More to love about England than the Beatles
Last updated 7/21/2021 at 3:03pm | View PDF
Sticky toffee pudding eluded me for most of my life.
A lover of cakes and cheesecakes, I didn't discover this amazing dessert until I was almost 40.
Dan and I were on my dream "Jane Austen trip" to England (with some dungeon visits thrown in to keep him happy) to celebrate my milestone birthday. In addition to visiting her grave in Winchester and her museum in Bath, both of which brought me great joy, I discovered sticky toffee pudding.
I can't remember what prompted me to order it, but I did. And then I preceded to have it every night for the rest of the trip. Some nights it was an individual cake served with ice cream, others it might be a slice of cake. One night I was served an entire small loaf, cut into cute little slices.
Pudding, of course, is the universal term for dessert for Brits. Sticky toffee pudding, for the uninitiated, is a moist date cake covered in a kind of caramel sauce.
I often dreamed of enjoying more of this delicious dessert after we got back to the states but never did so (with the exception of a specialty sticky toffee pudding flavor Haagen-Dazs sold for a while).
Then, in 2013, a former co-worker shared a pic of a homemade version on Facebook.
"Send me the recipe!" I messaged her.
And she did.
My first attempt was a marginal success. The cake was delicious, but quite sunken and dense in the middle (the recipe warns it will fall). Since then I've discovered splitting the batter in half and using a bundt pan eliminates the soggy parts of the cake - and adds to the presentation.
The best part of sticky toffee pudding, of course, is the sticky toffee sauce, and this particular recipe makes an obscene amount of it. The recipe calls for 4 1/2 cups pf brown sugar, 3 sticks of butter and 2 cups of heavy cream.
"Refrigerate any unused sauce," it advises, suggesting there might be a little left over. I find this hilarious. I love sauce - and use it generously - and still have enough surplus to top several other desserts.
Despite my love of sticky toffee pudding, I didn't realize until this week that there is a village called Cartmel in County Cumbria that is home to the country's most famous version of the pudding. (A "Hidden Britain" piece from BBC Travel caught a co-worker's eye after a discussion about the Haagen-Dazs flavor.)
Cumbria is also known for the Cumberland rum ricky, Borrowdale teabread and Grasmere gingerbread, among other fabulously named desserts.
Reporter Mike MacEacheran, who refers to STP as "a sweet that hums with happiness," was on a mission to uncover the dessert's origins. He cited a book by a Cumbria-based author that claims sticky toffee pudding was introduced by the Sharrow Bay Hotel on Ullswater in the early 1970s.
Not so easily convinced, MacEacheran set out on a "pudding detective hunt" across England. He discovered other claims that the dessert is - gasp - Canadian and that it was on the menu at the Gait Inn in Millington, Yorkshire, as early as 1907.
I, of course, have far less interest in discovering the true origins of sticky toffee pudding than I do in tasting different versions of it. And now, thanks to MacEacheran and the BBC, I have a short list of spots to add to the itinerary for our next trip to England.
Ainsley, a devout Beatles fan, has requested a trip to Liverpool in the next few years. Fortunately it's less than a two-hour drive to The Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Co.
- Pamela Lannom is editor
of The Hinsdalean.
Readers can email her at