When I worked at Brenchley Manor, I was often required to cook for dinner parties. They did love to entertain and to be honest, I really enjoyed the challenge! There were always five courses to prepare, not including the after dinner coffee's and could involve anywhere's from five to twenty five or more guests!
There was only me to do all the cooking, and it would often take me days to get everything ready. There would be the planning of the menu, and all the shopping to do as well as the cooking. I tried as much as I could to do a lot of pre-prep ahead of time so that it wasn't such a lot of work on the day. It wasn't always possible, but I tried!
If they were having a soup course, that could always be done one to two days ahead and refrigerated. Most soups taste better after having stood for a day or two. I also was able to prepare most of the hors d'ouevres ahead of time as well.
I normally had to prepare at least two desserts, and . . . if I was lucky, they could be done ahead of time as well . . . that way on the day of the party, all I had to do really was any last minute jobs, like setting the table, and the final preparation of the main course. I did have to be very organized, but . . . like I said, I loved the challenge! I do miss it now I'm retired.
These little toffee pudding cakes were a very popular dessert with both the guests and myself.
The guests because they were delicious . . .
Myself . . . because they could be made up to two days ahead of time and then just reheated at the last minute!
Deliciously sweet and moist baby sized date cakes, covered with a wonderfully sticky toffee sauce!
*Baby Sticky Toffee Pudding Cakes*
Delicious, easy and impressive. What's even better is you can make it all up ahead of time the day before you are having company for dinner and reheat it all at the last minute to serve. Delicious!
For the cakes:
7 ounces coarsely chopped pitted dates (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
7 1/4 ounces plain flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
9 1/4 ounces caster sugar (about 1 1/3 cups)
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature (1/4 cup)
1 large free range egg
For the Toffee Sauce:
15 ounces soft light brown sugar (2 cups packed)
4 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
500ml of double cream (2 cups)
2 TBS dark rum or brandy
cream or sweetened whipped cream
To make the toffee sauce, whisk the sugar and butter together in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted. (The mixture will be grainy) Add the cream and bring to the boil. Boil until the mixture coats a spoon, whisking constantly. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Whisk in the rum or brandy. (I use a tsp of vanilla at home instead.) This can be done up to two days ahead. Just put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.
To make the cakes, combine the dates and water in a scuepan. Bring to the boil and then cook until the dates are soft, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occaisonally. When cooled, whisk in the vanilla and baking soda.
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark4. Butter and flour 10 muffin or custard cups.
Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together in another bowl. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture alternately with the date mixture in two additions, beating to blend well after each addition. Divide the batter equally amongst the prepared muffin cups.
Bake the cakes for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto a baking sheet which you have lined with foil. Spoon 2 TBS of the toffee sauce over each warm cake. Let cool completely. (This can be done a day ahead. Cover with foil and refrigerate.)
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Reheat the cakes on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Place onto hot serving plates and drizzle with any remaining toffee sauce (heated). Serve with cream or whipped cream.