Friday, October 14, 2011

Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake or Cupcakes for Sweet New Zealand

It happened to me in the Woolworths in Brighton when I was living in Melbourne. I cried because there was no pumpkin in a can.

It’s not easy cooking in another country. I’m sure many people have had similar experiences that I’ve had, when you go to the grocery store on the hunt for a certain ingredient that you know should be there, because hell, it’s always stocked at your grocery stores at home, only to be completely stymied by the non-existence of said ingredient in your new country.

And just to clarify, I didn’t cry much, just a few sniffs really. I just wanted to make something nice from home for my flatmate, who was incidentally from somewhere north of Auckland, and I thought pumpkin pie would be perfect. Something quintessentially American, but easy and comforting for me, the newly-living-abroad-still-naive American. I had no idea how different Australian (and later, Kiwi) cooking was to good old ‘Merrican home cookin’. (Say that like George W, then it makes more sense.)

Three little ducks, all in a row, ready for my tummy.
Fall (as in ‘autumn’, but we’re lazy and say ‘fall’) is just getting into itself over in the US of A, at least according to the bloggy world. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t post some recipe that includes the ubiquitous pumpkin-in-a-can. Pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin etc etc etc. Colour me green with jealousy, I’m about to go into importing pumpkin in a freakin’ can.

Except that I totally just emailed my mommy a recipe for pumpkin coffee cake to make when I’m in the States at Christmas, and she said that she couldn’t find any at the store. Quelle horreur! Is there no canned pumpkin left in the world?! Have all the food bloggers squirreled it away for their own nefarious bloggy purposes?? I’m sending my trusty detective Mommy to investigate...

Meanwhile, I have decided to pursue some purely Antipodean baking, since I can get those ingredients here. The first time I had sticky-date pudding (SDP for the lazy) was at my friend Matt’s house in Melbourne, and his mom Lydia still makes the best SDP in my (somewhat limited!) experience. It is to DIE for. Anytime I would get invited for dinner I would get excited in my tummy for her foods. Since there’s a whole big ditch called the Tasman Sea in the way of me and sticky-date pudding bliss, I thought it would be a good place to start on learning how to bake like a Kiwi/’Stralyin.

Chocolate sticky toffee pudding cake - enough adjectives in there for ya?
This is a great take on the traditional SDP with the addition of a little dark chocolate, and absolutely must be served with cream, or even better – custard. Must.

I made this for the workmates last week when I got chocolate in the mail and actually had dates waiting in the cupboard just for this purpose, but never got to store for the essential cream/custard and so I didn’t quite get the glory I deserved for making such a beautiful cake for them. My bad. Then I had to bring something for our last pottery class, so during the night my brain decided that this cake in cupcake form would be a winner, especially since I still have ingredients left over. Add a little butterscotch-buttercream frosting on top in place of the cream and/or custard and everything would be golden. Heh. Turns out I was right.

Rustic-looking background = my porch.  Who's resourceful?? This girl!

Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

  • 300 ml boiling water
  • 150 g chopped dates
  • 150 g dark chocolate – the darker, the better
  • 100 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150 g brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Toffee Sauce of Glory (for cake)
  • 275 g golden syrup (about half a bottle)
  • 275 g brown sugar
  • 225 ml cream (could use milk in a pinch)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
Butterscotch Buttercream (for cupcakes)
  • 100 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 c icing sugar
  • ¼ c custard powder
  • 1 tsp salt (sounds like a lot, but trust me)
  • 150 g maple syrup
  • Splash of milk to mix
  1. Preheat oven to 180. (Cake) Grease and line a 20cm springform pan. (Cupcakes) Put liners in your cupcake tin.
  2. Put boiling water in a saucepan, reduce to a simmer and soak the dates in it for about 10 minutes. Once they’re done, just take them off the heat.
  3. In the meantime, melt the chocolate either in the microwave or over a double-boiler, then set aside to cool a little.
  4. Cream your butter and sugar together, then add eggs one at a time.
  5. Mix in cooled chocolate.
  6. Sift dry ingredients together, then mix into wet mixture in batches. Add the soaked dates and their soaking liquid and incorporate gently.
  7. (Cake) Pour mixture into cake tin and bake for 50 minutes. (Cupcakes) Fill cupcake holes about 2/3 full (or maybe a little more!) and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
Toffee Sauce
  1. Put all ingredients into a saucepan on a high heat and boil for 4-5 minutes, stirring to prevent sugar from burning.
  2. Serve the cake warm with toffee sauce poured on each slice. This will make plenty of sauce for everyone!
  1. Cream butter and icing sugar together.
  2. Add salt, maple syrup and a splash of milk.
  3. To prevent this frosting from being too sweet, use the custard powder to thicken. The consistency should be decently thick, thick enough to pipe through a large tip.
  4. Spoon frosting into a piping bag with a large tip or into large plastic bag, snip the tip off the plastic bag and pipe big spirals on your cupcakes.
I tinted my buttercream a golden yellow because between the butter and the maple syrup it wasn’t white anymore, more like a sickly cream colour, and with it being spring and all I wanted a more cheerful cupcake. Enjoy!
I'm submitting this double recipe for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by the lovely Couscous & Consciousness.  I've been a fan of her blog for a while now, and recently she's been posting great (read: easy for me, a sometimes-lazy cook) spring recipes, like this one I'm going to attempt on Sunday - Cauliflower Soup


  1. Oh my gosh - I can't wait to try this in all its incarnations - as a cake with custard and cream, and as those gorgeous cupcakes - totally loving the idea of the butterscotch cream.

    What I wouldn't give to be able to get canned pumpkin in this country - not that I have ever tried it. But this time of year I see all those amazing recipes out there in the blogosphere that I am absolutely drooling over, but which ask for canned pumpkin. Well I know that I could actually just cook up some pumpkin - but would I bother? No.

    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing this with Sweet New Zealand this month, and thanks also for the great "shout-out".

    Sue xo

  2. You have NO IDEA how I long for canned pumpkin. It just sounds like it could make life so much easier, especially cool vegan recipes (and awesome baking recipes and classic pumpkin pie and OH it's not fair).

    Cracked up at the 'rustic background' - I'm always on the hunt for good-looking spots in my house for photos, wherever they may be!

  3. Thanks Sue and Laura! I may have found my calling with the whole canned pumpkin thing, I could start my own sweatshop\production line in my kitchen and sell it at an exorbitant, ahem I mean reasonable!, price to all the foodbloggers!


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