Sunday, May 19, 2013

Slow Cooker Chocolate Pudding Cake

Fudgy Chocolate Pudding Cake
When it comes to dessert, do you prefer one that requires a fork or a spoon?  I’m a spoon-person, all the way.  Ice cream, puddings, tiramisu, parfaits, things oozing with chocolate sauce – the creamier and oozier, the better, I say.

And that brings us to today’s cake.  It’s a pudding cake, which is a fancy way of saying “put away the forks, silly.”  So many gluten-free and dairy-free desserts are dry that it's nice to have one that actually oozes and clings to the roof of your mouth.  

This is the second recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution (2011).  I love this cookbook and have probably made twenty recipes from it in the two years that I’ve owned it, but this is, hands down, my favorite.  I'd made this pudding cake recipe several times before we had to cut wheat from our diet, but I was eager to see how well it would adapt to gluten-free flours.

Adapting the Recipe
Let me start by saying it adapts beautifully.  I’ve made this cake four times in the past four months, partially because it's that good, and partially because I've been trying to figure out the right balance of wet ingredients to dry.  The first time I made this recipe, I added 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum, but it soaked up all the excess liquid, leaving almost all cake and no pudding.   Still tasty, but I wanted more pudding.  After all, this is supposed to be a dessert you eat with a spoon.

Each successive time I made the recipe, I reduced the xanthan gum, and on my fourth try a week ago, I eliminated it all together and I liked that version best.  (And eliminating the xanthan gum means that it’s a less fussy recipe that has familiar ingredients even my mom would recognize).  Now we’ve finally got a good cake-to-pudding ratio.  It’s mostly cake, with a nice bit of chocolate goo on the bottom.

To make it dairy-free, I’ve substituted either margarine or canola oil for the butter (I like the margarine version a little better) and used non-dairy milk.  I’ve had success with soy milk and almond milk, and I suspect rice milk or coconut milk (the diluted kind in the dairy case, not the thick kind that comes in a can) would work well too.

I have found my happy place.  It’s cake, yes, but it’s one that begs for a spoon so that you can get every moist, gooey, and fudgy bite. 

This cake is dependable and it’s easy.  You can put all of the ingredients in the slow cooker just before a dinner party begins and it’s done by the time you’re asking “Would anyone like some dessert?”  The only downside is that it’s not visually stunning.  It’s comfort food, plain and simple.  You can serve it with whipped cream if you eat dairy or with some sliced berries if you don’t.

This cake has one expected bonus - it travels well.  I travel a fair amount, and I’ve begun to carry a small plastic container of this cake with me on flights.  I used to travel with my own homemade granola bars, but there are so many good gluten-free bars available in airports now (Kind bars and NuGo bars are popping up everywhere) that it’s only in the smallest airports that I find myself at a loss for a tasty bar. 

But a moist, gluten-free chocolate cake?  Heck, anything that’s moist and gluten-free can be hard to come by in a well-stocked grocery store, let alone in an airport.  I took a hunk of this cake with me on a recent trip to Duluth, Minnesota.  I didn’t get to my hotel room til after 11:00 pm that night, and after a long day of travel, I put my feet up, got out my plastic spoon, and dug in.  It’s a cake that makes anyplace feel like home. 
Not glamorous, but a gluten-free chocolate pudding cake that makes your shoulders slump with calm
1 C. all-purpose, gluten-free flour
1 C. sugar, divided
½ C. unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed for a richer flavor, also divided
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ C. dairy-free milk, either plain or vanilla (such as soy, almond, or rice milk)
4 T. margarine, melted (1/2 stick) or canola oil
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ C. chocolate chips (or chop up a bar of dark chocolate)
1 C. boiling water

First, line the back of your slow cooker (the side where the cord extends to the wall) with a strip of aluminum foil.  Slow cookers tend to heat unevenly, and the aluminum foil will ensure that the parts of the cake nearest the heating element don’t overcook.  Start with a piece of aluminum foil that’s about 18-inches long.  Fold the long edge of the foil up like you’re folding a letter into thirds, folding up the bottom edge first, then folding the top edge over.  When you’re done, you’ll have a strip of aluminum foil that’s about 18-inches long, about 3-inches high, and has three layers.  Stand the aluminum foil strip up along the back of the slow cooker, making it snug against the back and curving it around the sides as best you can. 

Spray the bottom and sides of the slow cooker as well as the aluminum foil strip with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the gluten-free flour, ½ C. sugar, ¼ C. cocoa, baking powder, and salt until the dry ingredients are uniform in color and the lumps of cocoa powder are broken up.  In a smaller separate bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, whisk the dairy-free milk, margarine or oil, egg yolk, and vanilla.  Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spoon the batter into the prepared slow cooker, and use a spatula to spread the batter evenly to the edges. 

In a small bowl, mix the remaining ½ C. sugar and ¼ C. cocoa, then sprinkle this mixture evenly over the top of the batter.  Slowly pour the boiling water over the sugar-cocoa mixture, but DON’T stir.  Just pour.  Cover the cake immediately and cook on HIGH until the top of the cake looks cracked and the sauce is bubbling, about 1 ½ hours.

Turn off the slow cooker (or turn it to “Warm” if yours has that function).  Remove the foil strip and let the cake sit 10-20 minutes before serving.  Scoop into little bowls or cute serving plates and pass out the spoons.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings


  1. I love the way you write. The description of taking this cake traveling was perfect. Kelly

  2. Thanks, Kelly! It's true. I propped my feet up on the hotel desk and had some chocolate pudding cake bliss.