My daughter has been eating gluten free for over a year and this still makes me a bit sad. I think of crostoli, frittole and so many other Italian desserts that I make so easily with flour and how she cannot eat them. I have tried to make a few gluten free cakes but they are not always successful. It is taking time to expand my repertoire. She says she doesn’t mind, all she really wants me to master making is a gluten free sticky date pudding.
There are many GF sticky date pudding recipes on the web. I decided on this recipe from Gluten free living, a New Zealand blog which has great GF recipes that are always easy to follow. This one uses white rice flour in place of plain flour. The only white rice flour I could find at the local supermarket was Ferron hand-milled white rice flour made from carnaroli rice. Gabriele Ferron (the risotto King) is from Verona and has been on a mission to make rice varieties carnaroli and vialone nano known around the world. He is visiting Australia in August 2013 to cook up a risotto storm (for Melbourne dates see the Enoteca Sileno website).
I’m not sure what Signor Ferron would think of his beautiful hand-milled carnaroli flour, made for polenta, being put into a rather un-Italian cake. Like me, he might be surprised at how well it worked. The rice flour made a great substitute for plain flour – the texture was not affected. It was fluffy with that distinctive gooey-ness that comes from the chopped dates spread through the batter. It tasted sweet and wonderful just like a home made sticky date pudding. The butterscotch sauce, which was drizzled on the cooked warm cake and also poured on the sliced cake was rich and a bit decadent. Tamara sent me a text message (I was out for dinner) when she ate a slice of cake – she loved it! The whole family does. It will definitely be a part of my regular cake repertoire from now on. It is so easy to make, delicious and does not taste (or look) gluten free at all – my quasi Italian GF sticky date pudding (thanks in part to the risotto King from Verona).
Sticky date pudding
270g (9.5 oz) dried dates, seeds removed, chopped
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon baking soda
60g (2oz) butter, roughly chopped
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla essence
1 1/4 cups white rice flour
2 teaspoons heaped baking powder
2/3 cup, firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons, firmly packed brown sugar
300ml (10 fluid oz) thickened/pouring cream
30g (1oz) butter
Place the dates and water in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat until they start to boil Add the baking soda and butter. Stir in and then remove from the heat. Set aside for about 30 minutes until cool enough to place in a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a thick paste. It is ok to leave some pieces of dates (they make a nice surprise when you are eating the cake).
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Grease and line the sides and base of a cake tin (I used 18cm/7inch tin) with a removable base. Add the eggs and vanilla to the date mixture and pulse once or twice. Sift together the baking powder, rice flour and brown sugar, making sure you get rid of as many lumps of brown sugar as you can. Fold the wet ingredients gently into the date mixture until well incorporated. Don’t over mix. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 50 – 60 minutes. I used the fan-forced setting and found I had to reduce the temperature to 150 degrees C after 30 minutes. Start making the sauce about 7 minutes before the cake is ready.
The cake is ready when it is firm to touch and springs back lightly and a wooden skewer inserted in the centre comes out dry. Place on a wire rack and after a couple of minutes, make holes with a wooden skewer and pour on half a cup of the sauce. Remove the sides of the cake tin after about ten minutes.
Serve with the butterscotch sauce (warmed). I like to eat the cake warmed as well but it is equally nice room temperature with the warmed sauce. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days (I promise it will be eaten much faster). Store excess sauce in a glass jar in the fridge.
To make the sauce, add the ingredients to a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring when the sugar and butter start to melt. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.