Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Most Dangerous Thing I've Ever Baked

For your consideration: the Brownie Pudding Cake I made last night.

So delicious, but so deadly.

It all started simply enough - around midday, my daughter pulled out her apron and mine and hinted very strongly that I should go do something in the kitchen with her. I would have made bread, since we're almost out again, but I was short on flour. Not to be deterred, I went looking through my cookbook for something else to bake with her. That's when I found the recipe.

The cookbook said it was a wartime recipe that was lauded for its restraint in that it doesn't use butter or eggs, but still is rich and decadent. Hot, fudgy, handmade syrup is poured over cake batter (also made from scratch), then baked, leaving the cake part to rise and float on a bed of chocolate pudding - no frosting required, it said. It was to be served warm, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

After reading the ingredients and instructions (and especially the description of the dish itself, which I have paraphrased here for you), I thought it sounded worth a try; I've never made a cake from scratch before, but I'm a sucker for chocolate and wasn't going to let inexperience stop me. Dessert that night was decided.

It all started off so well - mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, pour into prepared cake pan - standard stuff. The batter didn't pour very well, but it spooned just fine, so I wasn't worried there. The finishing is where it started to get tricky - the recipe called for boiling water to be poured into a bowl containing brown sugar and cocoa powder, mixed together, then for the concoction to be poured slowly onto the cake batter in the pan. My pot has a handle and my bowl does not, however, so I did the reverse. That went fine. Here's the dangerous part: when I started pouring the syrup onto the cake batter, it started splattering worse than bacon grease. I was not expecting that, though I reckon that's why it said to pour it slowly. It made a sizeable mess, and I'm glad I used the pot instead of the bowl to pour, because the handle put my hands at a safer distance than the bowl would have.

Once the syrup was in the pan with the batter, it looked like all was well - it had stopped spattering, and I had a layer of cake batter cooling down the molten cocoa-sugar. Still, two factors almost led to grievous injury: one, it was a metal pan, and the sides were already hot enough for my delicate lady fingers to require protection*, which made handling the pan semi-awkward; and two, the batter was alternating between floating on said molten cocoa-sugar and sinking below it. Twice while moving the pan from the counter to the oven, I almost spilled it from the front and sides (but not the back - I'd be darned if I was going to risk being doused in that particular food-magma!). This would have resulted in either a mess or injury to my hands and then probably also legs and feet and potentially body when I jerked from having my fingers burned. Luckily, nothing spilled.

(*) I remember, growing up, my mom referencing "baker's fingers" whenever I'd gripe about something being too hot - I think this is the sort of thing that she was talking about. As my baking adventures continue, I may, too, develop baker's fingers. For now, though, pass me the oven mitts!

Once it was in the oven, I breathed a sigh of relief; according to the recipe, there'd be a nice layer of solid cake on top of the pan, and what could go wrong with that? Oh, right, the part where the cake is floating on pudding. Hot pudding, to be specific. There were no near-misses when I took it out of the oven, but there could have been - the cake was sliding around more than cake should - but the "pudding" wound up looking more like hot fudge, and there was just a thin layer, not the "half the pan's height" I was expecting.

I let it cool for the hour the recipe recommends, then sliced into moist, chocolate-y, decadent deliciousness. The cake was so good. It was, quite honestly, the best cake I've ever had - a rich, dark, chocolate flavor, but not overly sweet. I'd love to post the recipe for you all, but I'm not sure that I can just copy it from the book (plagiarism?). I can tell you, though, that it was from a recent edition of the big, red-and-white checkered Better Homes & Garden cookbook, and the name of the recipe is Brownie Pudding Cake.

Update, 6/13/14 - I found the recipe, online, from BHG! See it here. :)

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