Sticky toffee pudding

Way back in the early 1980s, my mother used to get a magazine (now sadly defunct) called A La Carte. It was some serious aspirational 1980s stuff – all glossy pages, gorgeous photos and recipes full of exotic (for the 80s) things like sun-dried tomatoes. Long after the rest of her collection had vanished, one issue of the magazine stayed downstairs on the cookery book shelves. It was Easter, so there was a fluffy rabbit frolicking in salad leaves on the front, and a bold headline saying ‘Lettuce play’. Page upon page of salad with more bunny porn followed – along with a recipe for something called an Ooey, Gooey Sticky Toffee Pudding – the sole reason for preserving this issue of the magazine for thirty years.

These were the dark days of the Falklands and the miners’ strike. Nobody else in Bedfordshire seemed very interested in food. At school and at my friend’s houses, pudding was always instant Angel Delight, a scoop of fatty, pink ice-cream or jelly. At home, it was different – where the other children were eating bowls of instant custard with a banana chopped into them, my lovely Mum was making sticky toffee pudding, and we had the most inventive salads in town.

To make sticky toffee pudding for six, you’ll need:

150g stoned dates
250ml hot water from the kettle
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60g softened unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour

200g butter
400g soft brown sugar
1 vanilla pod (or a few drops of vanilla essence)
250ml double cream

Heat the oven to 180°C (370°F).

Chop the stoned dates finely with a small sharp knife and put in a bowl. Sprinkle over the bicarbonate of soda and pour over the hot water, stirring well. Set aside for ten minutes while you prepare the rest of the cake mixture.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat the eggs into the mixture. Gradually stir in the sifted flour, then fold in the date mixture. Pour the batter, which will be quite loose, into a greased, 20 cm square cake tin, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. The cake will have risen, but not dramatically – this is quite a dense pudding.

Make the sauce while the cake is baking. Melt the sugar and butter together with the vanilla pod and cook over a medium heat, stirring, for five minutes. Stir in the double cream and bring to a low simmer for another five minutes.

Make holes in the top of the cake with your skewer and pour over half of the sauce. Serve immediately with extra sauce to pour over at the table, and a jug of cold double cream. (Some like this dish with ice cream, but I like cream best.)

22 Replies to “Sticky toffee pudding”

  1. Liz, thought I'd imagined A La Carte, yours is the first reference to it on Google, but quite a long way down! I loved it, and just quoted it with a link to this recipe in my list of the 5 cook books that fired up my love of food. I know not strictly a book, but the production values were so high! Still reminiscing over an edition with a black and white dinner party in, must be time to revive that!

    Best wishes


  2. I have the Lettuce Play issue on my shelves as part of a collection of about 3 years worth of A La Carte which I could never bear to throw away or sell. The presentation and crockery/cutlery were so fantastic when combined with the culinary creations that even though the £1.50 cover price was expensive for me then, it was compulsory purchasing/reading. I’ve just taken out the December/January 1984-5 issue for the boned rolled turkey recipe with madeira sauce. It’s a fantastic dish and even though the boning knife for preparing the bird cost £7.25 from John Lewis 26 years ago – almost as much as the turkey must have cost – I am still using the knife and still making the same recipe.

    1. Fantastic, Carol! Sounds like you’ll have a wonderful lunch – if you’ve got time, it’d be fantastic if you could share the recipe.

      Have a very merry Christmas!

  3. Liz – the Stuffed Boned Turkey recipe is as follows and serves 8; sauce recipe underneath:


    6-7lb turkey

    stuffing: 1lb piece of gammon; 1oz butter; small onion, finely chopped; 4oz fresh white breadcrumbs; 4oz roughly chopped brazil nuts; 1 teasp finely grated orange zest; 1 teaspo tomato puree; 1/2 teaspoon dried ground mace; 1 egg beaten
    seasoning for skin: softened butter; salt and pepper; 1 teaspoon ground mace


    To make the stuffing: cut gammon into small pieces and fry in the butter for 2-3 minutes only [I use lardons/bacon cubes as easier and quicker]. Turn the ham, let it take on a little colour, then remove. Soften the onion in the pan juices.

    Put the ham and onion through the fine blade of a mincer [I used to use a food processor, not possessing a mincer! I also let it cool before the next step]. Mix with the rest of the ingredients and bind with the egg.

    Form the stuffing into an oval shape. Turn the boned turkey skin side down on a work surface and spread it out.

    Stuff the turkey with the stuffing mixture. Thread a trussing needle with fine string and sew the bird securely to keep in the stuffing.

    Spread the butter over the surface, seasoning with the salt, pepper and mace.

    Stand the turkey on a rack in a roasting tin. Cover the breast with a piece of buttered foil. Roast at Gas Mark 6 (200’C, 400’F) for 1 hour, then lower the temperature to Gas Mark 4 (180’C, 350’F) and cook for 1 hour more. Pierce the flesh with a skewer – if the juices run clear, it is cooked.

    Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices and serve with Tomato Madeira Sauce.

    Tomato Madeira Sauce


    1oz butter or olive oil; 1 medium onion, chopped; 1 medium carrot, diced; 1oz mushrooms, cut into dice; 1 heaped dessertspoon tomato puree; 1 heaped teaspoon flour; 1 level teaspoon mild paprika; 1/4 pint red wine; 1/4 pint dry Madeira; 1 pint strong kurkey stock; 1/2lb fresh tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped.

    To serve:

    small glass of dry or medium dry Madeira; 1oz butter, fridge hard and cubed


    Melt the butter, add the onion and carrot, lower the heat and brown, stirring regularly.

    Add the mushrooms and mix in the puree – it must not burn. Sprinkle over the flour and paprika. Stir in well, allow to colour for 1 minute, stirring all the time.

    Turn the mixture on to a plate, turn up the heat and pour the red wine into the pan. Work all the residues from the bottom of the pan into the wine.

    Add the Madeira, stock, tomatoes and the fried vegetable mixture. Briving everything to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, when you will have about 1 pint of sauce. Strain into a clean pan and leave to cool.

    To serve, bring the sauce to the boil. Add a small glass of Madeira and whisk in the cubed butter. Strain into a sauceboat.


  4. Hi does anyone have the A La Carte recipe for Christmas pudding please? My sister lost / mislaid her precious copy and now we have no recipe!!


  5. Victoria asked for the recipe from the December 1984 A la Carte for Christmas pudding. I have the mag and can scan it if needed, Mike

  6. I have found that I have 3 A la Carte mags and a menu from The Dorchester signed by Anton Mossiman !!! I am an old style cook, not into todays food as much as I was back in the 60,s (1960,s not 1860,s !!) I will let you know what I can dig out for your site !! Cheers Mike

  7. I have just started looking at my old collection of A La Carte. It has been in a tea chest in my parents garage for the last 25 years. There are 18 issues, does anyone know the dates of the first and final issues? Also looking for some of the original boxes to keep them in, I was a poor catering student in the 80s and could barely afford the magazine.

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