Lumberjack Cake with Salted Rum Toffee Sauce

This old-fashioned Australian version of traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding is enriched with a smooth date puree and topped with a crowning coconut crust. It’s dense and moist and is said to deliver enough energy to power the proverbial lumberjack from teatime to lunch. In this version, inspired by an old favorite from the iconic Donna Hay, we’ve added a tropical twist with crushed pineapple, coffee and a touch of rum. The toasted coconut crumble eats like a Girl Scout Samoa cookie and the salted rum toffee sauce is a savory contrast to the sweet cake. 



  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter (¾ cup), at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 8 ounces Medjool dates (about 10 dates), pitted
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon Instant espresso powder
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • One 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained 
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Coconut Topping:

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut

Toffee Sauce:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons rum (see Note)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 

Make the cake Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9-inch springform cake pan.

In a small saucepan, combine the dates, baking soda, instant espresso powder and ¾ cup of water. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has almost evaporated and the dates are very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the rum. Scrape the dates and any liquid into a food processor and puree until smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. The mixture will look broken, but it will come together when you add the flour. Mix in the date puree and strained pineapple. Add the flour and sprinkle the salt over the batter. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Bake the cake for 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the coconut topping In small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the sugar, milk and salt. Fold in the coconut and remove from the heat. 

Remove the cake from the oven and spoon the topping over the cake, making sure that the top is completely covered. Return the cake to the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely in the pan.

Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce In a small saucepan, combine the cream, brown sugar, butter and salt. Cook over moderate heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. The sauce will bubble up. Continue cooking, stirring sporadically, until the toffee sauce is a nice golden brown and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum and vanilla extract.

Slice the cake and transfer to plates. Spoon the salted rum toffee sauce over the top and serve, passing the remaining sauce at the table.

NOTE If you are concerned about serving uncooked rum in the caramel sauce, then substitute the rum for 1 teaspoon of rum extract.

MAKE AHEAD The cake can be prepared a day in advance and stored, covered, at room temperature. Let cool completely before covering.

Recipe & photos by Julia Heffelfinger @juliaheff

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