Sticky toffee pudding is one of my all time favourite desserts; rolled out on many a Sunday after a family roast and drenched in sweet, buttery sauce, there are few dishes more comforting. Now, I’m not going to lay claim to these sticky toffee inspired muffins beating the classic pud format, however, unlike that Autumn staple, they needn’t be reserved for lazy weekends as they’re conveniently hand held, light in texture, benefit from the addition of fresh pear, and are just as delicious cold as they are hot from the oven and dripping in toffee. Make them now and they’ll last for a few days in an air tight box.
Ingredients (makes 6-8 large muffins)
For the muffin batter
225g plain flour
1 1/2tsp baking powder
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp vanilla extract
125ml vegetable oil
100g golden caster sugar
100g light brown soft sugar
1 large pear, diced
100g pitted Medjool dates, soaked in boiling water
For the sticky toffee sauce
60g light brown soft sugar
80ml double cream
caramelised pear slices (to make these, just slice up 1 pear into 3mm thick pieces. Heat 2tbsp light brown soft sugar and 2tbsp butter in a pan until gently bubbling then add the pear pieces and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a 12 hole muffin tray with muffin cases (this recipe makes 6-8 large muffins but if you prefer a smaller cupcake-size you will get 12).
Place the flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a small bowl and stir together. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and sugars until well combined, then stir in the diced pear. Drain the boiling water off the dates and crush them up into a rough paste and add those in too. Finally, fold in the dry ingredients until just combined (don’t worry if the batter is lumpy and a few specks of flour remain- the trick with muffins is to mix as little as possible to achieve a light texture).
Fill each case 3/4 of the way up and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the muffins are baking make the sticky toffee sauce. Place the butter, sugar, cream and salt in a small saucepan and set over a gentle heat. Allow the butter and sugar to melt, stirring occasionally, then cook until the ingredients come together to form a smooth, golden sauce. Add the salt to taste.
When the muffins are ready, prick a few holes over the surface of each one and pour on a generous helping of toffee sauce. Finish with some caramelised pear slices, if you like.
Ripe, pink fleshed figs are one of my very favourite fruits and pair brilliantly with so many other ingredients, from goats cheese and honey to cured hams and walnuts. In this cake I have used dried figs soaked in tea ( a method commonly used with dates to make sticky toffee pudding) to flavour the spiced sponge, then added a salty sweetness with the caramel drizzle and finished it off with a tangy mascarpone cheese icing, earthy pistachio praline and slices of fresh fig. Though the finished cake makes for a really beautiful centre piece, you could also enjoy it as a warm pudding with the salted caramel and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
For the sponge:
300g dried figs, chopped
325ml hot black tea
185g soft butter
275g light brown soft sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
375g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp ground cinnamon
pinch black pepper
For the salted caramel (this is a sort of cheats caramel- a bit like butterscotch sauce):
50g golden syrup
50g light brown soft sugar
50ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the pistachio praline:
150g caster sugar
200g shelled pistachios
For the mascarpone icing:
300ml double cream
3-4tbsp icing sugar
fresh figs and herbs
Preheat the oven to 170c fan (325F/ gas mark 3). Grease and line a deep square tin (around 22x22cm).
Place the chopped dry figs in a bowl or jug and pour over the hot tea. Leave to infuse while you start making the cake batter.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugar along with the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Once the eggs are incorporated, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt. Fold until the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined then tip in your soaked figs (along with the tea) and fold once more.
Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached when inserted.
While your cake is baking, make the salted caramel. To do this simply pop the butter, syrup, sugar and cream in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat, add the salt to taste and leave to cool.
Next, make the pistachio praline topping. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and put the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan. Heat gently until the sugar starts melting. Swirl the pan occasionally to coat the pistachios and prevent burning. Once the sugar has completely melted increase the heat and turn the pistachios with a wooden spoon until the caramel reaches a deep golden colour, then tip onto the prepared tray and leave to set hard.
Lastly, make the mascarpone icing. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) whisk together the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar until you have a spreadable (but not overly whipped) consistency.
Once your cake is baked, prick lots of holes all over the surface and pour on about 2/3 of the salted caramel, allowing it to sink into the sponge. Leave to cool in the tin.
When your cake is completely cool you’re ready to decorate. Spread the mascarpone icing in an even layer all over the top and sides (or just the top if you like, it’s up to you!) and smooth with a palette knife. Use the remaining cooled caramel to drizzle down the sides then crush up the praline and sprinkle around the edges. Arrange the fresh fig slices on top and add some woody herbs (such as rosemary) for colour.