Here we are, testing Mary Berry Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe - another English recipe for our Tried & Tested Chefs' collection.
We thought that Sticky Toffee Pudding would be the right choice for this time of year as the recipe is popular, especially around Christmas.
As I learnt, this popular British pudding can be baked in the oven or steamed in a water bath. While in most cases it contains dates, I found variations without them, sometimes replaced with ginger or nuts.
After a short consideration, I decided to go with Mary Berry sticky toffee pudding recipe. It is a baked dessert, and it actually doesn't contain dates, but its simplicity won me over.
The dessert recipe originally comes from the book 'Mary Berry Everyday', but the recipe is also published online on the BBC website.
Ingredients for Mary Berry Sticky Toffee Pudding
For the sponge
- light muscovado sugar
- large free-range eggs
- self-raising flour
- baking powder
- bicarbonate of soda
- black treacle
- full-fat milk
For the sauce
- light muscovado sugar
- tbsp black treacle
- pouring double cream
- tsp vanilla extract
From all ingredients, it's the muscovado sugar and black treacle that gives this sticky toffee pudding it's warm Christmassy feel. But what to do if you can't get hold of them and you don't want to give up on the idea of making Sticky toffee pudding? There are a few options you can try.
Muscovado sugar is unrefined (or minimally refined) sugar. It has a deep, sweet, toffee-like taste and high molasses content. It looks like wet sand because it has more moisture than refined sugars. Shops sell light and dark brown muscovado sugar. The light version (used in this recipe) has reduced content of molasses, therefore, a mellower flavour.
Substitution ➤ The closest substitute to muscovado sugar I could find in the UK supermarket was soft brown sugar.
It is refined sugar where the molasses was added back to create the desired texture and taste. It has the right moisture and molasses content, mimicking muscovado sugar. It comes in light and dark varieties too.
I've tested soft light brown sugar in the recipe, and it works. It keeps the cake moist and creates a lovely sauce with warm tones of toffee and caramel.
It is visually almost identical to muscovado sugar. There are small nuances in the taste and (surprisingly) smell between these two sugars. Still, those are barely noticeable if you are not serving them next to each other.
|Light Muscovado Sugar||Soft light brown sugar|
Treacle is a byproduct made during refining sugar. It has a thick syrup-like consistency and a strong taste of burnt caramel with slightly bitter/sweet hints. It's very similar to molasses.
Substitution ➤ Black treacle is easy to find in the baking section in any bigger supermarket here in the UK. However, if you can't get hold of it, I believe that molasses is the best substitute (unfortunately it's not available in the UK supermarkets).
I read that some molasses, like blackstrap molasses, are stronger and more potent, and they can have runnier consistency. If substituting, you might consider adding less molasses in the recipe, but I haven't tested it yet.
Mary Berry recommends a wide shallow 1.7 litre/3-pint ovenproof dish. I found it tricky to choose the right size of tin based on this information. None of my oven dishes has the volume written anywhere on them. Does 1.7 litre go all the way to the brim, or the tin has to be slightly larger? I wasn't sure what the best way to get around it was.
I wish the recipe would have provided approximate dimensions of the dish instead of the volume. In the end, I picked my 25 x 25 x 6 cm square cake tin, and my baked cake was still adequately tall - close to 3cm, so I was happy with the result. However, in my opinion, it is the maximum size for the amount of batter this recipe makes.
Faqs & Tips ➤ What is an ideal size of the cake tin for Mary Berry Sticky Toffee Cake?
For a cake approximately 3 centimetres tall :
- The ideal size of a rectangular tin is 30.5 x 20 cm - similar to this one.
- The ideal size of a square tin is 25 x 25 cm - here is an example.
If the tin you choose is too large, the sponge won't have enough height. On the other hand, if you use a smaller tin, the heaped batter will need an extended baking time.
Mary Berry loves using an electric whisk. It is especially handy for her 'all in one method' cakes.
Our favourite is her Victoria sponge, which inspired us to make our Strawberry and Sponge Cake with Whipp Cream. Another good example is Mary Berry's chocolate chips banana bread that we have reviewed in the post "Mary berry's banana loaf test".
The cake instructions in this recipe ask to combine all ingredients except for milk first. The milk is gradually added to the batter later. So it's not completely 'all in one method', but it is still sort of a short cut.
