A Great Depression recipe that needs more recognition.
Frugal doesn’t have to mean flavorless! Here, this French-Canadian Poor Man’s Pudding takes simple standby ingredients and makes a delicious dessert! A cake batter, which comes together at lightning speed, is topped with a boiled maple syrup sauce. Once baked the sauce hides underneath the fluffy blanket of cake. With this dessert, maple syrup isn’t just reserved for breakfast.
No part of the world was a stranger to the Great Depression, and the French-influenced region of Quebec felt the impact of such a hard downturn. Everyone couldn’t be without a bit of sugar and this pudding is a testament to people’s love of dessert in pinched times. Going by many names like Poor Man’s Pudding or Pouding Chômeurs (chômeurs means unemployed in French), this one pan, no-fuss treat became popular and embedded itself into the québécois’ culinary repertoire. Quebec has always been one of Canada’s (and frankly the world’s) largest producers and exporters of maple syrup. With maple syrup always in surplus over there, it was a no-brainer way for Depression-era québécois to save the spartan amount of sugar they had lying around.
You start by making the syrup which is simply boiling brown sugar, water, and maple syrup.
Next, you get to making the cake portion. The batter is super simple. You first whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl and combine the wet ingredients in another bowl. You then gradually add the dry into the wet until there are no streaks of dry ingredients in the batter.
Here comes the hardest part. After you pour the cake batter into the prepared square pan, slowly add the hot syrup on top of the batter.
It’ll look a little wonky but believe in the process. To prevent a disaster by transferring the pan into the oven, I placed my baking dish onto a foil-lined pan before combining the sauce and cake batter together.
As the pudding bakes, the cake will rise to the top and get golden in color.
Once it gets a nice light amber hue, you’re ready to pull it from the oven.
Now what about the taste? Well, it’s a hug on a spoon. The cake is light and the syrup is hot and molten. After it cools the syrup sort of absorbs somewhat into the cake giving the Poor Man’s Pudding a taste of the best pancakes you could bite into. Topped with some creme fraiche, soft whipped cream, or whipped cream cheese will send this dessert over the top. You wouldn’t know it’s a dessert on a budget.
French-Canadian Poor Man's Pudding
Serves 4 to 6
15m prep time
35m cook time
For the Sauce:
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
For the Cake:
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/4 cup oil
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
To make the Sauce:
- In a small saucepan combine brown sugar, water, and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let it cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
To make the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x9 square baking dish with baking spray, set onto a baking sheet and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.
- In a larger bowl whisk oil, brown sugar, egg, and milk until well combined.
- Add dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Gently pour hot syrup mixture over the cake.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the sauce is bubbling underneath the cake. Serve warm.
Recipe adapted from Ricardo Cuisine