What the Brits call a "pudding" is not pudding by American standards. Rather, it's a rich, spongy date cake that's steamed to give it a dense, moist texture. What makes these individual-size cakes special is the sauce that they get smothered in after steaming: an unapologetically sweet, butterscotch-like sauce made from butter, cream and sugar.
We decided to use our butterscotch sauce here; its balanced toffee notes made the dessert less cloying but still beautifully rich. To pack our cakes with lots of deep, fruity date flavor, we ground half of the dates in the food processor with the sugar, while soaking the remaining dates in water with baking soda to tenderize them; we then added the flavorful soaking liquid right to the batter.
To steam the cakes, we cooked them in a covered water bath in the oven. Poking the cakes with a skewer allowed the sauce to be thoroughly absorbed. It is important to form a tight seal with the aluminum foil before baking the cakes so that the steam is trapped inside the roasting pan. You will need eight 6-ounce ramekins for this recipe.
Individual sticky butterscotch pudding cakes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
8 ounces pitted dates, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (1 1/3 cups)
3/4 cup warm water (110 F)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Butterscotch Sauce (recipe follows)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour eight 6-ounce ramekins. Set prepared ramekins in large roasting pan lined with dish towel. Bring kettle of water to boil.
Combine half of dates, water, and baking soda in 2-cup liquid measuring cup (dates should be submerged beneath water), and soak dates for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.
Process sugar and remaining dates in food processor until no large date chunks remain and mixture has texture of damp, coarse sand, about 45 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Drain soaked dates and add soaking liquid to processor. Add eggs, melted butter, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 15 seconds. Transfer mixture to bowl with dry ingredients and sprinkle drained soaked dates on top.
With rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold wet mixture into dry mixture until just combined and date pieces are evenly dispersed. Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come 1/4 inch up sides of ramekins. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, crimping edges to seal. Bake until cakes are puffed and surfaces are spongy, firm, and moist to touch, about 40 minutes. Immediately transfer ramekins to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
Using skewer, poke 25 holes in top of each cake and spoon 1 tablespoon sauce over each cake. Let cakes sit until sauce is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Invert each ramekin onto individual plates or shallow bowls; lift off ramekin. Spoon remaining sauce over cakes and serve immediately.
Makes: about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup packed (7 ounces) brown sugar
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat sugar, corn syrup, butter, and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often, until sugar is fully dissolved, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture begins to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes.
Off heat, carefully stir in cream and vanilla; mixture will bubble and steam. Continue to stir until sauce is smooth. Let cool slightly. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks; gently warm in microwave, stirring every 10 seconds, until pourable, before using.)
Nutrition information per serving: 561 calories; 211 calories from fat; 24 g fat (15 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 119 mg cholesterol; 298 mg sodium; 86 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 67 g sugar; 5 g protein.