Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gingerbread Pudding Cake

When I tell you you absolutely MUST make this, I'm not kidding. It's simple. Really simple. And oh-so-very delicious. It probably looks like a pile of gooey something with whipped cream. Well, it is, sort of. I've enjoyed pudding cakes for years, and was surprised at the cooking class that was held at my house yesterday, that lots of people don't know about pudding cake. They'd never heard of it. Never seen it. I've made both chocolate and lemon pudding cake, but never gingerbread.

Pudding Cakes are different. Obviously, they're not quite a true cake, or a true pudding either. They kind of defy explanation. Online I didn't even find a very good definition about pudding cake. I went to my usual source, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, a fascinating tome about the chemistry of cooking. This is the first time I've struck out, not finding an explanation in his book. And, as I said, nothing online either. Nor in my cooking encyclopedia, nor Martha's Baking Handbook. Not even Dorie Greenspan. So, you'll just have to settle for my homespun explanation.

A pudding cake starts off with a cake batter. It's placed in a high sided ovenproof dish, then you pour boiling water (sometimes with butter added in this case) over the top. In the baking process, the cake part becomes a layer that kind of floats on top, and the hot water mingles with some of the batter and makes a pourable pudding underneath. You serve it warm to hot. Once it cools, the pudding part that made a nice puddle on the plate when you served it (as in the picture at top), becomes a thicker pudding. Which is why you want to serve it warm. The whole thing is some kind of chemical magic.

Probably the most common pudding cake is lemon. Southerners here in the U.S. think they own lemon pudding cake, I think. It's a regular staple in the Southern diet. When I searched online I found several recipes with Southern roots. The one I've always made came from a friend in England. So maybe its origins are English. I simply don't know. Maybe somebody who reads my blog will know! Or will have some kind of cooking encyclopedia with an explanation.

Anyway, the teacher, Tarla Fallgatter, used my home for the cooking class for this month. The hostess gets to choose the theme, and I opted for soups and chowders. And she always makes a dessert too. Tarla had mentioned that she'd made this dessert at several classes recently and it was met with lots of raves. Mine are now added to it.

Cook's Notes: Tarla cautioned us that you don't want to overbake the cake. But it can't be underdone, either, or it will be gummy. So I've included a photo of the top of the cake when she removed it from the oven (below). It had large cracks in the cake, but when you jiggled the baking dish, the cake was one solid piece and cooked through (no soft or slushy part in the middle, which was the last part to cook), and the cake did move slightly in the dish. If you aren't fond of all the gingerbread spices, you can halve them. Tarla had doubled them because she likes the spicier version. I did too.

Gingerbread Pudding Cake
Recipe: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Sizes: 8
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter -- room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses -- mild
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup brown sugar -- packed
1 1/2 cups hot water
5 tablespoons butter -- melted
1 cup heavy cream -- whipped, with sugar and vanilla to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8x8x2 glass baking dish, or other high sided casserole dish of similar size.
2. Mix dry ingredients together. Beat butter and sugar in a food processor, then add egg. Add molasses and 1/2 cup water ad pulse in. Pulse in dry ingredients just to blend. Transfer mixture to the buttered baking dish and sprinkle top with brown sugar.
3. Melt the 5 T. butter in a saucepan and add the 1 1/2 cups hot water and bring to a boil. Cool just slightly. Carefully pour this mixture over the cake batter.
4. Bake until the gingerbread is cracked on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Do NOT overbake. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes, then scoop warm pudding cake, with the sauce it makes, into shallow bowls and serve with whipped cream.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 25g Fat (51.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 294mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 5 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.

Printer-friendly recipe, click title at top.

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