Francis Coulson developed and served this dessert at his Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel in the Lake District in the 1970s. Food critic Simon Hopkinson claimed that Coulson told him he got the recipe from a Patricia Martin of Claughton in Lancashire. Martin had published the recipe in a compilation that later became the The Good Food Guide Dinner Party Book, and first served the dish at her country hotel. Coulson's recipe only differs from Martin's in the sauce. Her son later told Hopkinson that she had originally gotten the recipe from two Canadian air force officers who had lodged at her hotel during the Second World War. According to Hopkinson, this Canadian origin makes sense, as the pudding uses a batter more akin to that of an American muffin, rather than an English sponge.
One of the largest and best known producers of sticky toffee puddings is located in the village of Cartmel in Cumbria, called Cartmel Village Shop. 2,000 sticky toffee puddings are made there each week.