Winter Comfort Cake

The food: maple cream chomeur pudding cake

The story:

After spending two weeks in sunny southern California this past January, it wasn’t easy to come home to cold, gloomy, gray Toronto. Back home, I replaced the vista-filled canyon hikes of L.A. with step classes at the gym, traded in glorious sunset beach strolls for wind-whipped walks on the often icy sidewalks in my neighbourhood, and abandoned California-style vegetable-centric farm-to-table cuisine for winter comfort food. Especially comfort dessert.

As soon as I read that the recipe for the Pudding Chomeur Cakes featured in the February issue of Canadian House & Home magazine called for copious amounts of maple syrup and whipping cream, I wanted to make them. My official excuse for treating myself and my husband E to such a high calorie indulgence: Valentine’s Day was coming up. A Toronto wintry Valentine’s Day.

The recipe calls for the cake batter to be divided among 6 five ounce ramekins, and baked on a foil-lined baking sheet after a full 2 cups of a maple syrup and whipping cream mixture is poured over them – that’s a 1/3 cup of liquid on each. Here’s what the cakes looked like before they went into the oven:

And after they came out:

I guess the recipe writer expected the overflow, hence the foil-covered baking sheet. I would have thought using a larger ramekin might be a better solution, or splitting the batter and liquid among more ramekins. Whatever. E came up with the idea of lifting the caramel crackle off the foil and eating it like candy. And I decided that what the dense, sweet cakes needed to leaven their maple-y sweetness was dollops of (more!) whipped cream, fresh raspberries (for that Valentine’s Day feel) and okay, a gilding of crumbled crackle.

Eaten while the cakes were still warm, this dessert was comforting, fattening as hell, delicious, and helped me miss the California sunshine a little less.

Maple Cream Chomeur Cakes (adapted from House & Home magazine)

Serves 6+

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup whipping cream
Pinch of salt
Whipped cream and fresh raspberries to serve

1. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars and mix until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until completely incorporated.
2. Add flour and baking powder, and mix until dough is well mixed. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. In a saucepan, bring syrup and cream to a boil, stirring often. As soon as it reaches the boiling point, remove from heat, add salt and let cool till tepid, then refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 6 oven-safe 6 ounce ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet and spoon a couple of tablespoons of maple mixture into the bottom of each. Divide dough evenly among ramekins by loosely packed tablespoons.
5. Slowly pour remaining maple mixture over dough, then bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. If desired, use spatula to lift any cooked caramel crackle from the baking sheet that has spilled over from the ramekins. Break into small pieces.
7. Let cool 5 or 10 minutes, then scoop cake out of ramekin and onto a plate. Serve with whipped cream, fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of crackle.

Note: one cake makes a large serving. Consider cutting each cake in half before adding cream and berries, and get 12 servings out of 6 cakes.