Pear Sticky Toffee Cakes with Miso-Caramel Sauce
There are a few desserts I never pass up if they appear on a menu, and anything beginning with “sticky toffee” in the name has always fallen firmly in that category. Specifically, sticky toffee cake (or pudding, as it’s often called) is my kryptonite. The allure of warm toffee poured over date-enhanced sponge cake and served with vanilla custard or cream is too strong for my willpower to resist and far too satisfying to deny.What accounts for my fascination? A little digging suggests that the dessert made famous by British chef Francis Coulson at the Sharrow Bay hotel may in fact be Canadian in origin—which would explain my penchant for it given that I, too, am Canadian. The story goes that the dessert was initially made by Patricia Martin at her country hotel in Claughton, England, and later appeared as her contribution to a compilation of recipes published in 1971. Reports differ as to whether she learned the recipe from a Canadian friend or from two Canadian air force officers who stayed at her hotel.But I would love sticky toffee cake no matter where it originated. When the weather turns colder and I start planning for the holidays ahead, this spoonable sweet is everything I need in the dessert department. It’s easy to make for a crowd and undeniably decadent.I’ve recently taken to putting my own touches on the classic, giving the otherwise sweet and soft-textured dessert more dimension and depth. In addition to the traditional dates, I like to add chopped pears to the batter, where they cook down as the individual cakes bake, and I add miso to the toffee, which lends a salty savoriness that may sound gratuitous but exceeds expectations. My recipe serves 12, but you’ll be wishing you’d made a whole lot more.