Whether you know it as Spiced Cape Brandy Pudding or Tipsy Tart, this is pure comfort pud! This stalwart of South African cooking is made with sticky Medjool dates and plenty of nuts. The whole affair is doused with a cinnamon and vanilla bean brandy syrup. It’s one my favourite winter desserts. It reminds me of my childhood and those memorable Sunday lunches when a baked pudding with custard was the only way to end the meal.
Cape Brandy Pudding or Tipsy Tart, as it’s also fondly known, is all about the dates. I think it has more to do with the brandy. Without the brandy syrup, it could be just a date cake. But drenching makes it a pudding. A heavy hand can only be advantageous. If you’re going to be stingy, perhaps delegate the job to someone who knows how to be generous.
I haven’t made this Tipsy tart for years, but vaguely recall it serving about 10 maybe 12 at best. In fact, after making it again, I’d say it’s suited for gatherings. If you prefer, halve the quantities for a smaller pudding or make the whole recipe, divide between two ovenproof dishes and freeze one for later.
My deviation from the original Cape Brandy pudding is a matter of personal preference. The results are delicious. I’ve used treacle syrup and demerara sugar in the batter which adds a sticky toffee-ness. For a warm spicy note, I add a generous amount cinnamon and mixed spiced. Adding whole cinnamon and vanilla pods to the syrup delivers an aromatically boisterous flavour that elevates this classic South African pudding to new level.
Spiced Cape Brandy Pudding
- 150g solid packed dates, chopped
- 150g Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 250ml boiling water
- 130g butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup demerara sugar
- 1/4 cup treacle syrup
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (100g) chopped pecan nuts
Brandy soaking sauce
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 320ml water
- 2 cinnamon sticks, roughly broken
- 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds removed
- pinch salt
- 160ml brandy
- Preheat the oven to 180º C. Grease a large (22cm x 35cm) oven-proof baking dish. Place the dates and bicarbonate of soda in a heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the dates and stir through. Set aside for at least 10 minutes for the dates to soften and cool. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, demerara sugar and treacle syrup. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice and salt. Beat on a low speed to combine. Fold through the soaked dates and pecan nuts. Spoon into the prepared dish and bake for about 50-55 minutes. Before removing from the oven, always check with a skewer for doneness.
- In the meanwhile, make the syrup. Place the butter, granulated sugar, water, cinnamon sticks and vanilla seeds and pod in a small saucepan. Bring up to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce slightly. Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt and the brandy.
- Pour the hot syrup over the tart as soon as it comes out of the oven. Serve the brandy pudding warm with softly whipped cream, custard or vanilla bean ice cream.