Tuesday 22 September 2009

sticky date pudding & butterscotch sauce

When I eat sticky date pudding I think of three people: my mum and my two stepsisters Shamu and Stinky.

In the 1990s, between mosh pits at angsty grunge concerts, I would visit local cafés with my mum and sisters and gorge on this delicious cake. We’d even do cake runs on Saturday nights!

In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find someone from Sydney who didn’t overload on sticky date pudding in the 90s. It was the dessert of choice and pretty much every café and restaurant served it.

These days it’s been replaced by newer fads, but I still have a soft spot for this moist, rich cake so I made it for a friend's BBQ where it followed Tim's amazing crispy pork belly (soon to be posted for your viewing/eating pleasure).

I found this recipe in Australian Gourmet Traveller’s 40th Anniversary Issue in the 1990s section. It’s a particularly good version.

Sticky Date Pudding

Recipe from Gourmet Traveller (August 2006). Serves 8-10.

170g dates, pitted & chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
60g butter, softened
170g (¾ cup) sugar
2 eggs
170g (1 cup) self-raising flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Butterscotch sauce (see recipe below), to serve
Double cream, to serve


1. Preheat oven to 160’C. Grease and line cake tin.

2. Combine dates and 300ml water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium-high heat.

3. Remove from heat, add bicarbonate of soda and stand.

4. Beat butter and caster sugar with electric beaters until pale and fluffy.

5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Add flour, date mixture and vanilla and mix to combine.

7. Spoon into a cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre withdraws clean.

8. Remove from oven and pour a quarter of butterscotch sauce over warm pudding then return to oven for 2-3 minutes so sauce soaks into pudding.

9. Serve pudding with extra butterscotch sauce and double cream or vanilla ice cream

Butterscotch Sauce
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller (August 2006). Makes approx 500ml.

200g (1 cup) brown sugar
125ml (½ cup) thick cream
130g butter, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


1. For butterscotch sauce combine all ingredients in a saucepan

2. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer or 3 minutes.

The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a miraculous plant, providing so much to the people that rely upon it.

Dates have been part of the Middle Eastern diet for thousands of years and archaeological evidence shows cultivation as far back as 6000 BCE. They probably came from the Persian Gulf and spread though Mesopotamia into prehistoric Egypt

Dates are so important to the Middle Eastern diet that all four stages of the ripening process have their own word in Arabic: kimri (unripe), khalal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried).

Wikipedia lists over 40 different kinds of dates and not surprisingly, the Middle East leads the way in date output with the world’s top five producers being Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

Date palms can take up to 7 years before they bear fruit but once they do they can make up to 120kg (264lbs) per harvest. They are not only the source of palm sugar but they also can be used to produce syrup, honey, vinegar and alcohol. There’s even sparkling date juice!

Apart from the fruit, young leaves and the palm heart can be cooked as a veggie, ground seeds make flour or flavour coffee and the flowers are added to salads.

And you don’t even need to eat date palm products. You can make soap from the sap; cosmetics from the oil, specialist charcoal and beads from the seeds; brooms from the fruit stalks; thatching, mats, screens and baskets from the fronds; and even a leather waterproofing agent from the syrup.

Dates can be eaten fresh once soft or also eaten dried. Fresh dates are high in Vitamin C but it’s lost in the drying process.

Dates are an amazing 80% sugar and the rest is protein and fat. They are high in fibre and potassium. Their high tannin content makes them useful in treatments for sore throat, colds and fever relief.

Date by-products are also used for treating diarrhoea, urinary problems and toothaches and in Nigeria the fruits are added to flavour beer because its believed they counteract intoxication.

Dates are my Weekend Herb Blogging theme ingredient this week, hosted by Graziana from Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs).

Other recipes using dates:
Bacon-Wrapped Date 'Cannolis' w Pine Nuts - DISHtrict
Banana-Date Smoothie - Pink Bites
Bengali Date & Tomato Chutney - Ahaar
Date & Coconut Burfi (Indian fudge) - Laws of the Kitchen
Date & Earl Grey Madeleines - The British Larder
Date & Ginger Charoset (sweet Syrian paste) - I Heart Kale
Date & Walnut Loaf - More than Words
Date, Molasses & Cardamom Cake - Arabic Bites
Date Scones - Vicious Ange
Drunken Date & Blue Cheese Flatbread - Choosy Beggars
Kharjura Payasa (Indian date dessert) - Monsoon Spice
Kobz Abraj (North African breakfast pastries) - Kitchen Chick
Lärabars (date, nut & cocoa bar) - Chocolate & Zucchini
Mandarin-Date Sweet Potatoes - The Gluten Free Hippie
No-Cook Apple, Date & Onion Chutney - The Cottage Smallholder
Persimmon Fruit Salad - Morsels & Musings
Pistachio Stuffed Dates - Elana's Pantry
Pumpkin-Date Loaf - Culinary in the Country
Sesame-Date Muffins - I Think I Have A Recipe For That

From the M&M archives:
2008 - finger lime martini
2007 - kimchi jjigae (Korean spicy cabbage stew)
2006 - artichokes w lemon & garlic



  1. My goodness - I feel like I've attended the quintessential tutorial on dates. This was so comprehensive and interesting. I'll be checking out some of those recipes.

  2. If this is not so popular as during 90's... I can't imagine what is prepared now!
    Thank you for sharing this with WHB

  3. Wow... Just loved it....
    will book mark this page to try it.

  4. Ohhhhh my goodness! I made this for my sister's birthday on Wednesday at her request... I really wasn't looking forward to it (never been a big date fan)...
    IT WAS AMAZING!!! You've converted me! You got 9 votes for the best sticky date pudding we've ever tasted!

  5. emm, thanks so much for your comment. i am so happy you guys loved it as much as i did. i really appreciate the feedback.


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