What's better than sticky toffee pudding? Sticky Toffee Pudding with Pears & Pecans!
From Jane: "Many bakers have dreams of opening a little café with cakes on the counter and really good coffee. In mine, I’d be making this every day in fall, using plums, apples, or cranberries closer to the holidays. It’s here in this chapter because I can imagine it crowning the table at Thanksgiving or Christmas."
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For the cake
- 1 cup pitted soft dates
- 2 sticks (1 cup) soft butter, plus extra for greasing
- 11/2 cups pecans
- 2 medium pears, just ripe (you need about 11/2 cups chopped pear)
- 1 packed cup light brown sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup milk
- 21/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp salt
For the toffee topping
- 1/2 packed cup light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup pecans
- First, soak the dates by covering them with boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes, or longer if you like. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F and do the rest of the prep. Melt a little butter, then use a pastry brush to grease the inside of a 10- cup nonstick bundt pan.
- Finely chop the pecans in a food processor, then pour them out. Peel the pears, then cut them into fingertip-size chunks, discarding the central core part.
- Drain the dates through a sieve. Process the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth, then whizz in the dates. Now add the eggs, milk, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and process to make a smooth cake batter. (This recipe is much easier with a food processor, but you can make it by hand too. Finely chop the nuts, and chop the soaked dates as finely as you can, almost to a pulp. Mix the dates and other ingredients in a large bowl and beat until creamy and smooth. Fold in the nuts and pears and continue as below.)
- Unless you have a really big food processor, at this point you’ll need to turn the batter into a bowl to fold in the pecans and pears. If you do have the room in the processor bowl, be sure to remove the blades before mixing. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake has risen all over and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before giving the pan a sharp tap on the work surface, then turning it out onto a cooling rack if serving cold, or a plate if serving warm.
- For the toffee topping, put the sugar, butter, and cream in a medium pan. Heat it gently until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer briefly to make a silky smooth caramel sauce.
- Stir the pecans into the sauce, then spoon it all over the cake. It will set firm and lose its shine if serving cold, but it will be easier to slice.
- The cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, and will freeze well, without the topping.
- Make a double quantity of the sauce, and serve the sauce and the cake warm, at the table, as a spectacular dessert. Great with cream or crème anglaise served alongside.
NO BUNDT PAN?
Using a bundt pan gives this cake a wonderful texture and dramatic shape, but a greased and lined 9 x 13-inch sheet cake pan does the job too. Bake the cake at 325°F for 40 minutes, or until it has risen right to the middle, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
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