I’m not looking for a dessert with sprinkles or sparkles or a well-meaning greeting piped on top. Not right now.
No, I want chocolate cake, I want it rippled with hot fudge and melting vanilla ice cream, free-brownie-sundae-on-my-birthday-style, and I want it, preferably, in about 20 minutes.
This exists! You might already know the genre—the place where the British and American expressions of the word “pudding” meet. In British parlance, these desserts are known invitingly as self-saucing puddings and, in the United States, as pudding cakes or under a slew of other names: Chocolate Upside Down Cake, Brownie Pudding Cake, Kansas City Chocolate Dream, and on this very site Magical Molten Chocolate Cake (1).
But this one, created by Benjamina Ebuehi—author of The New Way to Cake and star of The Great British Bake-Off—will deepen your resolve and change what you look for: textural intrigue and richer flavors, not all of them sweet.
The zany process goes something like this: Stir together a perfectly respectable cake batter and smooth it neatly into your pan. Now pour…a lot of just-boiled water on top (along with good-tasting influences like brown sugar, cocoa powder, and instant espresso). (2) Send the sloshy mess into the oven and hope for the best.
Fear not: As the sunken batter starts to bake through, it grows lighter and more cake-like, rising up out of the murk. The sloshy pond sinks below, pooling into a hot, sticky sauce and—much like in flan imposible—leaving the cake incomparably fudgy and rich in its wake.
As promised, it went ahead and made its own sauce, while you put away the dishes and double-checked your ice cream supply.
Like all of Benjamina’s recipes in The New Way to Cake, this one is unfussy and welcoming, with deft attention to flavors and textures. Here, she upends the pudding cake’s typical one-note sweetness and folds in dark chocolate and chopped halva—the Middle Eastern sesame candy with a nutty flavor and crumbly, crystalline bite. Benjamina also encourages doubling down on the sesame by swirling in tahini. Then she adds enough espresso not just to make the chocolate taste more chocolatey, but to add its own personality, complex and smoky.
Self-saucery notwithstanding, it’s this mingling of hot chocolate, sesame, and coffee that I find most unforgettable of all.
(1) Have you heard of other names for this pudding-meets-cake magic, too? Let us know in the comments!
(2) You might remember another sloshy surprise step in this Peach Cobbler With Hot Sugar Crust from Renee Erickson, in which she sprinkles sugar onto the batter before pouring over half a cup of hot water, leaving a sweet, glassy top. I haven’t tried mashing these techniques up yet, but I owe a brownie sundae to the first person who does.