A Magical Dessert

It all started with Harry Potter, as these things are wont to do. My family was obsessed with the boy wizard (well, mostly my younger daughter and I), and we read the books, listened to the audiobooks in the car, and went to all the movies (then bought them on DVD). Yes, we were at Barnes & Noble at midnight for the release of books 6 & 7 (dressed up, of course). And while I wouldn’t let my then 9th grade younger daughter go to the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (it was a school night…a decision for which she still is grumbling), I relented the following year when Deathly Hallows, Part 1 came out. Yup, we were definitely down the rabbit hole.

[Side note: I blame my complete ignorance of the Outlander books on having small children around (and no sleep) when they were first released in 1992, then our Harry Potter addiction as completely consuming my reading back then. Otherwise, I have no excuse as I love historical fiction, romance, and science fiction. Luckily, I eventually found Outlander (the show and the books) and have once again been consumed. I think I’m better for it, this blog being a direct result.]

Ok, where was I…oh yes, our addiction to Harry Potter. My younger daughter wanted to try and make the famous Treacle Tart that Harry so loved at Hogwarts. I had never heard of it before, but gamely decided to try. It seemed that the main ingredient was a British product called Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Hmmmm…living in Southern California at the time, my access to Lyle’s was very limited (I actually had no idea where to find it). We eventually tracked down a can, and made the tart. I seem to recall that we liked it (it was very sweet), but never tried it again because of the hassle of finding the Lyle’s.

So why am I babbling on about Harry Potter, treacle tarts, and Lyle’s? Well, I recently went to a Scottish Festival in Maine, and one of the vendors had a can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup on display. Coincidentally, I had just been to 2 different restaurants here in Boston that served Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert, and had since been wanting to try and make it at home. As an important ingredient was the syrup, finding the can at the Festival seemed like a sign. And since I’m very into making British desserts these days (thanks, Outlander!), Sticky Toffee Pudding (henceforth to be called STP) seemed like a good item to try. To the kitchen, full steam ahead!


A couple of not-usually-purchased ingredients

Actually, I first took a detour to one of my Outlander Facebook groups asking if the members there had a particular STP recipe they liked. I was pointed to several different online recipes, but a popular choice was the Lyle’s recipe itself. Next, I veered again to the market because the recipe called for dates and that’s not an item with which I usually cook. Once that was bought, I headed to the kitchen (ok, maybe at half steam now…I was tired).

(Wait, what is Sticky Toffee Pudding, anyway? Isn’t it a cake?) Oh yes, I forgot to explain…to an American, pudding is soft, squishy, extremely yummy creamy custard, with flavors like vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, etc. To the British, pudding is a broader term referring to any dessert (although you can have savory puddings as well…think Yorkshire pudding). Here’s how pudding is defined at British Food: A History:

If you are British and trying to explain the word to a foreigner the answer is surprisingly difficult. In America, it is a simple answer: a dessert. We all use pudding to mean dessert or afters, but then there are types of dessert that are true puddings. The true puddings are those that are boiled or steamed. Christmas puddings, suet puddings and sponge puddings fit into this category. In fact, anything boiled or steamed in a basin, cloth or handy piece of intestinal tract is a pudding: black pudding, white pudding, steak & kidney pudding, pease pudding and haggis are the ones that immediately spring to mind. So far, so good. However, there is the odd miscellaneous pudding: Yorkshire puddings aren’t boiled, they are baked beneath the roast beef in the oven.

The site goes on that STP isn’t really a true pudding, blah, blah, blah…frankly my head started to hurt and really, does it matter? Let’s just agree that STP is a sponge cake made with chopped dates and served warm with toffee sauce (and vanilla ice cream). (Why didn’t you say so in the first place?)

Moving on…here is the recipe for Lyle’s Splendidly Sticky Toffee Pudding


  • 175g (6oz) moist stoned dates, roughly chopped
  • 250ml (9floz) water
  • 1 rounded tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g (4½oz) Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 50g (2oz) Tate & Lyle Fairtrade Light Soft Brown Cane Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Lyle’s Black Treacle
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 175g (6oz) self-raising flour

(Toffee sauce)

  • 75g (3oz) unsalted butter
  • 95g (3½oz) Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 75g (3oz) Tate & Lyle Fairtrade Light Soft Brown Cane Sugar
  • 150ml (5floz) double cream

Bake this splendid sponge:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan, 350°F, Gas 4. Pop the dates into a pan with the water, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda.
  • Beat the butter, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Light Soft Brown Sugar with the Lyle’s Black Treacle until soft and creamy, then beat in the vanilla and eggs.



Before the oven…

  • Fold in the flour and the dates with their liquid and mix well to give a soft consistency. Spoon into a greased 20-23cm (8-9”) square shallow parchment lined cake tin, and bake on the middle shelf for 30 minutes. Lightly cover with foil and cook for a further 15-20 minutes (until a fine skewer comes out clean when poked through the centre).



Starting on the toffee sauce

  • Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the sauce into a medium-sized non-stick pan and stir together over a low heat until the Light Soft Brown Sugar has dissolved.



…and the requisite after shot. They unmolded from the dishes quite easily!

  • When the pudding is ready, cut into portions, pour over the warm toffee sauce and serve.



One of the 3oz servings. Just right for one (or two, if you’re trying to be good)


To my American eye, the names of some of the ingredients (black treacle, bicarbonate of soda, stoned dates) seem exotic and precious. Maybe that’s just me. Anyway, some notes:

  • I used Grandma’s Molasses (unsulfured, not blackstrap) for the black treacle
  • Stoned dates just means pitted dates (get any Jerry Garcia references out of your head)
  • Self-raising flour is just all-purpose flour with baking powder & salt added. For the 6 oz of flour in this recipe, I added 2 tsp of baking powder and ½ tsp salt
  • Instead of one large pudding, I made 6 3oz & 2 6oz bowls (10 servings total), then decreased the baking time to 30 minutes
  • The individual puddings can be frozen and reheated for later
[By the way, I don’t know if it was the specific can I purchased or a problem with Lyle’s in general, but when I held the can, there was a definite metallic taste on my fingers and I had to wash my hands each and every time before proceeding to the next step. Maybe some kind soul can tell me if this is normal.]



Best friends!

The final product? Absolutely wonderful! It has the deep flavor of a molasses cake but much sweeter. The toffee sauce is yummy on its own poured over ice cream, or spooned directly (although I will not confirm nor deny having done that). I liked having the serving size portion controlled…the 3oz bowl was a good individual serving, although I would have shared it (maybe) so as not to over-indulge. I’ve even seen recipes where the puddings were baked in a muffin tin. I didn’t have any ice cream (gasp!). Instead I paired it with Hochstadter’s Rock & Rye (from last week’s post, Rye Not?)…they were exceptional together!

This dessert is definitely going into my repertoire, especially since it’s something not often made in these parts (assuming I can find the can of Lyle’s again). Have you ever had to track down a specific ingredient just so you can make something you have a hankering for? How do you use the Lyle’s Golden Syrup? Any special recipe for STP you’d like to share? Tell me about it below, and let me know your experiences with making this magical dessert! Now you have to excuse me…I hear toffee sauce calling to me…

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!


Comments 4

  1. Ever read ‘Lobscouse and Spotted Dog’? It’s the food of the Patrick O’Brian books. Spotted Dog is a pudding.

    1. I haven’t heard of the books or Spotted Dog, although I’ve heard of Spotted Dick (another British steamed pudding). Is it the same thing?

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