December 7, 2011

Warm chocolate pudding cake

When I first saw this recipe months ago, it sounded so good and was something I really wanted to make.  I waited patiently for winter (just about) to come so I that I'd have an excuse to make this rustic warm chocolate pudding cake.  It even inspired me to buy this baking dish months ago - but then again, I'm always discovering something new that I'd like to have for the kitchen.  So I'm sneaking in this recipe in between all the usual Christmas cookies and treats this December.

This is really more pudding than cake.  As you can see, it's not the prettiest of desserts but I think that's also the appeal.  It starts with a brownie like batter on the bottom and a hefty sprinkling of cocoa and sugar over that.  Then, a good cup of hot coffee (or you could use boiling water) gets poured over the top.  In the oven, the cake bakes and much of the liquid gets absorbed but just enough so that the edges are set but the center is jiggly and a little pool of liquid chocolate sauce is created at the bottom.   

I guess what appealed to me so much was this idea of quickly whipping up a warm cake that you can take straight to the table from the oven and scoop up to share with your family on a cold night.  It has casual and hearty written all over it and sometimes you just want that.  I preferred the gooey center while my husband favored the more spongy corners (he tells me it's just like bread pudding but believe it or not, I don't think I've ever eaten bread pudding so I can't attest to it). 
Vanilla ice cream is a must alongside this pudding cake.  I think this recipe has a lot of appeal to it but when I tasted it, I missed that rich, kind of extreme, chocolate flavor (this recipe only uses cocoa powder) that you get from a molten chocolate cake - a very similar concoction to this.  So I was a little disappointed in this pudding cake since I was comparing the two and you  know I'm far more inclined to favor the more chocolaty dessert.  But finally making this pudding cake satisfied a curiosity of mine and for that alone, I'm very happy.

As you will see, this is a bit of an unusual recipe. 

To begin, you can use an 8 or 9-inch square baking for this pudding cake but I think a shallow baking/casserole dish (2-quart capacity) works well.  Whichever you use, butter the pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

There's a lot of cocoa powder in this recipe but no chocolate.  I've seen recipes by others online who throw in some chocolate chips or chunks to up the chocolate quotient and that might not be a bad idea.  But for the basics, sift a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, 6 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt together.  Separately, mix together 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1/2 cup of milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.  It will look like a thick, brownie-like batter.  Pour this into the buttered dish, spreading evenly.  Now, a mixture of cocoa powder and sugar (1/4 cup of cocoa to 1/2 cup of sugar) gets sprinkled as evenly as possible over the top. 
Now here comes the unusual - maybe downright weird - part.  Pour a cup of hot coffee (you can also use boiling water, as many recipes do) evenly over the top and do not stir or mix! 
So now you have this pretty bizarre looking dish ready for the oven.  Bake for about 25 minutes until the edges are just set and the center is a little jiggly when moved.  You want the center to be a little jiggly and soft so that when you spoon it up, you get a gooey center and ready-made sauce.  I was a little concerned about the coffee flavor being too strong but it wasn't the case at all for me. 
I've been having some oven trouble lately - it's not heating up properly and because of that, I have to bake things longer than it should need.  That was the case with this cake and if I were to do it again, I'd underbake it just a bit more than I have here.  Please serve this pudding cake with vanilla ice cream or some kind of ice cream.  That warm and cold contrast is so excellent.


Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake
From The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee (you can substitute with boiling water)
Vanilla ice cream, for final serving (optional but highly recommended)

Butter an 8-inch square cake pan or 2-quart shallow baking dish.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven..

Sift flour, 1 cup of the sugar, the 6 tablespoons of cocoa, baking powder, and salt together. 

Separately, whisk together the eggs, melted butter, milk, and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined.  Spread this thick batter evenly into your prepared pan.

Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup of cocoa powder together.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter.  Pour the hot coffee (or boiling water) over the top.  Do not mix. 

Bake cake for about 25 minutes or until the edges are just set and the center is still jiggly when moved.  You are aiming for this texture where the corners are spongy but the center is gooey and you're left with a ready made sauce pooling at the bottom.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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