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in the kitchen with: marlena spieler’s treacle sponge

by Kristina Gill

I know quite a few of you in the northern hemisphere are suffering lots of cold weather, so this week I thought I’d present another sticky, comforting dessert to help you through the chills. Marlena Spieler brought us her Sticky Toffee-Coffee Pudding last November, just in time for the dropping temperatures, and now we have her Treacle Sponge. Our British and Aussie readers are probably quite familiar with this, but it’s not a dessert we see much of in the US. It’s easy to knock together in a matter of minutes because it only takes flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. The treacle sponge is traditionally steamed in a sealed container; however, to make things easy, Marlena offers you instructions for baking it instead. She says the pudding (as the Brits call it) gets sticky and gooey all the same, so you don’t need to worry about steaming. I think it’s a fine alternative if you aren’t set up for steaming! I tried both ways, and they did indeed render the same result. If you can’t find golden syrup where you are, you can try maple syrup. — Kristina

About Marlena: Marlena is a food writer and a print and broadcast journalist who has divided her time between the UK and San Francisco, New York, Naples (Italy) and Paris (France) for the past 23 years. She is the author of the James Beard Award-Winning Roving Feast column in the San Francisco Chronicle. You can find her on Twitter or visit her website for more great food writing.

CLICK HERE for the full recipe after the jump!

Treacle Sponge
Serves about 4


  • 100g/4 oz softened butter (salted is fine; if you use unsalted, add an extra pinch salt when you make the batter)
  • 100g/4 oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g/4 oz self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 tablespoons golden syrup, mixed with about 1 tablespoon warm water


1. Butter a 3-cup (1 1/2 pint) pudding bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 4-5.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar until it is creamily soft and fluffy, and then add the eggs one at a time, as well as a tablespoon or two of flour every so often to keep it all sort of emulsified (i.e., mushed together).

3. Fold in the flour and salt, mixing lightly. It may be dry; you want a thick but not dry batter. If it seems a bit too thick and dry, add a few tablespoons of milk and mix in.

4. Put the golden syrup that you’ve diluted with water into the bottom of the pudding bowl, and then spoon the sponge mixture carefully on to the top. Cover with a sheet of buttered foil or parchment, place a lid over it or tie on with string.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the sponge feels firm-ish (i.e., baked through — use a cake tester or raw spaghetti strand to test for doneness).

6. To serve, loosen the sides with a paring knife, and then place the bowl on top and invert; it may make a mess when you turn it over, but it might invert nicely. A more surefire way to serve it is to simply spoon it out of the bowl and onto individual plates/bowls.

You could also serve cream alongside it; it’s up to you . . .

Why Marlena Chose This Recipe
I love treacle sponge because the syrup (treacle part of title, though it’s not treacle at all but golden syrup), is sooooooo rich, so giddily sweet-rich that it makes the roof of my mouth tickle when I eat it. The sponge is delicate, the syrup intense, and it doesn’t have other flavors getting in the way: it is exactly what it is — rich and sweet and everything a perfect pudding should be. It’s what won me over to the whole British-steamed pudding thing. But I bring my excessive nature to it: I use twice the amount of syrup than most recipes call for!

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  • I love Treacle Sponge…I’ll have to make it soon, luckily I have a wood stove cranked all day here in Maine and it makes for the perfect steam pudding creator…I make all sorts of steamed sponges on there…so much fun and makes the house smell GREAT!! Have you tried Sussex Pond Pudding….very interesting!! Thanks for the post! Patricia

  • I love the word “treacle.” Unfortunately, I have a rather lukewarm relationship with golden syrup… but maybe I could reinterpret these delightful little balls with rum syrup.

  • Breakfast time! Thank you for sharing!!! Can I use tea cups instead of those cute pudding molds? I sadly don’t have those, but they are on my “to buy” list for sure! XO

  • Yum – a dessert I grew up with. There is no substitute for Golden Syrup ;-)
    (We put Golden Syrup on our oatmeal in the mornings – don’t tell anyone!)
    Thanks for reminding me to make fab, basic recipes like this – there’s nothing like it.

  • mmm Treacle sponge. Thats possibly my mums only speciality of deserts and the one we have frequently. However she is old-school and normally uses suet, and leaves it to slow cook for many hours

  • I love the shape of these puddings created from the bowls. Cute!! Next time I make these puddings (a favourite in my household), I’ll have to try a bowl.

    For anyone interested, when I lived in the US, I would substitute unsulfured molasses for treacle. And now that I am back in Australia, I will occasionally substitute golden syrup for treacle, too (though don’t tell my British mother!).

  • @house-to-haus and @superbadfriend : Marlena usually bakes this in a large bowl and spoons out the servings.

    Because it is easier to photograph small things, I used a mud australia baby noodle bowl for the images, which means that each bowl makes a pudding appropriate for 2 people. (If you ate one of these in the picture by yourself, you might become diabetic on the spot.) mud’s product is oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe.

    I’d say you can use any container that will withstand being either baked in the oven, or set in a pot and boiled basically for the duration of the cooking time.

    @Suzanne – Golden syrup is kinda sorta like corn syrup. If you can’t find it anywhere, it’s probably best to use maple syrup, or any other syrup you’d like to soak a cake in.

  • Made this for my husband Sunday night and he loved it. I baked them in ceramic teacups and the came out beautifully.

    I’m also looking forward to making these for my English father-in-law when he comes to visit this spring :)

    I really appreciate this post. Food is always such a wonderful and personal thing. My deepest thanks!

  • I remembered this recipe from the cold old days of winter, and happened upon some Golden Syrup recently, so I made it (after finding out how to DIY self-rising flour). I made four individual ones, and maybe cooked it too long (30 minutes), b/c while delicious, there was no goopy syrup on the bottom of the cups, it all hardened.

    Guess I’ll have to try again — yay!

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