Sticky toffee pudding is a classic British dessert that we have somehow never got around to making very often. One memorable occasion was when my daughter made the pudding for my father in India. Rich, dense and fudgy, it was reminiscent of Indian sweets like alwa that he loved so much.
This time I wanted a more cake-like version and as I am very fond of gingerbread, the idea of ginger-infused toffee-flavoured cake was very appealing. Looking through recipes for sticky toffee cakes and puddings we were surprised to find that although most recipes involve a large quantity of dates, they are also very generous with sugar and fat. It seemed to me that dates would contribute the sweetness as well as the moisture to make a very tasty cake without using too much fat or sugar. This became a kind of experiment to see how much sugar we could reduce but still make a delicious cake.
I covered approximately 3/4 cup dates with about 1/4 cup boiling water, keeping it aside to soften for a while. These were ordinary supermarket dates from Sainsbury’s, nothing special or expensive. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F and grease a baking tin. I used a 14 cm / 5.5 inch diameter tin but a small container of a similar dimensions of any shape would work as would a small loaf tin.
Meanwhile I ground about 3/4 cup rolled oats as finely as possible. Use certified gluten-free oats if you need to avoid gluten for dietary reasons. It was not as fine as oat flour that you might find in a shop but somewhere between the texture of ground almonds and flour. I ended up with just under 1 cup of oat flour. Then I sifted in 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 3/4 tsp baking powder, 1-1/2 tsp ground ginger and a tiny pinch of salt. You could add other spices but in this case I wanted the focus to be solely on ginger.
In a small metal pan, I added 1-1/2 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp black treacle and placed the pan over a low flame for just a few moments until the ingredients started to melt. Then I took it off the heat and stirred them until they had melted. Recipes usually call for soft brown sugar but as I didn’t have any I decided to use a mixture of white sugar and treacle. I added 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 2 tbsp vegan yoghurt and whisked the mixture until fairly smooth. It doesn’t matter if some flecks of treacle remain as they will melt into the cake batter when it cooks. I didn’t wait for the mixture to coconut oil and treacle mixture cool but it might be better to do so as it starts to set when cold yoghurt is added and you need to whisk a lot more to get it to a smooth consistency.
By this point the dates had softened and I blended them along with the water adding a further 3 tbsp water to make a smooth purée. I stirred this into the wet mixture. I also finely chopped two chunks of preserved stem ginger. Then I added the wet mixture and the ginger to the flour mixture and mixed well to obtain a thick cake batter. You might need to add a bit more water depend on how moist your dates are.
Add the batter to the pan and bake for about 35-40 mins, at 180°C / 350°F for the first 25 minutes, then lower to 170°C / 340°F for the remainder. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Monitor every 5 minutes after the first 25 minutes. When the cake was done, I pricked a few holes on top with a skewer and brushed about 1 tbsp of the syrup from the bottle of stem ginger. I also finely chopped another chunk of stem ginger and scattered it over the top. Crystallised ginger would also work and you could try mixing sugar syrup with a little fresh ginger juice for the topping.
Allow to cool until it is no longer very hot. You can let it cool completely but it is also delicious eaten slightly warm. It keeps well for a few days, becoming more moist and deeply flavoured.