We all have our own madeleine, that cake or cookie that evokes a deep, visceral sense of nostalgia. Sticky date pudding is probably mine. One bite of this sweet, gooey dessert and I’m back in the old country (AKA Australia).
Sticky Date Pudding isn’t very Jewish—it’s a really buttery, English-Aussie cake, served with a cream-based sauce (pareve dilemma, amiright?)—but I think Jews should make it a Rosh Hashanah thing, because it contains DATES and it’s eye-rollingly good. Also, since Sticky Date Pudding is mostly unknown in the United States, there’s a good chance none of your guests will have tasted it before, so you’ll score points for originality and cosmopolitanism. (If a cake made popular in England in the 1970s can be considered cosmopolitan.)
1 3/4 cups packed pitted dates (about 10 ounces)
2 cups water (optional: 1 cup pomegranate juice + 1 cup water—the tartness of the pomegranate juice is a nice contrast to the sweetness of the cake, giving it deeper, more fruity flavor)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar (you can reduce to 1/2 cup if you don’t want it so sweet — recommended if you’re using pomegranate juice)
3 large eggs
1 1/4 sticks (about 10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line base with parchment paper and lightly butter that too.
Coarsely chop dates. Put dates, water, and pomegranate juice in a saucepan and simmer (uncovered) for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add baking soda. The mixture will turn dark green and frothy. Be not alarmed, this is normal! (If you have a child handy, they will probably delight in overseeing this step.) Let the mixture stand for 15-20 mins.
Then: In a medium sized bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. (You might want to use your fingers to break up the sugar clumps.) Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating after each addition until just combined.
Now you can add in the date mixture. If you’ve used pomegranate juice, it will turn the batter a dark browny-green—which sounds gross, I know, but trust me, it will be delicious—otherwise it will turn brown. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Pour the batter (which should be pretty runny) into the prepared baking pan, and set that pan in a larger baking pan. Add boiling water to larger pan so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes. (You might need more time, depending on your oven.) When the pudding is done, remove the smaller pan from the water bath and let it cool.
Now you can make your sauce!
Melt the butter, cream and sugar over moderate heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes to thicken. (Give it a bit of a stir.) Let the sauce cool to warm. Prick the top of the cake here and there with a fork so that sauce can seep in (mmm!), then pour it over the cake. Serve with vanilla ice-cream (or plain coconut ice-cream if pareve).
Eat. Enjoy. Do not tell cardiologist.