Start the holiday season with sweetness and tradition with sticky toffee pudding, a beloved Brit dessert.
Brit cuisine has suffered from a bad reputation, but sticky toffee pudding is something we can all get behind. Sweet and decadent, it earns its name, but it offers a little nourishment surprise, too. It’s date cake drowning in caramel sauce.
Dates are naturally sugary but low-glycemic, high in potassium, iron and other essential minerals, they’re easy to metabolize. There are dates and then there are Medjools. Caramelly and moist, they’re the sweetest and stickiest, they’re considered the king of dates.
What’s not to love? Butter, cream and eggs, if you’re plant-based. This vegan version is just as ooey-gooey and delicious as the original — with a few breaks with tradition.
As with the classic recipe, it all starts with dried dates getting a spa treatment, a warm bath to soak and soften. Most recipes call for rehydrating the dates in hot water, but I wanted to deepen flavor. Sweet is good, but one of the best ways to enjoy dates is with a strong cup of coffee, so the sweet chew of a date meets the deep, rich, nutty notes of coffee. It’s a perfect foil, so instead of water, I use brewed coffee.
Craziest add — seltzer. I don’t know the science behind it, I just know it works as an egg replacement in baked goods, adds no flavor or fat and keeps things light, 1/4 cup equals 1 egg.
The caramel sauce is really a two ingredient wonder — full-fat coconut milk and brown sugar. Coconut milk does double-duty for both the cream and the butter — it’s that rich. No wonder it stars in so many plant-based recipes. I don’t alway love the way the flavor dominates, though. Here, the coconut flavor cooks out over slow, gentle heat, and the richness stays in.
The sauce and the cake cook simultaneously, so everything’s ready at the same time. The hard part’s being patient and letting it cool.
Vegan Sticky Toffee Pudding
Hard-core traditionalists may object to veganizing a classic English recipe, but no one can object to a little sweetness in these difficult days, with some extra consciousness and compassion, too.
Sticky Toffee Pudding: Vegan Edition
For the cake:
- 8 Medjools the largest, more caramelly, and ooey-gooeyest of dates pitted
- 3/4 cup hot brewed coffee or hot water
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter — I recommend Miyoko’s
- 1 scant cup unbleached all purpose flour — about 2 tablespoons shy of a proper cup
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon whiskey
- 1/4 cup seltzer or soda water
For the caramel sauce:
- 1 15- ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- pinch sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon whiskey
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Lightly oil six 1/2 cup ramekins or one smallish 3 cup cake tin.
- In a small saucepan, heat the coffee or water over high heat until it just comes to boil. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner. Drop in the dates and let them soften and rehydrate for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Pour dates and the coffee or water they’ve been soaking in into a food processor or blender. Whizz them until they form a smooth puree. Add the plant-based butter, and whizz again until mixture is thick and luscious.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, whiskey and seltzer. Give everything one quick blast together until it forms a smooth, syruppy batter.
- Spoon batter into ramekins or cake tin. Baking time will be 20 minutes for the ramekins, closer to 30 minutes to the cake tin. Cake is done when golden-brown and tender. Allow to cool before unmolding.
- Meanwhile, make the caramel sauce.
- Pour coconut milk into a deep saucepan. Heat saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in brown sugar until it dissolves. When mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to cook for 20 minutes or so. Sauce will thicken and darken. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and spatter.
- When sauce is thick and the color of cafe au lait, and the whole kitchen smells of caramel, turn off burner. Stir in pinch of sea salt and half teaspoon whiskey.
- Allow sauce to cool slightly, then lavish cake with it and enjoy.
Other desserts you may enjoy:
- Minnie’s Cookies, Vegan Edition
- Red Velvet Cake (Vegan Chocolate Beet Cake)
- Spice Me Up Holiday Rum Cake
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