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At the request of several friends and a recent reader, I’m posting the recipe I’ve been using to make Sticky Date Pudding. I hope you enjoy it (and the moaning from your guests) as much as I do!

 Sticky Date Pudding

Pudding (serves eight):

250g (1 cup) pitted dates, chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1½ cups boiling water
125g (½ cup) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1¾ cups White Wings Self-Raising Flour, sifted

 

Caramel Sauce:

 

1 cup brown sugar
300ml (1 1/3 cup) thickened cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
60g (¼ cup) butter   

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 180° C/350°  F. Grease and line the base of a 7cm deep, 22cm (base) cake pan.
Place dates and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Pour in boiling water. Allow to stand for 20 minutes.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one 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. Back for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn onto a plate.

Make sauce. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Pierce pudding all over with a skewer. Pour ½ cup of warm sauce over warm pudding. Stand for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges. Serve with remaining sauce and double cream.

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I’m pleased to report that the Sticky Date Pudding I served to my book club Thursday night once again elicited moans. I have to be honest, not as many as the last few times I’ve served it, but moans nonetheless. It was a tough crowd. Six of my friends were gathered around the table, juggling at least three conversations, their heads swiveling in an attempt hear every word and morsel of gossip. Under the circumstances, the Sticky Date Pudding was a distraction, albeit a notable distraction; still, The Pudding was not the center of attention as it has been on previous occasions. That’s okay. I had fun making it…and eating it. The next time I make it, I may experiment with a variation of the recipe that I found on the Internet–a titillating version that calls for adding rum to the caramel sauce. That can’t be bad!

Friday night, Tom and I went to Cascone’s, one of our favorite Italian restaurants here in Kansas City–favorite because of the food and because of the memories we’ve made there. Unfortunately, it’s on the other side of the metro area. Every time we go, we say we need to go more often, but then, of course, we rarely do because of the drive. Our loss. Their tiramisu may be the best in the city. I say “may” only because I have yet to try all the other contenders in these parts. I can’t imagine that anyone else’s version of tiramisu is any better–maybe as good or nearly as good–but certainly not any better. I’ll continue my research and let you know. While I’m at it, I’ll sample the lasagnas and cheese raviolis along the way. I know. I’m a giver.

Anyway, Cascone’s is where my parents took the two of us and my future in-laws to celebrate shortly after Tom and I got engaged. Tom and I had only dated a couple of weeks before we got engaged, so our parents hadn’t had an opportunity to meet. Shoot, Tom and I barely had an opportunity to meet. From my vantage point today–28 years later–I can see that the evening was ripe for all manner of disaster, but then I was young, dopey, and head-over-heels in love, and that night, all was right in my world. If any of our parents felt differently, we never knew it. From the beginning, the evening was lovely. Frank Sinatra music played in the background, wine was poured, glasses were raised, and the conversation flowed until the waiter started placing food on the table. We fell silent only long enough to savor the pasta and meatballs and sauces and bread and…Everyone smiled and laughed and got along beautifully. No one pointed out the incredible ludicrousness of our pending nuptials. No one suggested Tom and I might want to slow down before jumping into marriage. No one asked us how we were possibly going to survive on our laughable salaries. No one.

It was the Italian food. Seriously, how can anyone not see the world through rosy, marinara-tinted glasses while enjoying the tang of ricotta and the velvety smoothness of melty Parmesan stuffed between ruffly layers of al dente noodles? You can’t. You simply cannot. The combination of tomatoes, basil, garlic, and cheese is magic, so it was a no-brainer deciding where we would take everyone to celebrate our 25th anniversary a couple of years ago. We were not disappointed then, nor were we disappointed Friday night. Cascone’s is guaranteed memorable evening every time.

And, just in case you’re wondering, I’m still dopey, head-over-heels in love which, I suppose, also makes me very lucky.  Even so, I’m grateful my daughter and son-in-law had the good sense to date for a couple of years before getting married. I hope my son will be as level-headed. If he isn’t…if he comes home and tells us he’s marrying a girl he’s only known a few weeks, I’ll…I’ll..I’ll have to head to Cascone’s.

As the self-anointed Sticky Date Pudding ambassador in this part of the world, I have made a solemn vow to spread the Sticky Date Pudding love whenever and wherever I can. To that end, I’m serving it tonight at my Book Club. I can’t wait!

For the uninitiated, Sticky Date Pudding–at least the version I’ve grown to love–is a fabulously moist hunk of sweet, flavorful cake swimming in hot, homemade caramel sauce and topped with a generous dollop of double thick cream. No calories, of course. I, myself, was totally oblivious to the wonders of SDP until a recent trip through Tasmania with my aunt (who lives there). According to my research, the origin of SDP is debatable–although most sources agree it was somewhere in England–and the variations are limitless. Good. More recipes to test! But why haven’t we known about SDP here in the Midwest, and why did it take my aunt so long to clue me in. I’d been to Tasmania to visit her twice before, but did she ever suggest sampling the SDP (it’s offered at nearly every pub and restaurant in Australia)? No! Did she ever offer to make it for me, fabulous cook that she is? Again, no! Clearly, I have pissed her off at some point. But thankfully, she saw fit to introduce me to SDP on this trip. I’ll be forever grateful.

I have now made it for at least three groups of family and friends since my return a few weeks ago. Beyond the joy of eating it myself on these occasions, I’ve been treated to the audible sounds of pleasure as my loved ones experience SDP for the first time. Truly, they moan. I’m not a bad cook. I often make meals my family and friends enjoy, but rarely–if ever–do I make the folks around my table moan. It’s the coolest thing! I’ll let  you know how it goes tonight.

I’ll also be happy to share my recipe–that is if I can ever figure out how to post an attachment.

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