These have to be five of my favourite words.
And yet, when I was in my first year in primary school, two traumatic things happened to me at lunchtime (we all had to have school dinners). First, having come from a safe and loving home, I was one day confronted by a very troubled boy kicking me in the back and nobody doing anything about it. Second, another troubled boy spat in my chocolate sponge and chocolate custard. I didn’t, of course, finish eating it, but amazingly, it didn’t taint my memory of this pudding which I still see as elementally comforting. Despite history proving otherwise, I think nothing bad can happen when you’re eating a chocolate sponge and chocolate custard pudding.
I have made this several times over the years. And each and every time, I forget to take a photograph of it because everyone is in such a scramble to get it. This has nothing to do with me, other than I make it, but I think, everything to do with people’s associations with it.
This time, I only remembered to take a picture of it at the very last minute, when we were on the last slice; which is why it’s a close up, and not a very good photograph at that (still, better than Martha’s). Just out of shot, is my partner’s spoon, hovering in anticipation and annoyance at my interruption, and half the pudding already gone.
A note about the custard: it doesn’t make enough unless you eat giant portions of this at once. If you eat it like we do, in smallish portions, then you need more custard. Second, Waitrose does a perfectly good chocolate custard which you could easily use instead. It’s not as ‘good’ for you (no eggs) but come on..
A note about the pudding. It travels really well. I have made this in advance and taken it on a holiday rental, warmed it up in the microwave (10-20 seconds per portion) and it is glorious. I’ve easily kept this cake for a week and just zapped it in a microwave to make it soft and springy again. If you like it cold cold (cold pud cold custard) then this could also travel, separately, to a picnic and be reunited to make a quite decadent pudding on the grass. My children actually like this pudding cold, with cold custard and you can try it either way: hot hot, cold cold, hot cold, cold, hot. Knock yourself out.
This recipe originally came from Delicious magazine.
250g unsalted butter at room temperature (so soft, because room temperature in my house at the moment results in pretty hard butter still)
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
250g self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
50g dark chocolate grated or chopped up very, very, very small (grating chocolate is one of my most hated kitchen jobs, I’d prefer to de-giblet a chicken)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
125ml warm milk
Oven to 180C. You’ll need a square 20cm cake tin which you have lined with baking parchment. I love this cut into squares but for goodness sake don’t sweat it if you don’t have a square tin and improvise.
Beat the butter and sugars together, whisk in an food mixer if you have one. If not doing it by hand is fine. BUT it does need lots of beating so if you have an electric whisk do use that for five minutes.
Gradually add the eggs and now sift over the flour and cocoa with the baking powder and grated chocolate. * Add the vanilla extract and the warm milk. It should be fairly gloopy. Put in the tin and cook for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out growling. I’m joking, a skewer comes out clean-ish. You know the score.
If you want to make the custard you need:
300ml whole milk (although I have used semi-skimmed and the world did not fall in)
300ml double cream
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of cornflour
Heat the milk and cream together until almost boiling. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, cocoa and cornflour. Pour the hot milky cream over the eggy mixture, whisk and return to the pan. Cook gently until it thickens. Serve hot, warm or cool.
2016 note: I now just add chopped up chocolate to the warm milk and melt it that way if I’m in a rush. Nothing awful seems to happen. I’ve also improvised chocolate custard – the recipe above is lovely but it’s a faff and never quite makes enough – and used good quality shop bought custard and added melted chocolate and a tablespoon of cocoa to it.