Many puddings are surrounded by legends and this is one of them. It is said that the sticky toffee pudding was invented in the 1960s by Francis Coulson of the Sharrow Bay Hotel by the majestic Ullswater in the Lake District. He called it an ‘icky sticky toffee sponge’.






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I have pondered this legend and the original recipe – which is said to be locked away in the hotel’s vault – while I was enjoying the first spring sun on the Victorian steamer on Ullswater.

We passed the hotel and, of course, the voice on the boat mentioned that the sticky toffee pudding was invented there. But it wouldn’t be a pudding without other counties competing over its origins. Yorkshire claims that sticky toffee pudding was invented in 1907 by the landlady of the Gait Inn in Millington; and of course the Scots claim it as their own, insisting it was first served in the Udny Arms Hotel in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, in 1967.

Many have tried to trace the original recipe so I share with you my own. This pudding is made with prunes instead of the traditional dates. But feel free to use dates; I just don’t care for them. As with all my personal recipes, I try to reduce the sugar content because I find that sugar can take over the flavour and I do not enjoy a sugar headache.

In this delightful pudding, which has won many of my friends over to the idea of British food, I use a very more-ish apple butter (appelstroop) from Belgium. The syrup is very thick, like treacle, and although sweet, it has some acidity too which works very nicely with the sweetness of the pudding. You can use extra sugar instead. 


  • 225 g (8 oz) pitted prunes
  • 85 g (3 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 100 g (3½ oz) muscovado (dark brown) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp apple butter, or add an extra tablespoon of sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 175 g (6 oz) self-raising flour
  • thick (double) cream or clotted cream to serve

Toffee sauce

  • 50 g (1¾ oz) unsalted butter
  • 175 g (6 oz) muscovado (dark brown) sugar
  • 200 ml (7 oz) thick (double) cream
  • 1 tbsp apple butter

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Makes 8 small puddings in 7–8 cm moulds.

Standing time: 15 minutes

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

2. Put the pitted prunes in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Allow to stand for about 15 minutes, then drain and use a blender to reduce the prunes to a puree.

3. In a clean bowl, combine the butter with the muscovado sugar and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs and whisk to create a light batter. Fold in the apple butter and the prune puree and a super-tiny pinch of salt. Sift in the flour and mix well to combine.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pudding basins and place in a baking dish or deep tray, adding boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the basins. Cover the dish with foil and steam in the middle of the oven for 40–50 minutes, checking after 30 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the pudding to see if it comes out clean.

5. Allow the puddings to cool slightly in the basins. (If not needed immediately, freeze them in the basins and reheat in the microwave after defrosting.) When you are ready to serve, loosen the pudding from the basin with the tip of a knife and turn it out like a cake.

6. Prepare the toffee sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the other ingredients and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Dip hot puddings in the sauce and pour cream over to serve.


Image and recipe from Pride and Pudding by Regula Ysewijn, photography by Regula Ysewijn (Murdoch Books, $49.99)