Labor-Free Chocolate Heaven

Don’t labor over your Labor Day dessert; just dive into the decadence of Chocolate Cake Pudding.

By Kristin Belz August 26, 2013 Published in the August 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Chocolate Cake Pudding is a fun chemistry-experiment dessert to make with kids. Boiling water gets poured (by an adult) over wet and dry ingredients in a big dish which you put in the oven and - tah-dah! - transforms into a luscious, gooey, layered delight.

Labor Day is the last gasp of summer, at least officially, and thus is cause for celebration. And celebration is, by definition, cause for consumption of chocolate. Which brings us to a celebrated Labor Day chocolate dessert: the No-Labor Chocolate Cake Pudding.

It was an after dinner staple in my sweet-tooth-filled family growing up, and it’s still a classic dessert to get kids involved with making and helping out in the kitchen. (If you start them out young enough, the kids will be making the treats for you all by themselves before too long.)

Believe it or not, part of the fun of making this dessert with kids is its chemistry lesson quality. You mix a few simple ingredients together, and they magically transform in the hot oven. A batter mixture, a dry cocoa mixture, and then hot water all get dumped into a big casserole dish, only to be reborn less than an hour later into a scrumptious molten concoction of chocolate cake, pudding and crinkly crusty top.

All it takes is an oven, a big bowl, some cocoa and other ingredients you likely have on hand any day.

This old-fashioned dessert is best served in a traditional manner: hot from the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. However, modern variations, circa 2013 Portland, are also encouraged. For instance, try a crazy ice cream flavor (bourbon bacon might be just right). Add a crusty crunch of salted caramel at the end. Or some chopped hazelnuts, or fresh raspberries. 

My family wasn't the only one that depended on this easy dessert. Emma Christensen (on The Kitchn website) has a nice account of her grandma's version, which came from a Minnesota Methodist church cookbook. She describes it quite well when she writes, "This is not the demure individually-portioned dessert served in restaurants with white tablecloths." I'll agree, and add, it's way better!

No-Labor Chocolate Cake Pudding  (Dad's recipe)

  • 1 cup flour (sifting optional)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or corn oil are fine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 ¼ - 1 ½ cups boiling water

Sift dry ingredients together.  Mix milk, egg, and oil together in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the big bowl. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla to bowl. Pour mixture into baking dish (1 ½ - 2 quart casserole dish). Mix together the additional dry ingredients (the brown and white sugars and the cocoa) and pour on top of everything already in the baking dish. Pour boiling water on top of the whole concoction. (No stirring!) Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 45-50 minutes. 

Filed under
Show Comments