This is my second pay day cake as the first was the ‘Macchiatto’ espresso, vanilla and caramel layer cake and this month I wanted to create a sticky toffee pudding cake that was moist, not covered in sickly buttercream but smooth and silky in the mouth. It was not easy to photogrpah this cake and it may look a lttle dark but I assure you it is not burnt just crammed full of dark rich dates.
My pay day cake idea revolves around creating a reward to celebrate the fact that I’ve been paid and made it to the end of another month as we should all be thankful if we have jobs these days. However I believe there is always an excuse that can be made for making or eating cake so that it does not need to be kept solely for Birthday celebrations, here are a few examples:
1. I love you cake (aka its all for me)
2. It’s Friday, Monday cake etc whatever day you want to celebrate
3. ‘I saved a fortune by getting all this in the sale’ cake (honest)
4. I put up with your snoring so I deserve cake
5. There is a celebration most days on google with a funky graphic so if you are really desperate use that as your excuse!
You don’t have to go the full monty and make a four tiered layer cake as I do this to me as each layer represents a week worked. If you wanted to you could half the recipe and bake it a 20cm tin, cut in half and smother the middle it in sticky toffee sauce. Or you could heat it up, drizzle with more sauce and serve with ice cream for a delicious pudding. The bonus of a cake version is that is portable so you can have a sticky toffee hit where ever you go.
This produces a dense moist cake but it is not overly sweet like you might expect as it uses a swiss meringue buttercream flavoured with the sticky toffee sauce. Unlike a normal buttercream (butter and icing sugar) swiss meringue buttercream is not as sweet so will need flavouring. The buttercream is a bit fiddly but not as bad to make as I thought it would be and the reward is a very smooth silky buttercream that knocks the socks off any other I have tried.
To Make this Gluten Free
I have made this gluten free a few times before with great success. Simply substitute the self raising flour (see below) with gluten free self raising flour (I use Doves Farm). As this is a very moist cake it works well as a gluten free cake and needs no further moisture or xanthum gum. For more gluten free info – ready my 7 tips for gluten free baking here.
450g dates, pitted and chopped (soaked in 300ml water with 4 green tea bags or use ordinary tea bags)
2 tsp vanilla extract ( use my own version so I know it has no nasty stuff in it)
2 tsp mixed spice
360g self-raising flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
230g unsalted butter, softened
350g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Instructions for the Cake
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
2. Line 2 x 20cm round loose bottomed tin with greaseproof paper.
3. Using scissors cut up the dates into small pieces.
4. Put the dates and water into a large saucepan.
5. Bring dates and water to the boil and continue to cook uncovered for 8 minutes until dates have softened
6. Remove from heat, fish out the teabags – remember count them in and out as you don’t want to forget one – it’s just like being on a school trip.
7. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda – this may make the mixture froth so be careful.
8. Leave the date mixture cool on the side – although if you are impatient (like me) the cake will still work but it will melt the butter so it won’t be as fluffy and cake like.
9. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, pale and airy.
10.Beat in the eggs and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Add vanilla extract.
11. To the mixture in the flour and the e mixture (cooled).
12. Pour (as this is quite a liquid mixture) into the prepared baking tins and level the surface.
13. Cover the cake with foil
14. Bake for approximately approx 30 mins and then remove the foil ( to prevent burning) and bake for approx 10 minutes more. It is ready when the top is golden and the cake has begun to shrink away for the sides. It will still have a little bit of a wobble as the mixture is moist.
15. Leave to cool in the tin and transfer to a wire rack.
16. I always leave cakes that are being layered overnight in an airtight container wrapped in greaseproof paper so that they do not crumble when you cut them.
Ingredients for Sticky Toffee Sauce
120g light brown sugar
120g salted butter (but unsalted works just as well)
100ml cream (I used Elmlea half fat)
Instructions for the Sauce
1. Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved whilst stirring so the sugar does not burn. To check the sugar has dissoleved you can put a very small amount on your fingers and rub them together it should not feel gritty but be careful as it will be hot.
2. Stir in the cream and heat until gently bubbling – stir continually. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Tip – You can always double the recipe and put it into an airtight jar and store in the fridge for toffee fudge sundaes in the next week – yum!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Adapted from Sweetapolita)
If you have never done swiss meringues before I urge you to read Sweetapolita’s article - swiss meringue buttercream demystified – it is a god send and made me feel far more confident that was until it curdled – but I have included how I fixed this later on in this article!
120g egg whites (I used liquid egg whites which you can buy in a carton from the Supermarket as they are pasturised)
200g granulated sugar
340g butter (soft but still cool)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Vanilla bean (seeds only)
Double boiler, baine marie / porriger pan or use a bowl over a saucepan – make sure this clean by wiping it with a lemon or vinegar
Sugar or jam thermometer
1. Beat your butter using a hand whisk and transfer to a seprate bowl for later.
2. Add about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan / bowl and add the egg whites and sugar to the pan / bowl
3. Whisk gently over a low heat until the egg whites reach 140C and then remove from the heat
4. Pour egg whites into mixer bowl and whisk on medium speed for five minutes. Continue on high until stiff peaks form. Keep whisking until the bottom of the bowl is no longer warm – this is really important as you do not want to melt the butter when you add it (this takes about 8 – 10 mins)
5. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time whilst still mixing and watch it until it has combined – continue in this way until all the butter has been added. If you mixture is soupy you did not wait long enough for the egg whites to cool – put the mixture back it the fridge and then try again in 15-20 mins. Is it curdled and yukkly? See below…
6. The mixture will come together to become light and fluffy – add the sticky toffee topping to your own taste – add a tablespoon of sauce (one at a time) whilst still mixing. Any left over sauce can be used over ice-creams for sundaes!
Dillema – The Swiss Meringue Buttercream Curdle (How to recuse it)
Yes I hit this problem and I kept mixing the buttercream like Sweetapolita tells you to do and have faith that all will be fine. After five minutes faith was leaving me, I tried putting it in the fridge, praying, beating it on high, low but none if it changed the fact that the SMB looked disgusting!
However I did find something that works on this site - take 1/4 of the mixture out and pour into a microwavable bowl – heat for 15 seconds and then stir it to get a smooth consistency before pouring it back into your mixture. Whisk again on a low-speed. This worked and I was so pleased to have saved the buttercream.
To Assemble the Cake
Cut each cake into two even layers (I use a tape measure to make sure each layer is evenly sized. I don’t have a cake stand that rotates but I do use a revolving cheese board stand but you could also uses a lazy susan to do the job. Add a dollop of buttercream to the centre of your stand and add your first layer of cake and press down – this will keep your cake in place while you work.
1. Put half the SM buttercream into a large piping / pastry bag and use a large star open tip nozzle
2. Use a palette knife to spread out the sticky toffee sauce onto your first layer. Make sure you don’t go right to the edge or the sticky toffee sauce is likely to ooze down the sides of your cake.
3. Spread SM buttercream across the top of the sticky toffee sauce – again keep in from the edge
4. Pipe around the edge of your layer using and up and down (think waves at the sea) motion until you have gone round the entire cake
5. Add the next layer carefully so as not to squash the piping
6. Repeat until all layers are done
7. Cut up fudge pieces and add to the top if you wish
Important Storage Notes
This cake should be stored at room temperature which is fine if you used the pasturised egg whites. After a couple of days it will need to go back in the fridge if there is any left. However if you are putting in the fridge you will need to get the cake out and let it come back fully to room temperature or the icing will taste disgusting!