There’s no occasion that can’t be improved with sticky toffee pudding; so why not take one of the happiest occasions on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah, and make it even sweeter with this beloved British pud? Not only is it infinitely more delicious than honey cake, one of its main ingredients, dates, is traditionally eaten on the holiday.
Sticky toffee pudding, affectionately shortened to STP and known as sticky date pudding in Australia, is a dense, moist cake made with chopped dates and covered in toffee sauce. It’s closer to a North American muffin than a classic British sponge cake, which might hint at its origins — a highly debated topic.
Legend has it that the landlady at an inn in Yorkshire, England invented it in 1907. Others say it was introduced to a hotel manager named Patricia Martin in Lancashire, England by two Canadian air force officers during World War II. Martin shared the recipe (which was later published in “The Good Food Guide Dinner Party Book”) with Frances Coulson and Robert Lee, who served it at their hotel in the Lake District, England under the name “icky sticky toffee sponge” in the 1970s.
However, a hotel in Scotland claims to have first served STP in 1967. Hmm. They continue to serve it with clotted cream ice cream, which sounds so much better than the classic vanilla. Whoever thought up this dream of a dessert, I am forever grateful.
Dates are often the starring ingredient of STP (use the best you can afford, especially if you can get your hands on Medjool dates, which are so squidgy and sweet they’re a treat when eaten as-is). As luck would have it, dates are also a symbolic food eaten at Rosh Hashanah, particularly among Sephardic communities. In Hebrew, they’re called t’marim (tamar, singular), which sounds like the word “tam,” meaning “to end” and symbolizes a wish for our enemies to cease. If this is a little dark for you, take solace in the fact that dates are an important food for Jews year-round: They’re one of the seven species of Israel, and likely the source of the honey in the biblical phrase describing Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
The following sticky toffee pudding was passed around various friends until it reached my sister, and eventually my mom. It remains a staple at each of their homes, probably because it’s so versatile: it’s as good when made pareve (non dairy) as when made with butter and it can be made as one large dessert or as individual puddings. Plus, it freezes well.
Note: Double the sauce; you’ll want extra on your pudding and it’s great in a sundae or eaten straight from the fridge once your holiday guests have left a la Nigella Lawson (silk nightgown optional).
For the pudding:
- 60g butter or non-dairy alternative (I like Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread)
- 150g sugar
- 150g self raising flour
- 2 eggs
- 150g pitted dates, chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp baking soda
For the sauce:
- 200g brown sugar
- 70g butter or margarine
- 10 Tbsp heavy cream, half and half or non-dairy alternative
- 1 tsp vanilla
- flake salt (optional)
- Preheat oven to 320 degrees F.
- Add water and dates to a pan, bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add baking soda and leave to cool. Once cooled, add vanilla.
- Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs. Fold in the flour. Add the cooled date mixture and mix well.
- Pour into individual muffin cases (for individual puddings) or a wide, shallow ovenproof dish. Bake individual puddings for 12-15 minutes and large pudding for 35-40 mins, until risen and springy to the touch. Prick all over with cocktail sticks and leave to cool slightly.
- For the sauce, melt the sugar and butter in a small pan. When bubbling, whisk in the cream and vanilla. Remove from heat. Pour sauce over pudding. Serve warm. Add a pinch of flaky salt on top when serving to balance the sweetness (optional).