Timing and temperatures
Total time ➤ If you are interested in approximate timing, the whole process of making Mary Berry Sticky Toffee Pudding takes close to 1.5 hours.
To be more efficient, leave all the ingredients you need on the kitchen counter beforehand. Not only does it make the preparation faster, but you will less likely forget anything.
Account for 30 to 40 minutes in the oven. My cake was baked in 30 minutes, but each oven can vary. Keep in mind that the time will also change with different sized tins. If the batter is in a wider shallower tin, the cake needs less time for baking than the narrower, deeper tin.
Oven temperature ➤ The suggested temperatures for baking the cake are 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. I usually bake on a fan assisted setting, so I set my oven to 160C. It's better to keep an eye on your cake closer to the end as it might be done a little bit earlier like my cake was.
This dessert is best served slightly warm but not hot. Waiting for the cake to cool down (15 minutes) should give you enough time to make the sauce.
According to the BBC website the recipe serves six. In fact, the number of portions you can make depends on the size of a baking dish you choose and how generous you are when cutting the sponge.
Servings ➤ If you bake the cake in one of the tins I recommended earlier, you will be able to cut it into 9 pieces. In my opinion, the recipe makes enough sauce for 9 servings, so you don't have to increase the ingredients.
These are the nutritional values for one serving of Mary Berry Sticky Toffee Pudding from the BBC website: "Each serving provides 927 kcal, 9g protein, 88g carbohydrates (of which 60g sugars), 59g fat (of which 36g saturates), 1.5g fibre and 1.9g salt." That is if you make six servings.
There is a significant amount of butter and sugar in this recipe, so I shouldn't be surprised that there are almost 1000 calories in one serving.
Calories ➤ If you decide to cut the cake into nine slices instead of six, each of the servings will have around 619 calories instead.
A step by step picture guide on how to make Mary Barry sticky toffee pudding
➤ Making the Sponge
Put all ingredients for the sponge into a mixing bowl except for the milk.
Beat them with an electric whisk around 30 seconds, until they are properly incorporated.
With a spatula, run along the edges of the bowl and check for any lumps of dry flour or any other bit that you missed.
With an electric whisk at medium speed, incorporate the milk gradually into the thick batter.
Tip: I actually prefer to put all the ingredients, including the milk, into a bowl and beat the mix with an electric whisk until it's smooth. It couldn’t be easier.
Line a baking tin with baking paper and pour the mixture in. Level the batter evenly.
Bake in the preheated oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 for 30 - 40 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and let the sponge cool down a little bit before serving.
➤ Making the Sauce
In a pan, melt on gentle heat all ingredients for the sauce, stir regularly. Once the sugar is dissolved and the butter melted, turn the heat up and bring it to a boil. Boil for around a minute.
Cut the cake while it is still slightly warm. Served with a generous amount of the sauce. It also tastes amazing with a spoon of thick cream or dollop of ice cream.
What can go wrong
There are always things that can go wrong, but we were pleased to find out that with Mary Berry's recipe, the chances are pretty small.
How to make smooth cake batter without lumps?
Mary Berry makes the process of preparing the sponge pretty easy. She puts all ingredients into a bowl except the milk and beats them with an electric whisk until they create a well-incorporated thick mixture.
Then she gradually beats in the milk. This is the moment when the batter can curdle if the ingredients don't have the same temperature.
The first time I made this recipe, my milk was cooler than the rest of the ingredients. As soon as I added the milk into the batter, the mix curdled a little bit. You might be able to see it in the step by step pictures. There was nothing wrong with the cake in the end, and it turned out perfectly fine.
Nevertheless, I recommend letting the butter, milk and eggs get to room temperature. There are two reasons for that:
- If the ingredients are cold it would make it impossible to incorporate them properly.
- If the temperatures between the ingredients differ greatly, the batter mix will likely curdle.
I take my butter, milk and eggs from the fridge 40 min to 1 hour before baking to make sure they are all at room temperature when I want to use them.
Faqs & Tips ➤ How to get butter and milk to room temperature faster?
You can use a microwave to soften the butter and warm up the milk.
- Cut the butter into cubes and heat it for 15 - 20 seconds on 60% just so the butter softens, not melts.
