Thursday, 9 May 2013

Sarah's Syrup Sponge



Sarah, one of my best friends from university, moved back to Scotland when she finished her degree. It's really quite inconvenient.

A few weeks ago I flew up to Edinburgh for a long weekend. On the Friday night, we headed out for dinner at the Scran & Scallie, Tom Kitchin & Dominic Jack's new restaurant. We had a very enjoyable (though maybe a touch over-seasoned) meal and finished it off with 'Alison Jack's Syrup Sponge' (in a fit of curiosity I asked them about Alison Jack's connection to the sponge on twitter - no reply so far, though I presume she is part of Dominic's family).

We shared the pudding - a little round ceramic dish with a thin layer of hot cake soaked from the bottom up in golden syrup with a rich scoop of vanilla ice cream melting languidly into the sponge - and then walked round and round the park, catching up.



As she was driving down with her family last weekend to graduate (Oxford has - of course - got a weird and delayed system for graduations), Sarah made me promise that I'd make syrup sponge for her when she came to stay.

Usually syrup sponges are steamed but as our pudding was baked, I went for that (it's also much faster and less fiddly). Essentially, this is a thin layer of all-in-one brown sugar sponge cloaking a lake of golden syrup.

To create the individual portions we were served, I tried baking it in small ramekins. I didn't get the sponge/syrup ratio or portion size right the first time. The second time I was making it for post-graduation brunch as there was no other time I could make the sponge for Sarah. I didn't know exactly how many people were going to turn up (family plans, hangovers...) so I decided to make it in a bigger dish and slice it up just before serving. Either option works, though with a bigger dish you avoid the hazard of serving piping hot ramekins.



Before you ask, I don't think there is a substitute for golden syrup in this recipe - just like treacle tart, it's the whole point. Also, please don't ignore the salt - you need it to balance out the sweetness (just like salted caramel).

As it cools, the sponge soaks up syrupy sauce, so for pudding it's best to eat it while it's still hot. When it gets cold it's a treacle-tart-cake cross, which is really quite delightful (and perhaps easier to understand for those who haven't grown up with treacle tart).



It's worth keeping in mind that the point of this pudding is that it's sweet - sweeter than I'd normally go for, but that's the pleasure of it. I now serve little squares - six per batch - but you could do four, or even fewer. I find 1/6 with ice cream just right - it leaves me feeling satisfied but not stuffed or woozy. It would be easy to scale this recipe up for a crowd - I can imagine serving it at a big party from a roasting tray. You can also serve it with a few berries, now summer is coming. I had some strawberries on hand when I made this yesterday, which gave a juicy colour contrast. I think some tart raspberries would pair well too.

It was surprisingly emotional watching my friends graduate (and scary to think that mine was a year ago and that it's two years since I was slaving away for finals). The next morning, we had our brunch. We had a plaited milk loaf (from Scandilicious Baking) with lots of different spreads, croissants and pain au chocolat from the bakery, chunky slices of bacon, feta & spring onion frittata (from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) and lots and lots of tea. Then I served up slices of hot syrup sponge with a big, melting scoop of ice cream. The room fell silent for a minute.

Sarah gave it her approval.



Sarah's Syrup Sponge

3 generous tbsp golden syrup
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature*
50g plain flour
40g light brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 pinches of salt

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F. Spoon the golden syrup into the bottom of a dish (roughly 7x5"/18x13cm) or 4-6 ramekins (about 3"/7cm) and let it spread out. Lightly beat the egg and vanilla together. Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a electric hand whisk) and beat for a minute to soften. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl then add the egg mixture and beat just until combined. Spoon the batter over the syrup then spread it out into an even layer. Bake for around 25 minutes for one sponge and around 10-15 minutes for ramekins - the sponge should have risen and set, turned golden brown and you should be able to remove a toothpick cleanly. Slice and serve straight away with vanilla ice cream (let the ramekins cool a bit - the heat in the ramekin will keep the syrup at the bottom very hot at first) and possibly some fruit.

(Serves 4-6)

* You can also use salted butter and not add the pinches of salt.



Three more recipes that use golden syrup:
Gingernuts
Salted Caramel Brownies
Treacle Tart

52 comments:

  1. Could you make a brown butter version of this?

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  2. Love the simplicity to this! So sad your friend has moved, but thank goodness for the internet!! I skyped with a good friend on mine this morning who lives in Sweden and it makes such a difference to see each other's faces!

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  3. I am soooo making it as soon as I get home from work!

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  4. golden syrup is one of life great comforts, at least for me! this reminds me of the baked puddings you can get at the bistro. I like serving very sweet cakes with passion fruit or baked rhubarb because of their sour taste. wonderfully presented

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  5. Oh Emma, you have taken me back to my childhood. I remember having syrup sponge a fair bit and it is at least 20 years since I last had it so thanks for taking me back! I will make it soon for nostalgia value! Your brunch with friends sounds fantastic - good food with good friends to celebrate a special occasion.

