It seems that I have become known in my circles as "the one who bakes". And, nowadays, more and more, I do. Thus it seems that when someone has a birthday, the cake is up to me! I don't mind too much, because it means I get to
hear other people tell me what a good baker I am share my food with other people, and occasionally it opens my eyes to something new.
That's what happened when it was my friend Christine's birthday back in July. I said I'd provide a cake, and asked her what she wanted. She said sticky date pudding. I sat there, staring at her, dumbfounded. I mean, it sounded good, but at that time, I had only barely heard of this dessert, never mind eaten it myself or actually made it. I said I'd give it a try, assuming I could find the dates (remember I live in Hanoi, where most things are available SOMEWHERE, but actually finding them can be a challenge!)
I did find the dates, and my first bite of sticky date pudding was a revelation. How did I not know this existed? I then topped it off with caramel sauce, which was another wondrous discovery. I had no idea that caramel sauce was so easy to make!
Unfortunately, back then I didn't have a blog where I could post about this amazing dessert. Lucky for me, it was Caroline's birthday last week, and considering she's not a big fan of chocolate and can't eat many dairy products, I had the perfect opportunity to make it again!
The first step is to pit and chop the dates, and soak them in hot water for about 20 minutes.
While they're soaking, mix up the batter. Add the dates and their water, and you'll have a fairly runny batter, but as you can see, it bakes up nicely!
This cake is best topped with a caramel sauce. The first time I did it, I was surprised at how easy it was! However, this time, I wasn't so lucky.
|If you stir too soon, the sugar just re-crystallizes and you get no caramel. :(|
I made myself late for the birthday party, but on my second try I got a smooth, creamy caramel sauce that went deliciously on the cake.
I served it with vanilla ice cream, and the whole thing disappeared within minutes!
|Nat and the Birthday girl Caroline about to devour their sticky date pudding!|
Sticky Date Pudding
Ingredients (serves 8)
250g pitted dates, chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups boiling water
125g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups Self-Raising Flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of a 7cm deep, 22cm (base) cake pan. Place dates and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Pour boiling water over it, and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold through date mixture and flour until well combined. Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn onto a plate. Make sauce (see below) Pierce pudding all over with a skewer. Pour 1/2 cup of warm sauce over warm pudding. Stand for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges. Serve with remaining sauce.
1/3 c water
1 ½ cups white sugar (or half brown, half white)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups heavy cream (I only used about 1 cup since that’s all I had, it’s fine)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
Bring the water, sugar, and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. DO NOT stir the mixture until the sugar has completely dissolved in the water. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the caramel has turned golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully pour in a slow, steady stream of cream into the caramel while stirring constantly. The hot caramel will boil vigorously when the cream is added and solidify in areas. Add the vanilla extract and salt. Continue stirring over low heat until the caramel is smooth and creamy, 5 to 10 minutes more. Allow to cool for at least half an hour before using.