Pouding chômeur--or "pudding of the unemployed"--is a sweet, sticky cake from Quebec, Canada. It originated during the Depression as an easy and cost-effective dessert using pantry ingredients. Originally, you would make a simple sauce with brown sugar, flour and water, spread it on the bottom of a baking dish and then top it with a vanilla cake batter. Once the economy picked up, maple syrup was introduced into the sauce and it quickly became a key ingredient. The result is a super moist cake that you serve warm, sauce-side up, preferably with a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
Put the maple syrup, cream and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat, whisking to combine. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced slightly, about 1 minute, then pour into the prepared baking dish.
Meanwhile, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the milk, vanilla and eggs, then beat again on medium-high speed until smooth. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl to combine. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then beat on medium speed until just combined and no lumps remain.
Dollop the cake batter on top of the maple sauce in an even layer. It's okay if some of the sauce is still visible once all the batter has been added.
Bake until the sauce is slowly bubbling at the edges, the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 24 to 27 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve warm, sauce-side up, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries if using.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
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