Sheet-Pan Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

November 19, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Nigella Lawson's Sticky Toffee Pudding dessert from her cookbook, Nigella Bites, is one of my favorite things to make for guests during the colder months. I love this cake because it's one of those things I'm able to throw together when it seems I have nothing in my pantry and fridge. All it needs are the usual suspects, things like brown sugar, butter, flour, eggs, and milk—plus chopped dates. I often make this without the dates, which keeps costs even lower, but they're the ingredient that gives the dessert its signature flavor and squidge.

The important thing is to trust in Nigella's technique (it's a quirky one!): Once you spread the very simple batter out onto the sheet pan, you dot the cake with brown sugar, blobs of butter, and *pour* hot water (yes, hot water) all over the top. As this water-filled pan bakes in the oven, the liquid mixes with the butter and sugar and amalgamates into a luscious sauce. The sauce also inverts with the cake, so the batter bakes up into a tender cake on top, while sticky toffee ends up on bottom. It's a very satisfying thing to watch happen, but requires a little faith.
Eric Kim

Food52 Review: Featured in: Dinner for 20—for Under $100? It Can Be Done.The Editors

Serves: 16 to 20
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min



  • 1 stick salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup chopped dates


  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick salted butter
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, for serving
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and butter an 18x13-inch half sheet pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Dump in the flour, baking powder, salt, and milk, and stir until smooth. Fold in the chopped dates. Spread batter out onto the buttered sheet pan.
  3. For the “sauce,” sprinkle over the 2 cups of brown sugar and dot with the 1/2 stick of butter. Pour the boiling water all over the top of the cake (trust me!) and carefully transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until caramelized on top. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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