Now You're Talking...Good Old-Fashioned Toffee Pudding Cake...in a Slow Cooker!

I remember Saturday's as a kid, my mother would serve us tomato soup and grilled cheese, and would often make brownies, or pudding cake. I LOVED pudding cake. To this day I crave it. I finally found a fabulous recipe on the Cook's Illustrated site. The problem is, you have to be a member to get the recipe! So I have published the Cook's Illustrated "tips",with a recipe I found at Motherskitchen.blogspot.com. What makes this especially fabulous is that she has adapted the Cook's Illustrated recipe for the slow cooker. Are you kidding? This will definitely be on my to do list this week. What better way to enjoy snow days and streets covered with ice, than to fill the house with yummy smells. I will NEVER be ready for a swimsuit.

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING CAKE (Cook's Illustrated Tips)
Published September 1, 2008.

Studded with dates and coated in a sweet toffee sauce, this moist, rich cake is a British favorite. How would it translate to the American kitchen?
The Problem
Too many versions of sticky toffee pudding cake are sickeningly saccharine or possess the bland, floury flavor of undercooked pancakes.

The Goal
We wanted a cake packed full of date flavor, with a tolerable sweetness level and a moist, tender crumb.

The Solution
This pudding cake is not complicated—it's a simple batter of flour, butter, sweetener, and eggs to which dates are added. Tweaking ingredients produced most of our desired improvements. We cut down the conventional amount of butter but kept the sauce rich and flavorful—eggs and all-purpose flour gave our sauce body and stability. We maximized the fruit flavor by first soaking the dates, then processing only a portion with sugar while leaving the remainder coarsely chopped. We broke with tradition when it came to choosing the sweetener. Typically treacle is used, but it’s almost impossible to find stateside. Brown sugar proved a good substitute. The toffee sauce also required tweaking the butter-sugar ratio as well as a splash of rum and of lemon juice to cut through the sticky richness.

We also needed to alter the technique a bit. Some recipes call for simply placing the ramekins in the oven or baking them in a water bath. But baked without steam, the puddings were unappealingly dry. The best approach was placing the batter-filled ramekins in a roasting pan, adding boiling water, and then covering the pan with aluminum foil before baking. (It proved to be especially important that the aluminum foil form an airtight seal around the pan.) Finally, to bring everything together, we poked the cakes with a toothpick to allow the sauce to be thoroughly absorbed.

Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 ¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c whole dates, pitted and sliced. Chop half of them into as tiny pieces as possible.
¾ c warm water
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
¾ c packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ t vanilla extract
4 T unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

Grease and flour a small lidded pudding mold (1 ½ qt) or a medium sized ceramic bowl. Fill a tea kettle with water and put it on to boil. Combine the chopped tiny date pieces with water and baking soda and soak for 5 minutes. CI says that the baking soda helps soften the skin on the dates. Good to know! Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a food processor, combine remaining (large pieces) of dates with the brown sugar and process for about 30 seconds until the mixture looks like wet sand. Drain the soaking liquid from the dates (reserve dates) and add to the processor, plus the eggs, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, pour melted butter through feed tube in steady stream and process until smooth. With a spoon (don’t process) mix in the softened dates to the bowl.

Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined. Pour batter into prepared baking dish or mold. Cover with lid or aluminum foil tied down with kitchen twine. Place in slow cooker, and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides. Cook on high for 2 ½ - 3 hours, until cake is firm and springs back when touched. Set on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert on a plate.

Toffee sauce

Toffee Sauce
8 T unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c heavy cream
1 Tablespoon rum – Captain Morgan’s Private Reserve is wonderfully spiced and great in this sauce!

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly pour in cream and rum, whisk just to combine, reduce heat, and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Pour into serving pitcher.

Crème Anglaise

½ c whole milk
5 egg yolks
¼ c sugar
Pinch salt
1 t vanilla

In a medium saucepan heat milk over medium heat until steaming, about 3 minutes. . Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl until pale yellow in color, about 1 minute. Slowly pour 1/2 cup hot milk into yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture thickens slightly, coats back of spoon with thin film, and registers 175 to 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Add vanilla. Immediately pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer into serving pitcher.

To serve – plate pieces of cake and pass the toffee sauce and crème anglaise to pour over the top.
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