When it comes to comfort food desserts, few things beat a self-saucing pudding cake. It’s like a bit of magic the way boiling water poured over cake batter transforms into a moist, tender cake with a lusciously creamy, pudding-like sauce on the bottom. Add a drizzle of fresh cream or a dollop of ice cream and you’re in comfort heaven.
I grew up on self-saucing cakes. They were such an easy way for my Mum to feed and delight a whole lot of ravenous kids returning home from a day spent building forts and making a ruckus in the back yard. Chocolate was definitely the favorite for my three brothers and me; we loved it piping hot out of the oven so the vanilla ice cream would melt into creamy puddles and make even more scrumptious sauce. It makes me smile just thinking about it.
The recipe accompanied me when I left home, and I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve made it for friends and family. For most of my adult life I stayed with the tried-and-true chocolate theme, but this week I tried my hand at a vanilla self-saucing cake and was thrilled with the result.
I started with a rich butter cake batter laced with quadruple the vanilla extract. (In my book, vanilla flavored desserts ought to leave you in no doubt that they are, indeed, vanilla.) I also used brown sugar instead of white to give it a slight hint of caramel. Once that was in the pan, I mixed together boiling water, vanilla pudding powder, white sugar, and more vanilla extract, and poured that gently over the batter.
After thirty minutes in the oven, out it came — a rich yellow from the pudding powder, with a smooth vanilla sauce accompanying each piece. My Australian husband had never heard of self-saucing cake, so he was rather curious to try this childhood favorite of mine. Devouring spoonfuls drizzled with heavy cream, he murmured his appreciation and went back for more.
Although self-saucing cake is best, in my opinion, served warm, it also keeps well; the lovely sauce at the bottom soaks into the cake as it sits, keeping everything moist and fresh for several days. Pop a piece into the microwave for a few seconds and you’ve got that just-out-of-the-oven taste again.
I like to serve self-saucing cake with cream or ice cream, but it’s equally nice with a dollop of lightly sweetened custard or a spoonful of crème fraiche or mascarpone. Anything creamy and not too sweet will do the trick.
I usually bake my cake in a large pan so I can serve a lot of people, but individual portions in small ramekins are cute as can be, and a great option if you only want to make enough for one or two. The recipe below works great in a 9-inch pan, so if you’re using ramekins, divide it into 6-8 portions and you will be set.
Vanilla Self-Saucing Pudding Cake
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
- 2 tablespoons vanilla pudding powder
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9 inch cake pan (circle, square, or bundt)
In medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add flour, salt, milk, egg, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and stir until batter is just combined (don’t overwork).
Pour into greased baking pan.
In small bowl, mix pudding powder, sugar, water, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir well. Pour gently over batter.
Place cake in oven and bake about 25 minutes until toothpick inserted in middle comes out with crumbs (not dough).
Serve warm with cream or ice cream.