I have several South African friends, so when we were invited to supper club with an "Out of Africa" theme, this immediately came to mind for dessert. Toffee puddings are somewhat of a staple in South African communities; unfortunately most are obscenely sweet and not particularly attractive. This one is delightfully light, and attractive, to boot! It sounds more complicated than it really is, so don't be intimidated! The other great thing is that nobody will ever guess that the base flavor is from dates.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce
(originally in Bon Appetit at least 10 years ago)
For the Sauce:
2 c. whipping cream
1 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. unsalted butter
For the "Pudding":
1-1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
1-1/2 cups water
2 t. baking soda
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 c. unsalted butter
2/3 c. granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
Extra whipped cream for serving, and powdered sugar for decorating
Make the Sauce (can be prepared a day earlier):
Bring the cream, brown sugar and butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 2 cups, stirring occasionally (about 6 minutes). Set aside to cool, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before using.
Make the cake ("Pudding"):
Bring the water, dates and baking soda to a boil in a heavy saucepan; remove from heat and cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together; set aside. In another bowl, with an electric mixer, combine the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and half of the flour mixture. Stir in the date mixture (with liquid), and then blend in the remaining flour mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until cake rises and is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, pour 3/4 cup of warmed caramel sauce over the cake in the pan, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out free of crumbs, but still wet with the caramel. (It's like a magic process, with the sauce being absorbed into the cake).
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a platter to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, and serve with the caramel sauce and whipped cream. This cake holds beautifully for a couple of days.