Desserts that do remarkable and unexpected things never fail to delight. When I was a kid, Jell-O was fascinating. I’d continually poke the jiggley liquid in the metal pan. It was magic: one minute, a thick liquid; the next a weird firm bouncy substance. If someone was sufficiently crafty enough to do different colored layers? My mind was blown. Much, much later, I made ChocoFlan; part chocolate cake, part flan. It goes into the oven one way and somehow miraculously reverses positions during baking to end up as something else. As an adult, mind still blown.
In a similar vein, pudding cakes have always held a special place in my heart. It’s a cake that makes it’s own sauce! A one-pan wonder, I tell you. The method is odd and I’m convinced it came about at the hands of an absentminded cook. Ever put the cake in the oven and then notice the melted butter sitting on the stove? In a moment of panic, you try to fix it? Don’t feel bad; we’ve all been there – and it’s pretty much how this recipe is made. Intentionally. It starts out with a batter in the pan, a sugar/cocoa mixture is sprinkled on top and then boiling water is simply poured over before it goes into the oven. Really, how is that supposed to work? There’s no way this big mess is going to turn out into anything worthwhile. But it does. What emerges is a rich, brownie-ish cake hiding a puddle of fudgy, pudding-like sauce. Warm, just a few moments out of the oven, it’s irresistible. Add some whipped cream or ice cream and there’s something quite delicious right there.
I used to make these all the time many moons ago but I couldn’t find my recipe anywhere. I’m thinking it probably came out of a Woman’s Day Cookbook or magazine back in the day but everywhere I looked came up empty. It’s probably on a faded post-it, tucked into a random notebook and will turn up when I’m no longer looking for it. Because that’s how things work. But I wasn’t about to let the lack of a recipe slow me down in my need for a long forgotten favorite. My week stunk, The streets were full of ugly slushy snow, I couldn’t figure out how to hook up my new TV and I needed a damn pudding cake.
On to Plan B. During my search (seriously, what did we do before google?) I found a version that looked vaguely familiar and turned out better than I remember. I’ve made it several times in recent months, tweaking it along the way. OK, so all my “tweaks” consisted of was to remove the nuts (nuts?!?!) and add some bourbon because I like it but dark rum works equally well. If you prefer to go booze-free, substitute vanilla in a lesser amount as noted. Then dish up a big bowl, top it with booze spiked cream and hide under a comfy blanket. In about 17 minutes you’ll start to feel better. I promise.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: COMFORT IN UNDER AN HOUR. So here’s the thing. Sometimes you have days that just suck and the one thing that will make you feel better about your general state of misery is something hot and chocolate. It’s a known fact. If the ooze factor is high, all the better. This is just the thing for just those situations and it can heal in a hurry. From mixing to eating, we’re talking an hour. So that’s: a) comforting, b) quick, c) easy and d) delicious. Four stars, kids. Nothing fancy but something really great.
On this blog three years ago: Stovetop Smoked Salmon, Baked Rice Pudding
On this blog two years ago: Chocolate Cabernet Sauce
On this blog one year ago: Whatchmacallit Brownies (you really need to revisit this one)
HOT FUDGE PUDDING CAKE WITH BOURBON SPIKED WHIPPED CREAM
Makes one 9”x9” pan, serves 6
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup sugar
7 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process, divided
½ cup whole milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons bourbon (or substitute with 2 teaspoons vanilla)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 ¾ cups boiling water
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and 3 Tablespoons of the cocoa together in a bowl.
- Blend in the milk, butter and bourbon.
- Spread into a 9” square baking dish.
- Combine the brown sugar and remaining 4 Tablespoons cocoa and sprinkle over the batter.
- Pour the boiling water on top – it might be easiest if you put the pan on the oven rack first, before adding the water.
- Bake 45 minutes; a sort of sauce will bubble up.
- Serve warm, with bourbon spiked whipped or ice cream.
BOURBON SPIKED WHIPPED CREAM
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons bourbon (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
- Begin whipping the cream on low and slowly add the powdered sugar, then add the bourbon.
- Continue to whip, increasing speed to medium-high as the cream begins to thicken.
- Whip to soft peak.