Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding 4

Sticky Toffee Cake 2

Yay! Don’t you love chancing across a new recipe that you know you are going to use again and again? I can think of no good reason this cake has never crossed my radar before, but am completely happy about meeting this charmer at a recent Christmas dinner party. Away from the table when dessert arrived, I returned to a table grown silent, my dinner companions quietly chewing and making that promising “mmmhmm” sound. You know that sound. Someone spoke at last saying, “Just try it,” and when I did, I began making the “mmmhmm” sound too.

Despite the pudding tag in its title, this is definitely a cake. A dessert tradition from the British Isles, this dish is as hard to describe as it is identifying the ingredients while eating it. It is sweet, but not overly so. The texture is best described as toothsome and chewable in the very best sense. Without a speck of chocolate in it, the flavor eludes it, along with winter and warmth, each essence sourced to the coffee-soaked dates pureed then added to the batter. The dates are responsible for the dense texture and at first bite, gingerbread comes to mind, but this cake isn’t at all spiced so the gingerbread association is all about the texture of this dish.

If this concoction isn’t already the signature dessert of a famous eatery somewhere in the civilized world, it definitely deserves the honor. The recipe below I adapted after reading the history of the cake followed by looking through a dozen recipes for it online. I used hot coffee for soaking the dates, and used light brown sugar though next time I will try dark. Having all but two ingredients in my pantry meant only a quick trip to the market for dates and heavy cream, then preparing and enjoying it with mama at our traditional New Year’s Eve supper. Mama insisted she could only eat a very small piece so I served her a nice medium piece and she ate every bite of it without one word of further protest.

I checked the cake after 30 minutes as I used a different sized baking dish than in the recipe; I wanted something smaller than a 9×13 pan so the cake would be taller, so used an 8×11″ dish. If baked in a 9×13″ dish, the baking time will be much shorter so just watch it and don’t let the edges begin to brown. I took it out of the oven when a toothpick inserted came out streaked but not gooey, about 36 minutes on my timer. The sauce is delightful; serve it sparingly, drizzled over each serving. And do go whip the cream for this and sprinkle it with just a pinch of sea salt before serving as the salt is a great contrast to the whipped cream. You’ve already figured this out surely, but the cake keeps well, covered tightly, sitting on the counter. Hello, added bonus! The bottom photo here is of the cake on Day 2, with lunch, in better light.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Cake Ingredients

2-1/4 cups dried dates, coarsely chopped
2-1/4 cups scalding hot coffee
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 T. dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Toffee Sauce Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup plus 2 T. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions Pit and roughly chop dates and place them in a heavy bowl; pour hot coffee over them and stir in the baking soda. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350, and butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, if desired. I didn’t, and the cake turned out of the pan with no sticking at all.

Blend the date-coffee mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and sugars. Whisk in eggs, then salt. Stir in the flour, fold well, then add the prepared date puree and fold well again. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30. Cool on wire rack. If you used parchment paper, invert the cake onto a serving platter and remove parchment paper from bottom of cake; finish cooling on wire rack.

When your cake is ready for serving, make the sauce: you need a large sauce pot with a heavy bottom, at least 2-1/2 quart size because the mixture increases in volume as it cooks. Melt the butter in the pan, add cream, sugar and vanilla and bring mixture to a good simmer over medium heat. Whisk continually for 10 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and allow to begin cooling. To serve, cut cake into squares and drizzle with toffee sauce, top with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened whipped cream with a pinch of sea salt added to the top of the cream. Serve when the cake is still slightly warm.

Spiced Pretzels

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If you are going to prepare anything from these pages the first time you’re here, these pretzels will net you great results for very little effort. Winner! I bake up these pretzels faithfully every year after designating the oven as the-rum-cake-area-only for thirty days. As always, today’s batch was a toasty treat indeed, eaten to the bottom of the bowl along with a bacon-and-onion pizza pie and very cold beer. The only thing you need do to produce these “just can’t stop eating them” pretzels is toss them with oil and dry spices then stir them in the pan every 20 minutes for the next two hours. If you want more pretzels, double the recipe below. This recipe of my sister, Mamie’s, is so ono for snacking and it never fails!

Spiced Pretzels


1-1# bag pretzel rods
1/2 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packet
1/2 cup Wesson oil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper


Place pretzels in a 9×13” pan and drizzle oil over them. Stir together the spices in a small bowl then sprinkle over pretzels. Stir gently, but thoroughly, to coat well. Bake at 200 degrees for two hours, stirring every 20 minutes. Store airtight.