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  6. Asha Pagdiwalla9 May 2013 19:21

    Mmmm... I have to try this out. It sounds somewhat similar to the honey cake I grew up with which is surely a legacy of British colonization and adaptation to local availability (no golden syrup in India :))

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  7. I think for brunch this has to be better than how I have my pancakes, doused in Tate & Lyle! American pancake syrup just does not taste as good!

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  8. (first post here)><

    But this is the pud I sought!
    I have some masses to cook for and initially intended to make sticky toffee pudding or a revani (spent ages tweaking the recipe for this semolina sponge too, rawrr). But your syrup sponge chops off having to bubble toffee sauce over the cake or having to soak it in a syrup. Good things for the time front and I'm fairly certain I'll use it instead. Thanks for the recipe.

    (Is there any chance you have a photo of the cross section of the sponge?)

    (!!!I was at LCB too, from Jan 2012!!! Possibly we crossed paths but you would have been snug in the loftier seat of intermediate then while I was still piddling around basic)

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  9. mabel@amabilew.com10 May 2013 03:50

    (first post here)><

    But this is the pud I sought!
    I have some masses to cook for and initially intended to make sticky toffee pudding or a revani (spent ages tweaking the recipe for this semolina sponge too, rawrr). But your syrup sponge chops off having to bubble toffee sauce over the cake or having to soak it in a syrup. Good things for the time front and I'm fairly certain I'll use it instead. Thanks for the recipe.

    (Is there any chance you have a photo of the cross section of the sponge?)

    (!!!I was at LCB too, from Jan 2012!!! Possibly we crossed paths but you would have been snug in the loftier seat of intermediate then while I was still piddling around basic)

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  10. Sarah @ TheSugarHit.com10 May 2013 06:02

    I absolutely love syrup sponge! Golden syrup is my comfort food, thankyou for sharing this recipe, and such beautiful photos!

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  11. Syrup sponge was such a staple of my childhood but I haven't had it for years. I love this slightly more grown up take on it.

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  12. A Global Garnish10 May 2013 12:33

    This looks so delicious. I'm intrigued by the layering of the syrup under the batter. And I love golden syrup but don't use it often. So, this goes on my list soon!

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  13. Louise at Cake and Calico10 May 2013 13:09

    Syrup sponge is an absolute favourite of mine - if it's on a restaurant menu, I usually choose it. People sometimes call it treacle sponge but I've figured out that they just don't know what they are talking about! I've never made my own though. I'll have to add it to my to do list...

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  14. I love love love golden syrup so the thought of this sticky little cake is making me very happy - I'd probably go halves on that little dish with my boyfriend, ha! :-)

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  15. Maria Farrar10 May 2013 22:37

    I just made this! It was so lovely!! Cake was moist and just the right quantity! I used golden syrup but I have some rhubarb - wondered if you had any suggestions for a rhubarb sponge pudding? Also can I ask what brand vanilla ice cream did you have with it? Many thanks for your blog xxx

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  16. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:31

    Exactly - sometimes sweetness is just what you need, especially in small portions. I like the comparison to baklava. I hope you do try it!

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  17. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:34

    Mmm I am a custard person too, but the temperature difference is lovely here. I also find custard can make sweet desserts feel sweeter, especially if it is hot (with the whole hot things taste sweeter, iced things the reverse thing). I don't think I ever had syrup sponge at school or uni but they certainly served plain/chocolate sponge and custard at uni - huge great bricks of it!

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  18. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:39

    I'm not sure - you'd have to adapt the sponge to take liquid fat instead. Perhaps a genoise sponge (like the toscakaka) could work, though it would be a different texture and take far longer to make than this. I also don't know that the flavour of the brown butter would come through - or, if it did, it might interfere with the golden syrup flavour, which is wonderful pure (and why I adore this recipe). I'd love to know what you think if you do try it, though.

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  19. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:40

    Skype is wonderful - especially when your only other family member moves to another country! Though I use it with my mum pretty much every day I don't call friends as much - I think some people find it a bit weird and get self conscious.

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  20. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:41

    Ooh, how did it go? I'd love to know what you think.

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  21. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:41

    It's so comforting, isn't it. Passionfruit or rhubarb sounds like a lovely idea.

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  22. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:43

    That's wonderful, I'm so pleased it took you back. I hope you make it - do let me know how it goes. Brunch was lovely - I haven't entertained much at that time of day but I really enjoyed it.

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  23. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:44

    That's interesting, I was wondering what honey might be like in this, though I was worried it might be a bit overpowering. I'll have to try it! Thanks for the comment, it's great to hear about childhood memories and variations.

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  24. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:45

    I thought it would be out of place at brunch - too much of a dessert - but it actually worked well. Still, quite a lot of pudding early in the day! Do you have a good pancake recipe? I fail at making American pancakes, no idea why.

