Sticky Toffee Pudding

Baking soda (known as bicarb to Brits) plays two roles in this recipe: It helps soften the dates, and it helps the wet, heavy batter rise during baking. If you can only find golden sugar in regular granulation, just blend it in a food processor for 1 or 2 minutes to get a superfine texture.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
6 to 8
About 1-1/3 cups sauce
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    For the cake:
    • 2 ounces unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan (1/4 cup)
    • 6 ounces pitted dates (Medjools, if possible), coarsely chopped (1 cup lightly packed)
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 6 ounces golden superfine sugar (or white superfine sugar), sifted if lumpy (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.)
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 6 ounces self-rising flour, sifted (1-1/4 cups plus 1 Tbs.)
    For the sauce:
    • 1/2 cup packed light or dark muscovado sugar (or light brown sugar)
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 4 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
    Make the cake:
    Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 11x7-inch nonstick baking pan that's at least 1 inch deep. If your pan isn't nonstick, butter the sides and then line it with enough parchment to come 1 inch up the short sides; butter the parchment as well.
    Put the dates in a small saucepan with 1 cup water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the baking soda, and set aside. (The mixture will foam up and take on a greenish color; this is normal.)
    Combine the butter and the golden sugar in a bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on high speed until the mixture is well combined and lighter in color, about 4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and then stir in the date mixture; the batter will be sloppy. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake until it's risen, a deep golden brown, and firm to the touch but still a bit spongy (it should spring back a little, but not entirely, when indented, 35 to 40 minutes.
    Meanwhile, make the sauce:
    Put the muscovado sugar, honey and butter in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and cook until it gets thick and bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cream, let it bubble down and then remove the pan from the heat.
    To serve:
    When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes; then turn it out onto a cutting board and invert it onto a wire rack to cool slightly. Cut the warm cake into slices or squares, put on serving plates along with a scoop of ice cream, if using, and drench with the sauce.
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