Two aspects of this recipe for the date-loaded dessert with butterscotch are optional. You could skip the coffee extract, as it can be challenging to source (although easily available online). Know, though, that its addition tempers sticky toffee pudding’s high-decibel sweetness. The water bath during baking is also voluntary. Using it keeps the puddings all the more moist, but they will still be plenty lush without the water bath. Also: You need a six-cup muffin tin designed for jumbo muffins. Each cup should be about 3.5 inches across, with a volume of approximately 7 ounces.
- Make the sauce: In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and 1½ teaspoons water and mix to combine. If it needs a little more water to create a slurry texture, add a touch more. In a medium bowl, add the butter.
- Add the heavy cream, brown sugar, rum, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and salt to a medium saucepan. Finely grate the zest of half the lemon into the mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally as it comes to a boil. Remix the cornstarch and, while whisking the boiling cream mixture, add the slurry. Continue whisking. If the sauce threatens to boil over, reduce the heat a bit and remove the saucepan from the heat for a moment. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens a little, about 2 minutes. The sauce should be slightly thicker than heavy cream. Pour the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl with the butter. Use an immersion blender to combine the butter and the sauce.
- Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 325ºF. Set a jumbo 6-cup muffin tin into a large roasting pan and add enough water to the roasting pan to come nearly halfway up the sides of the muffin tin. Set the muffin tin itself aside and set the water-filled roasting pan on the center rack so it heats as the oven does. If you’re skipping the water bath, eschew the roasting pan entirely. Lightly spray each of the cups of the muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
- Add the dates and baking soda to a bowl, and bring about ¾ cup of water to a boil. After the water boils, measure ⅔ cup of the boiling water and add it to the bowl with the dates. Soak the dates for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the rum, vanilla extract, and coffee extract, if using, then puree using an immersion blender until somewhat smooth but there are still small chunks of date remaining. Slightly chunky is the answer; completely smooth is not.
- Meanwhile, using a handheld mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Continue mixing, adding one egg at a time until the mixture is well combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
- Alternate adding the date mixture and the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture in three stages while whisking. Portion the batter across the 6 muffin cups. If using the water bath, set the muffin tin in the roasting pan. If not using the water bath, set the muffin tin on the center rack directly. Bake until the puddings are set and the tops are mostly firm to the touch, 30 to 40 minutes. The puddings are rich and moist, so they are forgiving during their bake.
- To serve the puddings, invert a pudding onto a small plate and pour about ⅓ cup of the warm sauce over the top of the pudding so it pools onto the plate. You could also keep the puddings and the sauce in the refrigerator for a few days. To serve, warm the puddings in a 375ºF oven for about 5 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center comes out warm to the touch. Heat the sauce on the stove or in a microwave.
Scott Hocker is a writer, editor, recipe developer, cookbook author, and content and editorial consultant. He has worked in magazines, kitchens, newsletters, restaurants and a bunch of other environments he can’t remember right now. He has also been the editor in chief of both liquor.com and Tasting Table.