Imagine me aged seven. ‘What’s for pudding?’ was my favourite expression (ahem has anything changed?). Along with a winning grin, minus a front tooth, I would enthusiastically chant this, along with my table of classmates, in an infuriating sing-song voice every school lunch time when a lovely lunch lady approached to collect our empty plates. Best news: chocolate doughnuts. The glaze was thick and sticky, the doughnut tooth-achingly soft and sugary. Those lunches ended with licked fingers and chocolate smears down my lunch smock – yes, I wore a lunch smock, blue checked in fact.
Most desserts brought a cheer from the table. Some of the picky, mean-spirited children would grumble at anything that wasn’t a chocolate doughnut but I panted at the thought of apple crumble or pineapple upside-down cake, smothered in the thick yellow custard. Of course, some choices were a bit dubious. I didn’t approve of jelly; disappointingly it wasn’t set and glassy in our bowls but fluffed and frothed like a violent sea, the red mush in long tendrils and completely dissatisfying in my childish opinion. Likewise, Arctic roll. What a non-entity of a pudding. Thin, stale sponge wrapped around a solid block of ice cream which could violently wedge my flimsy teaspoon. Nearly twenty years later I wholeheartedly agree with my younger self. You had good taste, kid.
Although I will always have a soft spot for sweet, cinnamon apples under buttery crumble, the ultimate dessert was chocolate sponge with chocolate custard. It was the best of both worlds! The rich naughtiness of chocolate from those devilish doughnuts, and the comforting blanket of custard. The double whammy of chocolate on chocolate was a phenomenon not missed by the responsible adults. My mum observed what we appreciated and used it to her advantage. As the local Brownie leader she took the troop on Pack Holiday. A huge gang of young girls camped in the town hall, decorated with the Hogwarts house colours (naturally it was Harry Potter themed) and amidst games, naps and outdoor playtime, we were fed spectacularly. Chicken soup, pasta bake, and chocolate sponge with chocolate custard. Believing we ate pure magic we all washed up our plates and bowls without complaint, much to my mum’s satisfaction.
Although the dessert is effortless to eat, it requires a little time and energy to make. Either you patiently bake the chocolatey masterpiece, complete with homemade custard, or you cut corners like my cunning mum, buy a ready-made sponge and rip open a packet of powdered chocolate custard. Great things come to those who wait… unless you find a better recipe.
My family discovered one on our annual half-term holiday to the Isle of Wight. These trips to the Isle of Wight, dear reader, were adventures. As far as the destination goes, admittedly it wasn’t Thailand but when you’re twelve and holidaying with your cousins the Isle of Wight is quite the hot spot. My mum and her sisters bundled their various off-spring into cars and we ferried across the Solent, arriving at the palatial converted barn which became a cousins’ hide-out for the week. My aunt always backed a trusty cookbook – Kids in the Kitchen – which, after numerous successful dinners, my mum secretly coveted. Returning to school and normality was less of a bump with this book now on our kitchen table (just so you know, my mum didn’t steal it, she bought a copy).
Within days we recreated a favourite dessert from the holiday; chocolate self-saucing pudding. It surpassed all the chocolate sponges we had known before. The light chocolatey cake with a sticky crust is scooped out to reveal a molten pool of chocolate sauce. And in this case, the pleasure of eating is matched by the magic of baking. All these years later, now reading from a well-splattered recipe, I still relish pouring the boiling water concoction over the batter, which, after a quick blast in the oven, magically disappears. I may not wear a lunch smock anymore but the pleasure of chocolate sponge and chocolate custard isn’t lost on me.
Chocolate self-saucing pudding
Adapted from Kids in the Kitchen
2tbsp cocoa powder
50g soft brown sugar
2tsp instant coffee granules
250ml boiling water
75g unsalted butter, softened
75g soft brown sugar
65g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
3tbsp cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. To make the sauce mix the sugar, cocoa powder and instant coffee granules in a small bowl and pour over a little boiling water to make a smooth paste. Gradually add the rest of the water.
- Rub some of the butter over the sides and base of a baking dish. Put all the other ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat together until smooth.
- Spoon the batter into the baking dish and smooth into the corners. Pour the chocolate sauce mixture over the batter.
- Bake for 15 minutes until the sauce has sunk to the bottom and the sponge has set.