07 Dec

Recipe: Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

I included this recipe in the back of Ten Thousand Hours, but I didn’t want to clutter up the book with my usual after-recipe tips, so I’ll clutter here.

This is not a photogenic dessert (see above). If you need to impress someone with an attractive presentation, this is not the way to do it. If, however, you want maximum chocolate with minimum effort, you want Hot Fudge Pudding Cake.

The cake batter starts on the bottom and rises to the top during baking. As the liquid shifts to the bottom, it picks up flour from the cake and thickens. The longer it cools, the thicker the pudding gets — right out of the oven, you’ll have chocolate gravy; at room temperature, gooey custard. (The photo depicts the latter.)

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup of granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1¾ cups of hot water

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Combine flour, granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir in milk and oil. Spread batter in an ungreased 9-inch square baking dish. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa; sprinkle evenly over the batter. Pour hot water on top of the dry mixture. Carefully transfer the dish to the oven. Bake 45 minutes. Serve warm.


  • There’s no “toothpick test” for doneness because half of this cake is designed to be goop. Overdone/underdone is a matter of cake-to-pudding ratio. Unless your oven is wildly uncalibrated, 45 minutes should be fine. (And if your oven is wildly uncalibrated, adjust the temperature accordingly, and then 45 minutes should be fine.)
  • I use regular unsweetened cocoa powder rather than dark or Dutch-processed cocoa because I find the latter flavorless, but you use whatever you like.
  • Instead of hot water, you could use hot coffee, but this stuff is so dark already, adding coffee makes it way too bitter for my taste. If you love coffee, maybe you’re into that, though.
  • If you want to get fancy and switch up the flavor a little bit, you could stir ½ teaspoon or so of flavored extract into the batter. I like mint or orange with chocolate. I might also throw a teaspoon or two of orange zest into the batter on special occasions, but this is all totally optional.
  • I mix equal parts light and dark brown sugar in the canister, thus creating medium brown sugar. Using all light or all dark won’t make a substantial difference from my hybrid blend, so use whatever you have.
  • Since the pan doesn’t have to be greased, you can mix the batter in the pan and have one less bowl to wash!
  • I prefer a casserole dish that’s about 9 inches square to my “lemon-bar pan” because the casserole dish has deeper sides and this stuff can sometimes bubble over if the pan isn’t deep enough. Until you’re sure you have adequate pan depth to handle the load, you might want to put your baking dish on a foil-lined cookie sheet to spare your oven from a potential mess.
  • In other pan-related news, if you don’t have a super deep dish, it may be safer to place your pan in the oven before you pour the hot water into it so you’re not carrying a scalding, sloshy pan around the kitchen. Safety first!

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