed in a water bath simmered over a low flame or in an oven.  For more on this method, visit Steamed Puddings (About) or  baking911 (4).

I first had this particular dessert at the wonderful ShowThyme Restaurant in my home town of Bigfork, MT.  They make it from scratch and serve it with a small scoop of ginger ice cream made in their kitchen.  Since I don’t have access to their recipe, I present here my best attempt to make a traditional version, based on 3 recipes that follow.

The recipes I used to create my recipe:

  • Udny Arms in Aberdeenshire, Scotland ( (3)) where it is the house specialty;
  • Gourmet Magazine (March, 2005; (5));
  • Food Network (2).

All these versions are very similar, consisting mainly of flour, chopped dates soaked in boiling water, leavening, sugar, butter and egg.  However, none of these steam the cake in a mold, but rather bake it in a cake pan.

Toffee and caramel are very similar sauces; the chemical process of producing these treats is known as glycation (or Maillard reaction); while there is some evidence that consumption of glycated foods may hasten aging (7), there is also some evidence that caramelization has some health benefits (especially caramelized onions), so I figure that making this dessert once a year can’t be that bad – especially if I use stevia for most of the sugar in the cake part (but must use real sugar for the toffee sauce, as non-sugar sweeteners will not caramelize (1)).

There are several ways to use the toffee with the cake:

  • Pour cake batter into toffee-lined mold, and steam until done.  Spoon additional toffee sauce over individual servings of pudding (5).
  • Pour batter into buttered glass or ceramic mold; steam until done.  Spoon warmed sauce over individual servings of pudding. This is the version used for the photo, above.
  • Bake or steam cake in cake pan.  When done, poke holes into top of cake with toothpick; pour ⅓ to ½ of the warm toffee sauce over and allow it to seep into the cake before turning cake out of the pan.  Spoon remaining warmed sauce over individual servings of cake (3,4). 
  • Bake or steam cake in cake pan.  When done, pour ⅓ of toffee sauce over the cake in the pan/mold and place under broiler until the sauce bubbles, about 1 minute.  Spoon remaining warmed sauce over individual servings of cake (2).

Pudding Molds

You can find steamed-pudding molds at specialty kitchen shops such as Sur La Table (8); typically they come with a lid that locks in place.  Some crock-pots come with a pudding mold insert (or can be ordered from the crock-pot manufacturer).

If you cannot find a mold, you can use a bowl, and improvise a lid by placing first a sheet of waxed paper and then a sheet of aluminum foil over the top and securing with a string or rubber band.  The waxed paper protects the acidic batter from leaching aluminum out of the foil, and keeps steam out of the mold.

This recipe includes a toffee sauce that is poured into the mold to coat all sides before adding the pudding batter.  It is best to use a metal mold (tinned steel is recommended), as glass or ceramic molds will not easily release the toffee.  Thus, if you use a glass or ceramic mold, omit pouring the toffee into the mold and simply spoon it over the dessert when it is served.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe 

Two methods for cooking the pudding are provided: steaming in a mold; and baking in a pan. Serves 6 – 9

See also Testing, below.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Cake
  • ¾ cup (about 4 oz) chopped dates
  • 1 ¼ cup water, boiling
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole-grain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • spices (highly recommended but optional):  ½ tsp each nutmeg & cinnamon; ¼ tsp ground clove
  • 2 Tbsp freshly ground flax seeds
  • ¼ cup butter (½ cube)
  • ¾ cup Rapadura or Sucanat sugar (or 2 Tbsp maple syrup and ¼ tsp stevia extract powder)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Toffee (amounts reduced per testing)
  • ¼ cup butter (½ cube) (½ cup)
  • ½ cup Rapadura or Sucanat sugar (1 c)
  • ¾ cup cream (1 ½ cup)
  • Equipment for cake
  • small saucepan or tempered bowl
  • 2- 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • small bowl
  • large bowl
  • wooden spoons
  • Equipment for Steam or Bake methods, see below


  1. Cake batter: Chop dates; cover with boiling water in saucepan or bowl; add soda & stevia (if using).  Set aside.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and optional spices into small bowl.  Add ground flax seeds. set aside.
  3. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar or maple syrup.  Beat in egg until blended.
  4. Fold in flour mixture, dates, and optional walnuts until blended.
  5. Toffee: Melt butter in heavy saucepan.  Add sugar and optional water; stir until blended and sugar melts; add cream & stir again.  Careful; it can bubble and increase in volume.
  6. Heat to boiling over moderate heat, stirring constantly.  Boil gently over medium-low heat until thickens, about 8 minutes.  NOTE:  Leftover toffee sauce can be stored in covered container in the refrigerator and warmed before serving.

