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Comfort, Joy and Cake

Dec 20, 2018

Christmas is less than a week away, and I may jinx things by stating this, but I am crushing it. I am so on top of my game.

To be totally fair, I did change the game a bit this year. I am trying to practice more comfort and joy and less panic and hassle. I am not killing myself with baking, decorating, shopping and hosting. When the logistics of a holiday situation prove difficult, I am not gritting my teeth and digging in. I am looking at what is comfortable and what brings me joy. Crossing things off my usual lists, outsourcing, and downsizing have been my gifts to me.

Don’t worry. There are still plenty of twinkling lights strung on every solid surface. I can’t have a Christmas without sparkle. There are still sweet treats, but I may not be making them all. There are still gifts, but they are more carefully selected (and even more simply wrapped with brown paper … because I have that commercial size roll of craft paper leftover from some other event). There are still get-togethers, but the gatherings are smaller and simpler. No one has complained.

I haven’t checked out many new recipes this season. I am falling back on the comfort of the tried and true and the joy of knowing what people like and appreciate. Old Fashioned Pudding Cake fits that description perfectly.

It isn’t a fancy, pretty dessert, but the magic of a cake that makes its own pudding is absolute joy. A dessert that begs for ice cream seems like true comfort. Sometimes, I drizzle a little Irish crème over the cake when serving. Occasionally, I have added pecans or walnuts to the batter, and crushed candy canes dusted over each serving add some fresh sparkle. Always, Old Fashioned Pudding Cake proves that comfort and joy are really the best gifts of the season.


Old Fashioned Pudding Cake adds warmth to the holiday season.

Old Fashioned Pudding Cake


For the cake:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla


For the pudding:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup cold water


Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8-by-8 baking pan or comparable skillet.

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a measuring cup, mix milk, melted butter and vanilla. Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients and stir gently just until combined. Spread batter into pan and smooth top.

For the pudding layer, combine the white sugar, brown sugar and cocoa powder. Pour dry mixture over the cake batter.

Carefully, pour cold water over the sugars. DO NOT STIR. Bake for 45 minutes. As it bakes, the cake will rise to the top while the pudding forms beneath. The cake is finished baking when the edges of the cake turn dark brown and crispy, and when the top of the cake is shiny and dry to the touch.

Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar, if desired. Allow cake to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Scoop portions of cake and pudding into individual bowls and top with ice cream. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to a week and can be reheated for 20 seconds in the microwave. (Serves 6-8)

Fran Hill has been blogging about food at On My Plate since October of 2006. She, her husband and their three dogs ranch near Colome.


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