- For lukewarm milk, microwave it for approximately 30 seconds on 80%.
How to get eggs to room temperature faster?
- Do not microwave the eggs! To get the eggs to room temperature, emerge them into a warm water bath for 10 minutes.
How to know sticky toffee cake is baked?
Because of the cake's dark colour and its moisture levels, it can be tricky to judge when it is cooked. To be sure, I do a 3 step check:
- The cake springs back in the middle when gently pushed with a finger.
- The sponge shrinks a little bit from the edges of the tin.
- A skewer comes out completely dry and clean when inserted into the cake.
An under-baked cake will deflate and lose its height once it starts cooling down. It will also have a compact gooey texture.
How to make easy sticky toffee sauce?
Preparing Mary Berry sticky toffee sauce can't be easier. You simply stir all the sauce ingredients together in the pan over low heat. Once the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, increase the temperature and boil the sauce for a minute.
Heating the ingredients slowly works the best for me. I believe that's why I always end up with a perfectly smooth sauce.
What have I learnt?
It's exciting that every time we test a recipe there is something new to learn.
➤ I have never had an opportunity to taste treacle before, so it was the first thing I did. Even though it is a bi-product after refining sugar, it has lots of bitterness, to my surprise. Its intense flavour reminds me of burned caramel.
➤ I heard about muscovado sugar being often used in chocolate brownies and cookie recipes to make them more moist and gooey. I liked how these two ingredients made the toffee sponge beautifully moist.
➤ I also learnt the difference between muscovado sugar (minimally refined with natural occurring molasses) and soft brown sugar is. Soft brown sugar looks like muscovado, but it is made that way by adding molasses back after the refining. I guess it doesn't matter in baking, but I prefer the idea of using healthier, minimally refined muscovado sugar more.
➤ I never made nor tasted sticky toffee pudding before, and I'm happy to say this dessert was a delightful new experience for me. It's not the best looking dessert, but its taste is spot on.
The verdict on Mary Berry Sticky Toffee Pudding
This is a beautifully moist cake with a delightful smooth toffee sauce. The sponge is light and rises well. It's such a pleasure to have it warm with the sauce poured over the top in a nice thick layer. It is a calorie bomb without a doubt, but this cake is worth the sin now and then.
Some people might argue that without dates, this isn't the authentic sticky toffee pudding. In the same manner, we can quibble if the traditional British pudding should be steamed rather than baked.
➤ I see Mary Berry sticky toffee pudding as a great every-day cake. While for some, it might not be the most traditional sticky toffee pudding recipe, I like its delicate sweet toffee taste. I'm giving it 9/10.
If you are interested in sticky toffee pud that contains dates and has a stronger flavour of molasses, have a peek at our review of Nigella's sticky toffee pudding. It might be what you are looking for.
Sticky Toffee Pudding Mary Berry
For the sponge
- 100 g butter
- 175 g light muscovado sugar
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 225 g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3 tbsp black treacle
- 275 m full-fat milk
For the sauce
- 100 g butter
- 125 g light muscovado sugar
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- 300 ml pouring double cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- rectangular tin 30.5 x 20 cm / square tin is 25 x 25 cm (or slightly smaller)
- electric whisk
- large sauce pan
- Measuring spoons
- Parchment paper
- mixing bowl
- Testing skewer
Make the sponge
- Put all ingredients for the sponge into a mixing bowl except for the milk. Beat them with an electric whisk for around 30 seconds until they are properly incorporated. With a spatula, run along the edges of the bowl and check for any lumps of dry flour or any other bit that you missed.
- With an electric whisk at medium speed, incorporate the milk gradually into the thick batter.
- Line a baking tin with baking paper and pour the mixture in. Level the batter evenly.
- Bake in the preheated oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 for 30 – 40 minutes.
- Once cooked, remove from the oven and let the sponge cool down a little bit before serving.
Make the sauce
- Melt all ingredients for the sauce slowly in a saucepan. Stir regularly. Once the sugar dissolves and the butter melts, turn the heat up and bring the sauce to a boil. Stir a few times and remove it from the heat.
- Cut the cake while it is still slightly warm. Served with a generous amount of the sauce. It also tastes amazing with a spoon of thick cream or dollop of ice cream.
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