I dare you to try and think of the words “sticky toffee” without your brain immediately auto-filling “pudding” at the end. It’s an instinctive, foodie Mad Libs kind of knee-jerk reaction on par with the likes “PB (&J)”, “Fried chicken (and waffles)”, “Green eggs (and ham).” You get the idea.

The disconnect, however—at least for most Americans—comes from the fact that the iconic British pub dessert  resembles nothing like what we call pudding stateside. Essentially, sticky toffee pudding consists of a spongy brown sugar cake that is flavored with sweet chopped dates and drowned in an even sweeter, decadent toffee sauce (aka butterscotch, more or less). So yeah, you heard that correctly, if you were expecting some kind of custard component there is none.

But since this sweet treat has a kind of innate element of defying assumed expectations, we thought it would be fun to see what other unique sticky toffee applications there are out there. Here are nine favorites.

Sticky Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Dinner With Julie

The reliable chocolate chip—or in this case, chunk—cookie gets the sticky toffee treatment here, folding in chewy chopped dates and toffee chip to the molasses and brown sugar dough. Who says you shouldn’t mess with the classics? Get the recipe.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

Style Sweet CA

Delicious as it is, I think we can all agree that traditional sticky toffee pudding isn’t the most picturesque of desserts. But give it a layer cake makeover and the dessert proves its potential as quite the statuesque showpiece. Here, three date-studded moist cakes are stacked, casually frosted in buttercream and doused in the thick butterscotch sauce. Get the recipe.

Boozy Sticky Toffee Trifles

Cake Merchant

In this reimagined, deconstructed version of the beloved dessert, pieces of the fruity cake, warm whiskey-spiked toffee sauce, butterscotch pudding, cinnamon whipped cream, and candied pecans are layered trifle-style to create an elegant dinner party-perfect confection. Get the recipe.

(Pssst, if you like the idea of boozing up your sticky toffee situation—and really, how could you not—you’d be wise to check out this inspired eggnog recipe.)

Sticky Toffee Pudding Ice Cream

The Cooking of Joy

Cake and ice cream are a no-brainer duo. But in this collaboration, pieces of the sweet date cake are folded into the ice cream instead of the two being served side by side. Oh, and did we mention it has rich caramel sauce drizzled throughout? Good thing there’s no scoop limit at home. Get the recipe.

Sticky Toffee Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

The Sugar Hit

Speaking of ice cream, the other option, of course, is to jazz up your plain vanilla ice cream routine by slathering a scoop in toffee sauce and sandwiching it between two chewy, date-brown sugar cookies. How can you not get behind a three-desserts-in-one dessert? Get the recipe.

Sticky Toffee Apple Cakes

My Modern Cookery

The usual date get a break in this bundt cake variation on the classic, replaced by fall’s signature fruit: apples. A combination of dried and fresh pieces in the batter offers a welcome textural component, while the toffee sauce drizzle on top provides the dessert’s sticky-sweet signature. Get the recipe.

Sticky Toffee Eton Mess

Little Kitchen Big World

In this classic British dessert mash-up, slices of the soft date cake and caramelly sauce are paired up with Mess’ requisite star players: crunchy meringue, banana slices, toasted hazelnuts, chocolate shavings, and whipped cream. Sticky messes make tastier messes, now you know. Get the recipe.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cheesecake

Sweet ReciPeas

I challenge even the staunchest New York-style cheesecake purist not to ogle at this gorgeous British invasion-inspired rendition. It’s not like this is just a traditional cheesecake with a little toffee sauce drizzled over as some sort of sad afterthought. Please. Rather, the cream cheese batter is cleverly made to intertwine with pieces of the pudgy date cake to create a rustic, marbled effect when sliced. It also subs in buttery crumbled shortbread for the crust and calls for a perfectly gratuitous amount of the sticky caramel sauce to be poured over the top. Get the recipe.

Sticky Toffee Chicken Wings

Libbie Summers

And why not throw in a token savory variation for good measure? At first glance nothing here appears to be breaking from the mold: a heaping pile of chicken wings coated in a glistening, sticky, finger-licking-good glaze. Where this recipe deviates from your standard football-watching fare is with the sticky component of that sauce. The classic pudding-designated toffee sauce is reimagined with the influence of salty, umami-rich additions like fish and soy sauces and ginger, as well as jalapeño for a kick of heat. Get the recipe.

Header image courtesy of Sweet Style CA.

Maryse Chevriere is a certified sommelier, James Beard Award winner for @freshcutgardenhose, and author of "Grasping the Grape," a no-nonsense but really fun guide to wine.
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