Inspired & Spirited Birthday Dessert

all warm and melted Bill dug in before I could light the candle

all warm and melted Bill dug in to his sticky toffee pudding cake before I could light the candle

It was a good week celebrating Bill’s birthday with lunch at one of his favorite restaurants, The Whip Tavern, followed by dinner with Caitlin and Sam the day after. I was pretty certain what Bill wanted for his birthday dinner, but thought I’d ask anyway. Sure enough, “shrimp ‘n grits” followed by “sticky toffee pudding cake”.

Bill and Will in the Adirondaks

Bill and Will in the Adirondaks

The thought of shrimp n’ grits always brings me back to Charleston, SC. It was there that Bill and I last got to spend time with William. Just a few short days catching up and hanging out enjoying a little southern comfort. We also heard all about his future scout sniper training before we hugged and said good-bye.

very proud

very proud

Those days with Will are among our most priceless and I know this week Bill was missing that birthday phone call from his best buddy. He is working through his grief in his own quiet way and hopefully believing that Will is with us all the time, at least, in spirit.

first pheasant

first pheasant

And that spirit inspires me to create this dessert to celebrate Bill in a sweet way. Not a fan of dates? Sticky Toffee Pudding will change your mind, I guarantee!

Dark Muscovado sugar has a fine, moist texture with a high molasses content that blends well with strong coffee. I use the India Tree brand from Mauritius. Brandy plays well with both the dates and the coffee adding that spirited touch I love so much.

poke the holes through to the bottom of the cake

poke the holes through to the bottom of the cake

Inspired & Spirited Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

8 ounces pitted dates, coarsely chopped

1 cup very hot strong coffee

1 tablespoon brandy

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup lightly packed dark Muscovado* sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 large eggs, room temperature

SAUCE

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup lightly packed dark Muscovado* sugar

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon brandy

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray (10) 1-cup ramekins with non-stick baking spray. Place dates in a bowl, pour coffee and brandy over dates; let soak 15 minutes. Stir in baking soda. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, with an electric mixer on high, beat butter and sugar for 3 to 5 minutes or until fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, add lemon zest and beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add half the flour mixture beating until combined. Add date mixture and remaining flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Scoop batter into ramekins filling about ¾ full; place on a baking sheet. Bake until cakes are puffed and spring back in center when gently pressed with a finger, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, for sauce, combine butter, sugar, cream and brandy in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium (so sauce does not boil over) and boil, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 4 minutes. Remove cakes from oven. With a wooden skewer poke holes in cakes. Spoon half of hot sauce over cake (1 ½ tablespoons per cake) and let soak 20 minutes. Serve warm with remaining sauce and vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

*Note: dark brown sugar can be used in place of muscovado

low boil of cream, brandy, butter and sugar

low boil of cream, brandy, butter and sugar

8 thoughts on “Inspired & Spirited Birthday Dessert

  1. A happy belated birthday to Bill. I am not ashamed to say that my children grew up eating dates in many recipes that fell under the “big raisin” umbrella. That was just the tip of the sneaky food lies iceberg. I’d love to see you post your shrimp and grits recipe someday. A fave from our days living in South Carolina, but one for which I’ve yet to find an authentic recipe.

  2. Love that you sneaked “healthy” foods into the kid’s menu—we moms do what we can to insure our children’s good health. My favorite shrimp n grits recipe comes from the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook….the only thing I do is add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end and I add smoked gouda to the grits–making me hungry now

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