A Wassil Kind of Day

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You know the day: rainy, usually, with that little damp chill in the air. Wassail is easy prepared in a crock pot or on the stove and doing so will suffuse your house with the aroma of cinnamon, apples, and cloves. We enjoy Mamie’s recipe for this spiced winter drink on Christmas mornings while opening gifts, and I made a pot yesterday just for sipping all the rainy, chilly day long. Just set it on low heat before you walk away then return often for another mug full.

Winter Wassail


2 quarts apple juice
2 cups orange juice
1 cup lemon juice
18-oz. can pineapple juice (or 3-6 oz. cans)
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp. whole cloves
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar

Directions Place all ingredients in a large saucepan or crock pot, stir well to blend ingredients, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer on low several hours. Serve piping hot in insulated cups or heavy clear mugs. Be warmed.

Absolute Best Macaroni Salad

different mac

Ahhh, macaroni salad! Who doesn’t love pasta and veggies dressed with a special “sauce”? Because this salad keeps well in the fridge without losing its flavor or texture, it was on my carry-in list to my sister’s house for Christmas again this year. The secret to the salad’s great taste is found in the sweetened condensed milk used in the dressing. Cutting the vegetables for this dish by hand does take longer, an exercise in determined effort more than anything else, but the moisture the veggies release using a food chopper detract from the flavor of this dish and you will have better results taking the time to slice-and-dice them yourself.

The secret to the salad’s great taste is found in the sweetened condensed milk in the dressing. Use just enough mayonnaise to prevent the dressing being runny as this keeps the pasta from being overwhelmed. I already adjusted the mayonnaise amount; you should start with the smaller amount then adjust to your taste. This yields a large bowl of salad so it is a perfect choice for a “next day” menu as well. Do try this and let me know what you think; it is not the typical Hawaiian-style plate lunch mac salad, y’all, but it is a good alternative. Don’t over cook the macaroni and it’s all “duck soup!”


For the salad

1 (16 oz.) pkg. elbow macaroni, cooked, drained well
1 large onion, chopped, small dice
1 large green pepper, seeded, cut into strips, then cut, small dice
2-3 stalks celery, cut into thin strips then diced
3 carrots, shaved into strips then snipped small

For the dressing

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 to 2 cups Hellman’s mayonnaise, to taste
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Celery seed, to taste

Directions Prepare the vegetables. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well in a colander. Prepare the dressing by combining the milk, mayonnaise, and vinegar in small mixing bowl, whisking thoroughly to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt, pepper, and celery seed if using. Place well-drained macaroni in large bowl, add the vegetables and the dressing; stir well, folding the dressing in thoroughly to coat the macaroni. Scrape into large covered container and chill completely before serving. Store leftovers in fridge.

Cherry Buckle

Cherry Buckle 3

This recipe is so simple that I may need to set up a “fast comfort food” category! The original recipe was inadvertently updated when I made a mistake and picked up a can of cherry pie filling rather than the can of unsweetened cherries the original recipe called for. The result featured a light sweet cake-like texture with plenty of fruit; Susie and I thought it was just fine so you may use either the pie filling or the original recipe’s can of unsweetened fruit.

A buckle is akin to a cobbler, but the dish gets its name from its tendency to fall on itself while baking; the batter is first added to the baking dish and the fruit spooned on top; as it bakes the batter tries its best to rise to the top and the fruit is doing its thing heading to the bottom so it all “buckles inward”. This old recipe came highly recommended from one of mama’s neighbors because the ingredients are commonly found on a cook’s pantry shelves. You need only keep a can of pie filling, or a can of unsweetened fruit, on hand and you’re good to go when you want something sweet and something fast.  Jazz it up with a tablespoon of heavy cream poured over individual servings.

Cherry Buckle


1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 t. almond extract
3/4 cup milk
1 large can unsweetened cherries or other fruit, drained, juice reserved
1/4 cup additional sugar, to taste
1-1/2 T. half-n-half or heavy cream, optional

Directions Preheat oven to 375. Melt butter in a 2-qt baking dish or 8×8″ pan. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking powder, stir with a fork to sift. Combine the almond extract with the milk; add to dry ingredients; whisk, blending well. Batter will be thin. Pour batter into your baking dish then top with canned cherries. Swirl the cherries lightly into the batter, add the reserved juice, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool slightly then pour a little heavy cream on top before serving.