On a recent girls’ night out, perhaps my first in over 2 years, I had the misfortune of ordering fish and chips for dinner at a joint more well-known for its hamburgers. My fish looked unrecognisable in its thick and over-cooked batter; a pierce with a knife revealed mostly air pockets inside and an unappetising oil leak. The French fries were cooked well beyond golden and limping with oil, not to mention smelling of a fishmonger’s shop from having been cooked in the same oil as the fish. Both were delivered on a plate sans any green salad or sauce. I almost laughed at the presentation of deep-fried brownness before me, thinking it was a joke, but the owner came to wish me a good meal and I realised that he actually expected me to eat (and pay for) the woeful meal before me.
The only saving grace that night was dessert, my way of giving the restaurant a second chance because my dinner was returned largely uneaten. Thankfully, dessert was a lovely sticky date cake served with a warm butterscotch sauce and a scattering of tart raspberries. I was sharing the dessert with a friend (who shared the misfortune of ordering the same fish and chips), and much politeness was expressed over who should have the last bite, before I feigned reluctance and happily devoured what remained on the plate.
Sticky date cake with butterscotch sauce is a popular café dessert in Australia, one which I dream of frequently but seldom make. But the recent snowy weather in Zurich has prompted much stoveside activity in our home, and a warming pudding of this sort felt necessary to chase the winter blues away.
This recipe comes from Everyday by Bill Granger, an old favourite which I frequently turn to for inspiration during the busy week. The only change I made to this recipe was to reduce the quantity of dates; I often find sticky date cakes and sticky date puddings to be on the sickly sweet side, plus my supermarket only sells dates in packets of 200 g, so I went with this quantity. The result was a lovely and moist cake which was modest in sweetness, thus lending itself well to be generously draped in warm butterscotch sauce.
The cake should be served warm with the butterscotch sauce still bubbling from the stove, but as the cake keeps rather well over several days, it is also lovely served at room temperature with the warm sauce alongside. Some fresh raspberries provide welcome tartness against the sweetness of the butterscotch sauce, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream would make this dessert sing.
I prefer to serve this dessert by cutting a piece of cake and drizzling it with the butterscotch sauce, rather than pouring all of the sauce over the entire cake before serving.
The butterscotch sauce will harden once cooled, so it is best to keep it in a small saucepan in the fridge. Simply reheat the fridge-cold sauce in the saucepan over medium heat until it is bubbling, and thin it with a bit of cream if needed.
You can substitute the light muscovado sugar for soft brown sugar.
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