Nigel Slater's classic treacle sponge recipe

Few cold weather puddings are as capable of warming us through to our marrow as a steamed treacle sponge. Just saying the name makes some of us feel better. The word treacle is really a misnomer, and traditional recipes use golden syrup rather than black treacle. At its simplest, the mixture is simply a steamed cake mix with syrup at the bottom, though some recipes include a few breadcrumbs in the base or ground almonds in the mixture.


Beat 150g each of butter and caster sugar until pale and thick. Break 2 eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork, then gradually add to the butter and sugar, beating all the time. Add 150g self-raising flour and 2 tbsp milk. Pour 4 tbsp of golden syrup and all the ingredients into a 1.2-litre bowl and cover with a lid or greaseproof paper and foil or muslin, tied tightly with string or a rubber band. Steam for an hour and half, leave for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides with a palette knife. Turn out, and serve with extra warmed syrup and double cream. Serves 4.


It is essential that no water penetrates the pudding as it steams. Cover the pudding tightly with greaseproof and foil to stop the water getting in as it cooks. Better still, buy a plastic basin with clip on lid. Leave the pudding to settle for 10 minutes in the hot water before turning out. It will help it keeps its shape when you turn it out.. Be generous with the golden syrup, it is important that it thoroughly saturates the top of the pudding.


Try replacing half of the golden syrup with honey. Chopped dates in the mixture give a Middle Eastern note. Sweet spices – cinnamon, mixed spice or ground ginger – work well with the treacle – cinnamon, mixed spice or ground ginger. I like to stir a tablespoon of grated lemon zest into the pudding sometimes to introduces a little relief from the unerring sweetness.

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