Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Magic. It's really the only word that can describe this dessert. This cake defies the laws of science and common sense. How can two separate layers of batter on the bottom and liquid on top switch places to create a sinfully decadent chocolate cake on top of a pool of a silky smooth fudge sauce on the bottom? The cake batter looks perfectly normal as it's poured into the baking dish, though it starts to look funky after it's covered with cocoa and sugar. But then... there's a definite moment of hesitation as you hold the measuring cup filled with dilute coffee in your hand. Am I really going to do this? Does the recipe really say to pour this stuff on top of the batter? Common sense tells you no. After double checking the recipe, you do as it says and bite your lip as you slide the sludgy mess into the oven. But don't worry, the oven is a magical place wondrous things happen.

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They say baking is a science because it requires the precision of a laboratory experiment and the results are predictable, just like the chemical reactions that take place. But, I don't know how to explain this cake. The batter is on the bottom, sugar is in the middle, and liquid is on top. Then 45 minutes later, it jiggles precariously as it comes out of the oven. It doesn't look like much at all but when you finally dig in, you see there's a crunchy, sugary crust on top of a dense, rich chocolatey cake, and on the bottom, oh the bottom, is a luscious fudge sauce. How do these layers switch places? I don't know. Doesn't heavier stuff sink? Shouldn't the batter stay on the bottom? I don't know... All I know is this recipe is one of the most amazing chocolate desserts I've had in a long, long time. Best of all it's ridiculously easy to make and totally accessible for every home cook. It's something you can eat in the nook for breakfast after early morning baking, like I did, serve after an elegant dinner, or reheat in the microwave for a resolution-breaking midnight snack. It uses ingredients that everyone in their pantry and doesn't require any fancy equipment or gadgets. All in all, this is a dessert that captures the essence of Nook & Pantry.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 tsp instant coffee
1 1/2 C water (or mix 1 cup of cold leftover coffee with 1/2 C water)
2/3 C Dutch-processed cocoa
1/3 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 C AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 C whole milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position. Spray a 8 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the instant coffee into the water and set aside. In a bowl, stir together 1/3 C of the cocoa powder, the brown sugar, and 1/3 C of the granulated sugar. Break up any large clumps of the brown sugar and set aside.

Melt the butter in a heat proof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water or in the microwave. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until the mixture is smooth (heat it in the microwave using low power if the chocolate does not all melt). Add the cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Add the remaining granulated sugar, vanilla, milk, and egg to the chocolate mixture and mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, spread it out, and smooth the top. Sprinkle the cocoa and sugar mixture that you set aside earlier evenly over the batter. It should cover the batter completely. Then drizzle the coffee mixture all over the top of the cocoa mixture.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake is puffed, bubbling, and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake. Cool the cake for 20ish minutes before serving; they will fall as they cool. Serve with vanilla or coffee ice cream or whipped cream and berries.

Warm leftover cake in the microwave and it'll taste just as good the next day.

Hot Fudge Pudding CakeHot Fudge Pudding Cake
(Don't overfill your ramekins like me. Individual cakes should be baked in 8 portions.)

For Individual Cakes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and spray 8 ramekins with nonstick spray and set the ramekins on a baking dish.

Divide the batter evenly in the ramekins and smooth out the top. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cocoa sugar mixture over the top of the batter. Make sure to cover the batter completely. Drizzle slowly pour 3 tablespoons of the coffee mixture over the top of the cocoa. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and bubbling. Cool for 10 minutes before serving; they will fall as they cool. Serve with vanilla or coffee ice cream or whipped cream and berries.

Warm leftover cake in the microwave and it'll taste just as good the next day.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

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