Lapsang Souchong Tea and Date Cake with Caramel Sauce

This is a riff on the delicious English dessert, the sticky-toffee pudding.  It is, however, more cake-like and less dense than the classic from which it is derived.  The lapsang souchong adds a nice hint of smokiness.  I prefer to leave the dates coarsely chopped, so as to perceive them in the finished product, but if you prefer a smoother texture, just smush them and cut them up (to cut the fibres) thoroughly.

I like to bake this in a ceramic “bake-and-serve” dish with relatively high sides, at least 1 ½” deep, preferably 2”, so that the cake can be sauced in this way and the sauce stays on the cake…this is opposed to using a springform pan and unmoulding it and then having the sauce run over the sides…it is less elegant I know, but it is easier and I think it tastes better when the cake absorbs all of the sauce.

Accompany with crème fraîche, plain yoghurt, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.


  • 225 g of chopped, seeded dates
  • 250 ml dark lapsang souchong tea
  • 110 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 170 g granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 225 g of self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of coffee extract

Caramel Sauce

  • 110 g unsalted butter
  • 170 g dark soft brown Muscovado sugar
  • 110 g granulated sugar
  • 285 g gold syrup
  • 225 ml cream
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Soak the dates in the tea for an hour or so to rehydrate them.  Butter and flour the cake pan.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Mix together the dry ingredients and then fold them in gently.  Add the two extracts to the date and tea mix, and then fold this into the egg-flour batter.  Scoop this into the baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes until done—the cake will have turned from tan to a deep golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the centre will come out clean.

Make the caramel.  About ten minutes before the end of baking the cake, make the caramel.  Put butter, sugars, and syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt over low heat.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring a bit to keep it from burning or overheating.  Take off the heat, whisk in the cream and vanilla.  Put back on the heat and whisk until absolutely smooth.

Remove the cake from the oven and prick lightly with a toothpick deep into the cake, so as to make tiny holes.  Slowly pour the caramel over the cake, making sure that the holes fill.  Leave it thus and let the sauce soak into the cake.

Cook’s Note.  If you do not have self-raising flour, increase flour to 250 g, use 1 sachet of baking powder, but otherwise keep things the same.  If you do not have golden syrup, you can use Agave syrup.

Optional extra.  A few tablespoons of rum or brandy added to the caramel sauce are a welcome addition.

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