The Clara Project: Hot fudge pudding cake.

Sometimes, old recipes really are the best. And this one ranks right up there. This old-fashioned recipe for hot fudge pudding cake is a classic. It’s kind a culinary miracle, how pouring hot water over a thick batter can create this warm, dreamy, fudgy, concoction that lies precisely at the intersection of cake and pudding.

[Why yes, that is a smudge of chocolate cake batter on my computer screen …]

This recipe for Hot Fudge Pudding is a little different than the other recipes in Clara Shenefelt’s collection (read more about The Clara Project here), in that it’s typed on a postcard (remember those?). It was sent to a Mrs. R. C. Williams in Joliet, IL; how it made its way to Clara’s kitchen is a mystery. And I wonder: Was this postcard sent as part of a recipe exchange, kind of like pen pal letters? Or were Mrs. Williams, Clara and the unknown sender acquainted?

Regardless, this hot fudge pudding cake makes a wonderful, comforting, deeply chocolatey dessert that’s perfect for a cold night. And it couldn’t be easier. I’ve a hunch I’ll be making this again (and again) and that you will be, too.

old-fashioned hot fudge pudding cake recipe

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (divided use)
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 cups very hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar and 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder. Add the milk and melted butter and stir to combine thoroughly (batter will be thick). Add the nuts if using. Transfer the batter to a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking pan and smooth the top. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and remaining 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder; sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter. Carefully pour the hot water over the topping. Bake the pudding cake for 40 to 45 minutes; the brownie-like cake will rise to the top, with the fudgy pudding on the bottom. Serve warm, scooping out the moist cake and spooning some of the pudding over each serving.

About The Clara Project
Once a week, I’ll make and share a recipe from a collection of vintage recipe cards that were written in the 1930s by Clara Shenefelt. See all the Clara Project recipes.

20 thoughts on “The Clara Project: Hot fudge pudding cake.

  1. Maybe your sweet Clara was more Machiavellian than you expected. Perhaps she had visited and enjoyed the recipe of Mrs. R. C. Williams in Joliet, IL and was stunned by this delightful and simple and — may we say? — Clara-esque confection. So, like the wicked witch attempting to forestall the future, she found it under C in Ms. William’s card box and neatly tucked inside her white glove. Ms. Williams never knew — and was never able to again impress the local ladies with her culinary cunning. Clara’s Midwestern reign continued. Now you have found the smoking gun — or in this case, steaming hot fudge pudding cake.

    • I love your theory of how Clara happened to wind up with Mrs. Williams’ recipe for hot fudge pudding cake. How very Agatha Christie of you to solve the mystery!

      • I watched two 1989 episodes of Agatha’s beloved Hercule Poirot last night, you sleuth. Guilty!

  2. Bryn, I don’t always comment, but I adore your blog, photos and recipes. The Clara project is so creative and inviting…just like a “who done it” novel. Charming!!

  3. I have a recipe from a many-years-ago Cooking Light magazine that is very similar, but is low in calories. It is a regular at our house. I make it with Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder to deepen the chocolate flavor, and it also has 2 tsp. espresso powder or instant coffe in the batter. Yum! And, yes, vanilla ice cream is the way to go!

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  7. I just want to thank you for sharing a lovely story. I’m sure Claire is tickled how we are all enjoying her history and recipes. She will live way beyond her 98 years. I read about this & saw the pictures on Yahoo! Shine. . . . . . . After reading about Claire’s beautiful life/family, it made me cry too. Love your blog.

  8. love the old recipes…i have a collection of cookbooks put out by church ladies of this same time period…..just love reading them. this would be a great dessert for my chocolate loving hubby

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  11. I have made a similar version from “Thrill of the Grill” by Willoughby and Schlesinger. I think the only difference is pouring a hot coffee/water mixture over the top instead of just water. I look forward to trying this version as the other had a lot of caffeine, keeping me up till 2 am! Wonderful project – thank you! (fresh cut strawberries and sugar make a nice topping too)