Sticky toffee puds

So then, the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding. I recently had one of these for the first time in a while – accompanied by a nice dollop of vanilla ice cream, of course – and, well, it was delicious as always.

Now sticky toffee puds are common sights in cookbooks and on menus up and down the land. Unless you’re in the mood for something lighter and refreshing, there’s arguably no dessert that finishes off a meal out quite like a sticky toffee pud.

But, without wishing to sound like one of those supermarket ads from a few years ago, in my experience there tend to be sticky toffee puds and then other sticky toffee puds.

The Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding falls into that latter category. It’s not often I taste it – although this blog probably makes me sound like I’m scoffing them all the time (I’m not) – but there is a difference.

It’s difficult to explain, but it has a different level of sweetness, richness and well, stickiness. I don’t quite know why (I’m no chef nor food expert) and I know that’s a completely untechnical way of describing it, but that’s how it tastes to me at least.

Being a historian by training I tend to look at the backstories of things. And the sticky toffee pud, despite often being categorised as ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’, is a bit more modern than some might think.

The recipe, it seems, was popularised in the 1970s by Francis Coulson of the Lake District’s Sharrow Bay Hotel, who himself apparently adapted a recipe of a Mrs Martin of Cumbria, who according to the food writer Simon Hopkinson herself got the recipe from a Canadian friend. Hopkinson says these origins across the North Atlantic makes “perfect sense” as the recipe “is much more of a batter mix, like a muffin, than a classic English sponge”.

I find it interesting how the sticky toffee pud, from the Cartmel product to the recipes used by restaurants and home bakers, is a relatively recent arrival when it’s typically categorised as a ‘traditional’ dessert.

I suppose this shows how the right recipe, developed at the right time, marketed in the right way, can enter the mainstream regardless of its provenance.

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