High Country Baking: Molasses-cider pudding cake

This molasses cider pudding cake certainly is delicious enough to forgive its less-than-ideal appearance.
Vera Dawson/High Country Baking

You’re right: This cake isn’t pretty. But you may forgive its lack of eye appeal when you experience its sticky, gooey texture and bittersweet molasses and cider flavor. A cross between a spice cake and gingerbread, with a thin, pudding-like bottom layer, it’s considered by many to be one of our heartland’s best desserts. Serve it warm and the bottom layer is sauce-like but at room temperature it firms up to the consistency of a thick pudding. We like it best warm but it works either way, particularly when topped with cinnamon or vanilla ice cream.

How do you halve an egg, as the recipe requires? Most large eggs equal just less than 4 tablespoons of liquid. So, after beating the egg to combine the yolk and white, pour enough of the mixture into a shot glass to fill it (a shot glass holds two tablespoons). No shot glasses? Scoop out 2 tablespoons with a measuring spoon. Either way, you’ve got half an egg.

Molasses-cider pudding cake

Adjusted for elevations of 7,000 feet and above

Make in an 8-by-8-inch shiny metal baking pan

Cake batter

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level

1/4 teaspoon, plus slightly less than 1/8, teaspoon baking soda

1/2, plus 1/8, teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar, preferably superfine

1/2 large egg, room temperature


1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, packed dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup apple cider

Cinnamon or vanilla ice cream

Prep: Preheat the oven to 360 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pan with Reynold’s Release non-stick foil or regular aluminum foil, letting the foil extend several inches past two opposing sides of the pan to use as handles when removing the cake. Grease any exposed parts of the pan and all the regular foil with a baking spray that contains flour.

Make the batter: Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg. Whisk until it’s thoroughly mixed. Set this mixture aside. Combine the half-cup of molasses and the half-cup of water and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the four tablespoons of room-temperature butter with the granulated sugar until light and creamy. Add the half of an egg and beat again, until completely combined and smooth. This may take a few minutes and require you to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times. Using the mixer’s low speed, add 1/3 of the flour combination and mix only until blended.

Add 1/3 of the molasses-water mixture and blend again. Do this two more times until all the flour and all the liquid have been added to the batter. The batter will be very thin. Pour it into the prepared pan and level it.

Make the topping:  Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top. Combine the three tablespoons of melted butter with the apple cider and heat this combination in a microwave oven until it’s warm to the touch. Gently pour this mixture all over the top of the batter.

Bake the cake: Bake until the pudding cake has small cracks on top, pulls away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. This takes about 42-45 minutes in a 360-degree oven. There may be bubbles of liquid around the edges when the cake is done.

Cool and serve: Remove the pudding cake from the oven, let cool slightly, cut into pieces (it won’t cut perfectly), and serve warm with ice cream. Alternately, cool it completely and serve it at room temperature or re-heat it in a 325-degree oven just before serving time.

Editor’s note: This recipe is a variation of one published in “The Best American Recipes, 2003-2004.”

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