Sticky Date Pudding

            Me dates ‘ave gone soft.  If that isn’t a constant concern for cooks.  We buy dates by the hank here.  They’re still on the stem and bundled together, almost like a skein of yarn, and they taste like caramels.

But they are dusty when you bring them home and need a rinsing.  Usually they dry right out and have an ongoing shelf life, but this particular batch isn’t drying so well and they have gotten a bit sticky.  So naturally, I thought of making another (also see Whole Orange Cake) Australian housewives’ staple dessert:  sticky date pudding.  You do know that a pudding is nothing more than a cake in British/Australian speak, so don’t let it intimidate you.

I first fell in love with this cake at a little Australian café in KATHMANDU, of all places.  The restaurant was opened by an Australian couple who were trying to adopt a Nepali child.  This turned out to be one complete genre of expat we frequently met in Nepal.  Others were Buddhist students, missionaries, ancient hippies, mountaineers, and entrepreneurs, along with diplomats and aid workers.   As the adoption process lingered on, this family decided to save the wear and tear on their family and just move to Kathmandu and open a restaurant, what they knew how to do.  The name of the restaurant was The Red Dingo.  I remembered this by association as it was right around the corner from another expat favorite, a Mex-Nepali restaurant called Lazy Gringo.  What made that restaurant Mex-Nepali you ask?  I guess it was mostly because all of the cheese they used was yak cheese, but there were other indicators, too.   The Red Dingo, however,  was quite un-Nepali which made it fun to visit now and then.  Inside the ceiling to floor glass windows were black and white tiles, a blackboard with the daily menu, and lipstick red leather sofas and chairs where you could sit with several friends and pretend that you were being very urban and First World.
 They always had sticky date pudding on the dessert menu.  I know myself well enough by this time in life to understand how completely I am lured in by caramel sauce.  Is anyone else defenseless against a sauce of butter, sugar, and cream?  I thought so.  The caramel sauce poured all over the date-studded cake causes the whole thing to just melt together.
Sticky Date Pudding
Serves 8
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Ingredients 

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Description: ticky date pudding
Sticky date pudding
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1 1/2 c.  pitted dates, chopped 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 1/2 cups boiling water 
1/2 c.  butter, softened 
1 cup brown sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 eggs 
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt


Caramel sauce 
1 cup brown sugar 
3/4 c.  thickened cream  or creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 c. butter
Method 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line the base of an 8-inch springform cake pan. 
Place dates and baking soda into a bowl. Pour over boiling water. Allow to stand for 20 minutes. 
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well
after each addition. Using a large metal spoon, fold through date mixture and flour until well combined. 
Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center 
comes out clean. When cool enough to handle, place plate under cake. Open springform pan side and remove it
. 
Make sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to 
the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 minutes. 
Pierce pudding all over with a skewer or large-tined fork. Pour 1/2 cup of warm sauce over warm pudding. Let 
stand for at least 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.
Serve with remaining warm sauce.

Finished cake swimming in caramel sauce.  I love the air hole indicating the sauce is soaking way inside.

Next time your dates go soft (not an idiom) you know just what you can do with them.

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