Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dessert fit for a princess

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I’m surrounded by princesses. Decked out in plastic tiaras and shiny, synthetic ball gowns, my little girls are princesses to a T. Or is that tea? We occasionally have dress-up teas in our house – pulling out the china tea cups and plates, serving up a bit of cake or cookies, and tea. Filling up the sugar and creamer, because it doesn’t matter if the tea is already sweet, the primary point of a proper little girls’ tea being to stir sugar into liquid while wearing a fancy dress.

Celebrating the royal wedding this week, I confess to a fascination with the British royal family, beginning with Princess Diana’s wedding in 1981 (isn’t it funny how it’s not called Prince Charles’ wedding?). I was a teenager, and missed the wedding because I was at summer camp in the mountains of Tennessee. To tell the truth, I didn’t see the full movie-length version of the wedding until just a few years ago, on a September weekend TV marathon memorializing Diana’s death. I still have the Life magazine with the pictures of the wedding - the coach, the dress, the tiara, the veil, the flower girls.

Maybe it's just me, but Diana's wedding dress is iconic. I saw it last year when  Diana: A Celebration came to Atlanta. The dress gets its own glass case, with the train fully extended and flower girl's dress alongside. Diana's dress seems so girly compared to the sleek wedding dresses of today. Her dress had those puffed and ruffled sleeves, the embroidered bodice and cascading skirt. My youngest daughter was four at the time, and still talks about seeing the princess' wedding dress. Here she is with her big sister demonstrating how to act like a princess under the gaze of Diana.
Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Back at home, we take tea some days, and every now and then, I'll make Sticky Toffee Pudding, supposedly Kate’s favorite dessert. In the realm of English desserts, I’m more of a fan of bananas-and-cream banoffee, but sticky toffee is divine in its own way. Don’t let the name "pudding" throw you off – it’s just the British-ism for dessert. Sticky toffee pudding is a spicy date cake topped with a luscious caramel toffee sauce. I adapted a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook to make individual puddings, using muffin cups, so the princesses don't have to share at teatime. It’s ugly when princesses squabble.

Sticky Toffee Pudding by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Sticky Toffee Puddings for Perfect Little Princesses

Yield: 18 muffin-style puddings


2 cups (10 ounces) pitted dates

2 2/3 cup water

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

1 ¾ cups self-rising flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1. Combine dates and water in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400. Grease 18 muffin tins.

3. Beat butter and brown sugar in bowl with an electric mixer, until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, scraping down the bowl after each egg. Stir in vanilla, then flour.

4. Add baking soda to date mixture and process in food processor. The mixture will be very wet. Add to butter mixture and stir until combined. Divide batter into muffin tins, filling ¾ full.

5. Place muffin tins on baking sheet and bake 15 to 20 minutes, using the toothpick test – a toothpick (or a bamboo skewer) inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool puddings in tins for a few minutes, then turn out on a wire rack.

Toffee Sauce

½ cup sugar

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 oz. heavy cream

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and butter, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Gradually incorporate cream, using a whisk, until mixture is thick and creamy.

2. Serve toffee sauce over individual puddings.

Text & images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.


Linda said...

Lucy, your princesses are adorable. Those are some fun photos. I tried this recipe and it was fantastic! I love the mini versions (portion controlled and less messy, and also very cute).

Anonymous said...

Love the pictures!! I miss those days with my daughter -- all the dress-up clothes. I confess to watching Di/Charles wedding on TV from start to finish. I kept wondering why the pretty young girl was marrying the old dude. And I did watch a good bit of the recent wedding coverage. Kate's gown was amazing! I haven't tried sticky toffee pudding, and now I'm miffed that I didn't go all out last weekend and make the day the event it deserved to be.

Bell Vance