At this point there are two ways to proceed, each needing different equipment as noted:

Method to Steam Cake:

  1. Equipment:  Pudding mold with lid, and steamer.  If using glass/ceramic mold, omit lining with toffee; butter the inside instead.
  2. You can either steam on stove-top or in oven preheated to 350°F.
  3. Cake: Line inside of cake mold with ⅓ of the warm toffee sauce, tilting mold to coat the sides.  Set aside to cool, while you prepare the batter, then pour batter into toffee-lined mold.
  4. Cover mold tightly with lid.  Set covered mold into steamer, or onto a trivet set inside a dutch oven.
  5. Fill steamer or dutch oven with boiling water about ⅔ – ¾ up the sides of the mold.  Cover steamer with lid and steam over medium-low heat on top of stove, or on center rack of preheated 350°F oven for 60 – 90 minutes (test for doneness with toothpick inserted in center). Check water bath a few times during the steaming and add more water as necessary.
  6. Remove mold from steamer and remove lid or foil.  Invert onto serving plate.  Allow cake to cool 5 minutes, then remove mold.  Scrape any toffee stuck to inside of mold onto top of cake.  Slice and serve while hot, spooning remaining sauce over each serving.

Method to Bake in Cake Pan: 

  1. Equipment:  7” x 9″ cake pan (original was 8 or 9” round/square pan)
  2. Butter cake pan.
  3. Cake: Pour batter into pan and bake in preheated 350°F oven for about 30-40 minutes, until tests done with a toothpick inserted into the center.
  4. Remove from oven and set pan on rack.  Poke cake all over with toothpick at 1″ intervals, then gradually pour half of the warm toffee sauce over the cake, and let stand until sauce is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  5. Run knife around edges of cake, then invert cake onto plate.  Cut into servings and pour remaining sauce over each serving.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions

  • To warm sauce after refrigeration:  Set container in a warm water bath.  Alternately, scoop out desired amount of sauce and warm in top of double boiler set over simmering water.
  • Spoon warmed toffee sauce over serving of cake.  Add a small dollop of whipped cream, or homemade ginger ice cream.

Testing Recipe:  

2/8/08 (Steam Cake Method): Steamed on stove top. This makes too much toffee for the amount of pudding-cake; I’ve subsequently cut ingredients by half, as indicated above.  If you want more sauce, double the amounts. The toffee sauce did not thicken much, and only thinly coated the mold, requiring only a couple Tbsp to line it.   The pudding tested done after only 1 hour of steaming on top of the stove, and slipped easily out of the mold.  I used maple syrup and stevia in the cake, and all the optional spices, but used only ¼ tsp nutmeg; it has a very nice flavor.

4/16/13 (Bake Method): I’m avoiding sugar so do not plan to make the toffee, and used the maple syrup & stevia option in the cake. Forgot to add baking powder until the batter was in the baking pan, so I sifted it over the batter and folded it in. Not enough batter for a 9” square pan so used 7”x9” pan and updated recipe accordingly. Baked at 350°F for 37 minutes. Result: Nice texture, nicely sweet from dates and lightly flavored with spice. I don’t miss the toffee, but a creamy or buttery topping would be good to slow down blood-sugar spiking; perhaps cream cheese with a bit of stevia?


  1. Simply Recipes (formerly on recipe, with photos
  4. Baking911 (
  5. Epicurious (
  6. Better Nutrition magazine, December 2007
  7. Wikipedia (; and
  8. Sur La Table (
  9. Fine Cooking recipe (

About Cat

See my 'About' page
This entry was posted in Baked, Dairy, Dried fruit, Eggs, Fat or oil, Flavoring, Flour, Leavening, Nuts and seeds, Spices, Steamed, Stove top, Sweetener and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.