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  25. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:51

    I think it'd be a great idea for a big party of people. It's not a great photo at all but this is the closest I have to a cross section. It's about 2.5cm thick. I'm afraid that unless you were in my class I'd be very unlikely to remember you - I think the uniform makes it harder somehow. Have you left now?

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  26. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:52

    I think it'd be a great idea for a big party of people. I'm afraid I don't have a cross section. It's about 2.5cm thick. I'm afraid that unless you were in my class I'd be very unlikely to remember you - I think the uniform makes it harder somehow. Have you left now?

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  27. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:53

    It is such a comforting flavour. Glad you like the post.

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  28. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:54

    I feel sad that I didn't get it as a child now, lots of people seem to have had it. Though I did eat an enormous number of treacle tarts, so maybe I wasn't too deprived.

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  29. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:55

    Golden syrup is the best. Though I was surprised at how hard I hard to look to find other posts using it - I guess I don't use it as much as I think I do. I hope you enjoy it if you try it - do let me know.

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  30. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:57

    I guess you use treacle for tarts even though they have golden syrup so it's not too far of a leap (and syrup could be something tasteless, like corn syrup, or plain sugar syrup). I hope you do try it - let me know how it goes.

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  31. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 10:58

    Haha! I knew somebody would say that ;)

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  32. poiresauchocolat11 May 2013 11:02

    Ooh, I'm so pleased you liked it! I've never tried rhubarb sponge before but it sounds lovely - I'd cook the rhubarb first as it's such a short time in the oven and insulated by the batter and make sure it's sweetened (perhaps even with golden syrup!).


    I should have said about the ice cream - I made a batch of this recipe (and the reason it looks so melty is that my freezer had a tantrum - or, to be specific, the plug socket behind my f/f had a tantrum - it's not normally as soft).

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  33. Im new to your blog and what a great find. Those looks so delicious. look forward to reading your future posts.

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  34. Basically I was wondering if I could use your brown butter pound cake recipe with this, or would I have to adjust baking times?

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  38. Well, when I forget to buy breakfast type foods and I am too depressed by the thought of oatmeal with whatever dried fruit and nuts I have lying around I have been known to eat whatever form of baking I have in the tin. On weeks when I have not been feeling very creative, this means double chocolate chip cookies for breakfast!

    At the moment I've been using 150g plain flour, 150ml milk, 1 egg, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp of baking powder, about a tablespoon of melted butter in the batter and some vanilla if I can be bothered, but I'm not entirely happy with this recipe, but as the Americans don't really go in for self raising flour the only brands I've tried over here I have not got along with so I've been doing all my baking with plain flour at the moment. Also, as buttermilk comes in massive cartons here when I have been baking with it I make these American pancakes: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1716/buttermilk-pancakes-with-maple-apples-and-pecans

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  39. poiresauchocolat13 May 2013 09:13

    I might have done that a few times too ;)


    I only use plain flour these days - they don't have SR in Switzerland either and so it's much easier for me (and for people around the world making the recipes) if it's already in plain flour. Buttermilk sounds like a good plan.

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  40. poiresauchocolat13 May 2013 09:14

    Thanks Ivy! So pleased you like the blog.

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  43. e / dig in hobart15 May 2013 05:11

    i love your beautiful clear ophotos, and i love your story behind this pudding! i also loved that you baked and not steamed this, as that would work better for me. it looks perfect for this time of the year in hobart.

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  46. I made it on the same day as I could not get your mouthwatering photos of my head. Unfortunately, when I got home I realised I only had about 1 spoon of golden syrup so had to replace the rest with 1 spoon of black molasses and 1 spoon of runny honey. It worked well, not as subtle as just with golden syrup though - the black molasses is really strong. I may also try it with date syrup that's been sitting for ages in my fridge. Overall, a very speedy comfort pud, and your recipe is spot on. Thanks!

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  47. poiresauchocolat24 May 2013 10:40

    I'm glad you enjoyed it, even if the molasses was a bit strong! I'd love to hear how the date syrup goes, I hadn't thought of using that.

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  48. Andrea Paola Baul27 May 2013 06:23

    I tried making this one yesterday. It was really good and my siblings liked it. But texture-wise and appearance, it turned out brownie-ish and did not rise as much as yours. Could it be the sugar crystals I used? Maybe the brown sugar granules were too big. I used extra virgin honey, too, because we don't have golden syrup available here in the Philippines. Any how, I will make this one again until I make it to turn out perfect like yours. :)

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  49. poiresauchocolat27 May 2013 11:06

    I'm not quite sure what happened - it's now meant to be that thick, only about 2.5cm thick and it's quite a sturdy sponge - but not really brownie-esque. Is your baking powder new? It can lose its power in six months to year or so, especially if it's humid (you can test it by stirring it into a mug of hot water - it should fizz enthusiastically). Or was the egg quite small? I use large ones of about 60-5g with shell. Glad to hear that honey worked as the syrup :)

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  50. poiresauchocolat27 May 2013 11:06

    I'm glad you like it! It's so much easier to bake it, though I would like to try some steamed puddings soon.

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