Ok, so this was just one of those times when I hit the kitchen and was feeling energised and really creative. I also had my new cake tin on the bench just staring at me waiting to be used again, so I came up with this version of a sticky date pudding for Christmas. Basically you can use any old good sticky date pudding recipe and just trick it up with a few added extras. My extras included figs, cherries and a little spun toffee. Now the spun toffee was super fun! I had practically no experience doing it, so I just kind of made it up as I went along, but the results were just so beautiful. However while my caked ended up looking terrific, one of my fingers did not. A word of warning, toffee is not for the faint hearted and absolutely not suitable for children to be going near. Any contact with your skin can result in a really nasty burn. I think my finger took two weeks to really improve. I'd post a photo, but that would just put you off ever attempting a toffee basket which would be just be plain disappointing! Anyway, if you like the look of this cake and glance down at the giant recipe below, don't be turned off. Just remember it's really just a sticky date pudding, cooked in a fancy tin, with some fruit and toffee on top. It's just a great example of how you can take a family favourite and dress it up for Christmas day. Have fun, be creative and don't take it to seriously! Except for the bit about toffee safety.
STICKY DATE CHRISTMAS PUDDING WITH FIGS AND TOFFEE CHARDS
250 g pitted dates, chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups boiling water
125g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups Self-Raising Flour, sifted
2 figs segmented for the top
1 handful of fresh cherries for the top
1 cup whipped cream for the top
THE STICKY CARAMEL SAUCE
1 cup brown sugar
300 ml thickened cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
60 g butter
THE TOFEE CHARDS
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cool water
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of a 7cm deep, 22cm (base) cake pan. (Alternatively use a bundt cake tin with a hole in the middle)
Place dates and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Pour over boiling water. Allow to stand for 20 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Using a large metal spoon, fold through date mixture and flour until well combined.
Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn onto a plate.
To make the sauce combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes, or until ready to serve.
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved stop stirring and bring to the boil. Leave boiling until you see a few golden bubbles.
Take off the heat and let the mixture cool until all bubbles have subsided. Take a medium sized bowl and place it in a large baking tray. Next take a large piece of baking paper and roughly shape in over the bowl so it creates a rough dome shape. Carefully take your warm toffee mixture and with a spoon drizzle the toffee over in a circular movement, trying to keep quite fluid and constant with your movement. Built up your toffee until you feel you have an adequate amount over the baking paper. You may wish to repeat this a few times to get the hang of it and to use different shaped bowls.
Allow to cool and set for at least 10 minutes. Carefully remove the toffee baskets from the baking paper and use immediately, or store gently in an air tight container until required.
Fill the centre of the cake with cream. Top with your segmented figs, then drizzle over your sticky caramel sauce. Next place your cherries on top. Just before serving place your toffee basket or shards over the cake, being very careful as they will be very fragile.
Always take particular care when working with toffee as it can cause a significant burn if it comes in contact with skin. Never involve children in this activity.