by Jo Pratt

Whether you’re planning an activity to get the kids off their devices, or you just want to escape to the kitchen for some peace and quiet on your own, then you really have to reach for this recipe. It’s easy enough for kids of all ages to help with, doesn’t require any weird and wonderful sized cake tins or a super creative eye to decorate the end result. This tray bake is guaranteed to be a huge hit whatever it looks like and to whoever you serve it to.
This is my twist on a household favourite, Sticky Toffee Pudding. I’ve transformed the tasty dessert into a handy tray bake that can be eaten as a treat throughout the week, taken to school or charity cake sales, coffee mornings, work ‘cake’ days, or even offered as a dinner party dessert when served with some poached pears and a cheeky glass of dessert wine.

Happy baking!


TAKES 30 minutes to bake
SERVES approx. 20 pieces

• 250g ready-to-eat dates
• 250ml black tea
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 1 tsp ground mixed spice or ground ginger
• 100g butter, softened
• 150g light brown sugar
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 200g self-raising flour

• 75g caramel or dulce de leche (tinned Carnation caramel is ideal for this recipe and easily available in supermarkets), plus 2 tbsp extra to serve
• 225g icing sugar
• 65g butter, softened

• chocolate chips/flakes
• pecan or walnuts halves
• dried banana chips
• flaked toasted coconut

• Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas 4. Lightly grease and line a cake tin (approx. 20cm x 25cm).
• Cut the dates into small pieces, removing any stones. Put in a small saucepan with the tea and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes for the dates to soften. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice or ginger. The mixture will froth slightly – this is normal, so don’t panic!
Leave to cool for around 10 minutes.
• Cream together the butter and sugar either by hand or with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and flour, beating in thoroughly before mixing in the date mixture.
• Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes until the top is just firm to touch. Insert a skewer into the middle. It should come out clean. If not, continue cooking for a little longer.
• Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
• To make the frosting, simply beat together the caramel, sugar and butter either by hand or with an electric mixer until light, thick and creamy. Spread over the top of the cooled tray bake with a palate knife.
• Stir the remaining caramel until you have a loose consistency, then drizzle over the top. Add any further toppings if you wish.
• Cut into squares and store for up to one week in an airtight container.