Yesterday, in honor of my 32nd birthday, I made my all-time favorite dessert. No birthday cake and candles for me. Just the most delicious, moist, warm date cake covered in sticky toffee with a big scoop of tangy, salted crème fraîche ice cream. Pure perfection in my mouth.
I first had this dessert about a year ago at one of our favorite neighborhood haunts, Colonie. I’d normally NEVER order anything with the word date in the title. Up to that point I was pretty certain I didn’t like dates, but I’d read a review of the restaurant before we went and the reviewer swore it was the best thing on the menu. With the first bite I knew I’d just found my favorite dessert. I’d never have known dates were even in it. It just tasted like a warm spice cake covered in gooey, sweet toffee, and when combined with the cold, salty ice cream… well, my mouth has never been happier.
I thought my birthday was as good a time as ever to try to recreate this piece of heaven. I used Martha Stewart’s easy recipe for sticky toffee pudding which makes the lightest, most delicious cake. The addition of two teaspoons of whiskey in the toffee sauce makes it good enough to bathe in. Jolian declared that he would like it poured on everything from this point forward. It’s that good. The ice cream was a little trickier. I adapted David Leibowitz’s recipe for crème fraîche ice cream, reducing the sugar and upping the salt. The result was super tangy and refreshing, with an oh, so slight taste of sea salt. It reminds me a little of cheese cake. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, buy one, you won’t regret it, but until then a scoop of store bought vanilla will be delicious with the cake.
I wasn’t all that excited about turning 32, but I have to say, it’s a lot easier to swallow when accompanied by this dessert.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
From Everyday Food, December 2009
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking pan
- 2 cups chopped pitted dates (8 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Toffee Sauce (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan. In a small saucepan, combine dates and 1 cup water; bring to a boil over medium-high. Add baking soda and stir until dates begin to break down and mixture thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, allspice, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined (mixture may look curdled). Scrape down bowl.
With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture in three additions, alternating with date mixture and beginning and ending with flour mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, make Toffee Sauce.
Set baking pan on a wire rack and poke holes all over top of cake with skewer. Pour 1/2 cup Toffee Sauce over cake; let stand 10 minutes. Cut cake into squares and serve warm with remaining sauce.
From Everyday Food, December 2009
- 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of coarse salt
- 2 teaspoons whiskey
In a small saucepan, combine light-brown sugar, unsalted butter cut into pieces, heavy cream, and pinch of coarse salt. Cook over medium-high, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Reduce to a simmer and cook, without stirring, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey.
Salted Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop’s recipe for crème fraîche ice cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (divided)
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2 cups crème fraîche
Prepare a medium-sized bowl with a mesh strainer over the top and set it in an ice bath.
Warm the milk, sugar, and a 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof plastic spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
Once cool, whisk in the crème fraîche and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.