Sticky Toffee Pudding
from the holiday kitchen of Sharmagne Leland-St.John

1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup boiling water
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chopped black walnuts or pecans (optional)

Toffee Sauce:
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons sweet butter
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy whipping cream with high butterfat content
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

While the cake is baking, combine all the sauce ingredients in a small
saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until the butter
melts and the sugar has dissolved.

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Butter an 8 inch square baking pan.

In a glass mixing bowl place the chopped dates and baking soda.
Pour the boiling water over the dates and stir to combine. Let sit at
room temperature for 10-15 minutes.

In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and creamy.
Add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the
sides of the bowl frequently. Add the vanilla extract and beat until absorbed.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. To this add
the flour mixture and beat until combined. Fold in the liquid date mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre
of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack.
Take a wooden skewer or toothpick and poke holes over the entire top surface of
the cake. Pour the hot toffee sauce evenly over the top of the cake.

Sprinkle with the chopped nuts and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  

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