My daughter asked me this week if we could make up a batch of poor man’s pudding. She couldn’t find her recipe, so I went looking for one on the internet. What I came up with was one that looked more or less right, but was subtitled “war cake.” Figuring it was all the same thing, I printed off the recipe and gave it to her to make.
I kept an eye on her while she baked, and there didn’t seem to be much difference in the procedure, other than that she baked this cake in loaf pans rather than a rectangular cake pan. This cake came out very different from the syrupy cake we usually make, though! It was a moist loaf, almost the colour of molasses, but tasted very similar to banana bread.
Here is our variant on the recipe we found.
2 cups (500 mL) dark brown sugar
2 cups (500 mL) hot water
2 tbsp (30 mL) shortening
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) nutmeg
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cloves
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) ginger
1 lb (450 g) raisins
1/2 lb (225 g) chopped walnuts and/or almonds (optional)
3 cups (750 mL) flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp (5 mL) hot water
Boil together all ingredients but flour and soda in water, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, stirring often, gradually mix in flour and soda. Batter is thick. Bake 45 minutes at 350°F (180°C) in two loaf pans.
Like the above war cake, Poor Man’s Pudding (“Pouding Chômeur”) is a recipe that relies on ingredients that were inexpensive and available during hard times. The recipe was created in Quebec in the late 1920’s. The literal translation is “Unemployed Person’s Pudding.” This is a more gooey, eat with a spoon and some ice cream, kind of dessert. Both recipes are great if you have someone in the family who can’t eat eggs!
POOR MAN’S PUDDING
This recipe is mixed in two parts. Begin with the batter ingredients, in a bowl:
1 cup (250 mL) flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
2/3 cup (150 mL) sugar
1/8 cup (30 mL) melted grease or oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
The sauce can be mixed directly in the baking pan (I use a rectangular Pyrex dish.)
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1-1/4 cup (310 mL) boiling water
Stir up and spread in the bottom of the pan, then spread the batter on top. Bake 30 minutes at 350°F (180°C.) The pudding should be a light golden cake with a caramel sauce.
The recipe can be doubled (use two baking pans or add a few minutes to the baking time as needed.) Fancy it up with a splash of vanilla or a little spice if you like. You can also add raisins, shredded coconut or chopped nuts to the batter. At least once, try it the old fashioned way, just to appreciate the way it was traditionally made.