The addition of dates soaked in tea creates a moist pudding, which, when served with the rich toffee sauce, provides the best combination for a winter pudding.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Butter and line the tin with baking paper.
Chop the dates into small pieces then add to the hot tea. Put to one side to soak for 15 minutes while you make the sponge.
Cream together the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon (or use a hand-held electric mixer) until pale and light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to ensure all of the mix is beaten. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda onto the creamed mix and then fold in with a rubber spatula until all of the flour is mixed in. Fold in the dates, along with any tea that hasn’t soaked in, until you have a creamy cake batter. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35–40 minutes, or until the pudding is a deep golden brown. To check if it is cooked, insert a skewer into the sponge; if it comes out with just a few moist crumbs the pudding is ready.
While the pudding is in the oven, make the toffee sauce. Melt the butter in a small pan, then add the sugar and cream and cook over a low heat, stirring every now and then, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sauce is smooth, increase the heat and let it bubble for a couple of minutes.
Leave the pudding to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out and cutting into squares. Serve warm with the hot toffee sauce.
Photography: David Munns © Hodder & Stoughton