Festive Cranberry Sticky Toffee Pudding

Serves 6-8

Few things are more comforting than a classic Sticky Toffee Pudding. In this version, we take the traditional British cake and add tart macerated cranberries, a touch of fragrant orange zest and then bake it in a festive bundt. The cake is studded with gooey dates that give it a brown sugar sweetness and make the sponge unbelievably moist and tender. This recipe makes a generous amount of toffee sauce, so you can spoon it over your slice and still have some for leftovers the next day (this cake is even better the next morning).

Ingredients:

Cranberries

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries

Dates

  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 orange)
  • 1½ cups packed pitted and chopped Rancho Meladuco medjool dates (about 12 dates)

Cake

  • Nonstick baking spray, for greasing (see Note)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup half and half

Toffee Sauce

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup reserved cranberry liquid
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Prepare the cranberries In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar and ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil over moderate heat. Stir in the cranberries. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries begin to pop, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Use the back of your spoon to lightly mash the cranberries, then drain well, reserving the soaking liquid.

Prepare the dates In a medium saucepan, combine the orange juice and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil over moderate heat.  Stir in the dates. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dates are the texture of a chunky applesauce, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

Make the cake Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease the bundt pan with nonstick baking spray and set on a rimmed baking sheet.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer,  beat the butter and brown sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs, vanilla and orange zest. Scrape down the side of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. 

On low speed, add the dry ingredients to the bowl, alternating with the half-and-half and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, beating until just combined after each addition. Stop the mixer and fold in the drained cranberries and dates. Pour into the prepared bundt pan, filling ¾ of the pan, and smooth the top.  (If you have excess batter, bake off in small ramekins for a snack for the cook!)

Bake the cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back slightly when pressed, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer the bundt pan to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce In a medium saucepan, whisk the brown sugar with the ¼ cup of the reserved cranberry liquid. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat, if necessary. Add the butter and salt and whisk until the butter is melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the cream, vanilla and orange zest and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat, whisking occasionally, until the toffee sauce has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Using a wooden skewer, poke holes every 2 inches or so around the exposed surface of the cake. Spoon ⅓ cup of sauce over the top, using the back of your spoon to spread it around. Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan, then carefully turn the cake out onto a platter.

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, passing the remaining toffee sauce alongside. If the sauce has cooled and tightened up, gently reheat it in the saucepan over moderately-low heat.

NOTE Baking spray contains flour which helps your cake release from the mold. If you do not have baking spray, then you can grease your molds with regular non-stick spray or a paper towel dipped in a neutral oil like canola or grapeseed. Use a pastry brush to make sure it is evenly distributed. Dust the mold with flour, then shake the pan to evenly distribute. Tap out any excess.

Recipe & Photos by Julia Heffelfinger

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