Sticky Toffee Pudding with Black Pepper Ice Cream

This morning I'm still relishing the memories of yesterday's Moveable Feast. The theme was one close to my heart (and stomach), British Gastropubs. As soon as I saw the theme I knew I wanted to claim dessert.

Sticky Toffee Pudding ranks as one of my all-time favorite desserts. And as it turns out, the same is true for a number of my fellow Feasters. I will go as far as saying that yesterday's dessert was one of the best things I've ever made - not just for Moveable Feast but in all the things I've ever cooked.

Sticky Toffee Pudding is not what most American's think of as a pudding. It's a moist sponge cake that is covered in toffee sauce while still warm and allowed to sit overnight to allow the sauce to soak into the cake. The recipe I use comes from Troquet restaurant here in Boston and was published in the Boston Globe several years ago. I don't know how traditional it is in terms of method but it is truly delicious and stands up to puddings I've had in restaurants here and in the UK.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The recipe starts with dates that are simmered for a short time with baking soda to soften them. After letting them cool they are pureed then mixed into the cake batter. The first time I made this recipe I was alarmed by the color, texture, and consistency of the date puree. But the end result is well-worth the questionable looking mixture. (For obvious reasons I'm not including a picture.)

I used Deglet dates but have also used Medjool dates in the past

The recipe calls for baking the puddings in individual muffin cups instead of one large pan. They come out of the oven looking like bran muffins.

After allowing them cool briefly in the pan I removed them from the muffin tin and inverted them into a Pyrex dish. While still warm I poured the hot toffee sauce over the puddings. They cooled completely on the counter before being covered and placed in the refrigerator overnight.

For serving the next day I warmed the puddings in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes. I let the puddings sit out during dinner so they weren't refrigerator-cold when they went into the oven. You might need to warm them for a bit longer if they come straight from the refrigerator.

British, dates, toffee, dessert
Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

from Troquet Restaurant, Boston
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 35 MinInactive time: 12 HourTotal time: 13 H & 4 M


For the cake:
  • 1¼ cups pitted dates
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup cold water
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
For the toffee sauce:
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream


For the cake:
  1. Set the oven at 350 degrees F. Butter 8 cups in a muffin tin.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the dates, baking soda, and water. Bring it to a boil and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. It will foam; adjust the heat so it doesn't boil over. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a food processor, work the date mixture until smooth.
  4. In an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the granulated sugar gradually. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  5. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, beat in the flour and salt. Blend the date mixture into the batter.
  6. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Fill the 4 empty cups halfway with water. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops of the puddings are firm to the touch. Let them cool slightly, then turn them out upside down into a heatproof baking dish.
For the toffee sauce:
  1. In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar and cream. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let it bubble gently for 5 minutes.
To assemble:
  1. Pour the brown sugar mixture over the cakes, dividing it evenly. Let the cakes cool.
  2. Cover the cakes loosely with foil and refrigerate for at least half a day so the cakes soak up the sauce.
To serve:
  1. Set the oven at 300 degrees. Warm the cakes for 10 minutes or until heated through.
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Black Pepper Ice Cream

Sticky Toffee Pudding is traditionally served with vanilla ice cream. I wanted to make something a bit more "chefy" and turned to David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop for inspiration. This where I found his recipe for Black Pepper Ice Cream. I thought the sharp flavor of the black pepper would work nicely against the sweetness of the puddings.

While the puddings were baking I started the ice cream base which involved steeping two tablespoons of cracked black pepper in cream and whole milk.

It took a few batches but my little mortar & pestle did the job

After steeping for an hour I added the eggs and remaining ingredients for the custard. After straining out the peppercorns, I let the base cool overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning I churned it in my ice cream maker and let it firm up in the freezer before our Feast.

The two tablespoons of pepper makes for a very assertively flavored ice cream. I like it but could see cutting back on the amount of pepper for a more subtle flavor. It's worth trying and pairs perfectly with the pudding.

ice cream, black pepper, David Lebovitz
Ice Cream
Yield: Makes 2 cups
Author: David Lebovitz
Black Pepper Ice Cream

Black Pepper Ice Cream

from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 65 MinInactive time: 1 HourTotal time: 2 H & 15 M


  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks


  1. Warm the milk, sugar, peppercorns, salt and ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Rewarm the peppercorn-infused mixture. Pour the remaining ½ cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer, pressing the peppercorns gently to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the peppercorns and stir the custard into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
  4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
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