Chocolate Pudding Cake

Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake scooped out on plates to serve with ice cream
PHOTO: FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY

Active Time:

15 mins

Total Time:

1 hr 10 mins

Servings:

6

We’re not ones to shy away from an unusual dessert like chocolate pudding cake. If you’ve trusted us with favorites like Wacky Cake, any of our dump cakes, or Magic Cookie Bars, then you know we sometimes have some unusual desserts—but they always turn out perfect.

Sure, chocolate pudding cake doesn’t make much sense: The top layer ends up on the bottom, and it turns into a silky, smooth pudding-like sauce. But it goes beautifully with the fudgy cake that starts on the bottom but ends on the top. Confused yet? Don’t be. We’ll guide you through how to make this easy cake.

Learn how to make chocolate pudding cake. This is a dream dessert for folks who love chocolate lava cakes or gooey brownies—it’s kinda of like their perfect blend.

What Is a Pudding Cake?

A pudding cake isn’t a cake made with pudding. It is instead a cake that “makes” its own pudding sauce while it bakes. A layer of chocolate and sugars turns smooth and silky during baking, and sinks below the fudgy cake. When you scoop into the dessert, you’re treated to a decadent pudding sauce on bottom.

We love desserts that start with pudding mix. They make the final cake or baked good rich and gooey. But there’s no pudding mix in this dessert, despite the name.

Ingredients for Chocolate Pudding Cake

Grab these baking essentials from your fridge and pantry, and this cake is a snap to make:

  • All-purpose flour: This type of flour gives the best texture for the cake.
  • Baking powder: A leavener, baking powder helps the cake rise during baking.
  • Kosher salt: A little salt is needed to balance the sweetness of the whole dessert.
  • Instant espresso powder: Bakers know that a bit of espresso powder can enhance and deepen the flavor of chocolate, not hide it.
  • Granulated sugar: For sweetness.
  • Unsweetened cocoa: For the best chocolate flavor. Try dark cocoa if you like a more intense chocolate flavor.
  • Whole milk: Moistens the batter.
  • Unsalted butter: If you use salted butter, cut back on the kosher salt you add.
  • Vanilla extract: An essential baking ingredient, it adds warmth to the dish and enhances the other flavors.
  • Light brown sugar: For the pudding sauce, it adds sweetness and richer flavor.
  • Hot tap water: This does need to be hot for the pudding layer to work properly.
  • Flaky sea salt: A beautiful way to garnish the final cake, salt adds a nice contrast to all the sweetness.
  • Vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and chopped toasted walnuts: For garnish. Use all or pick your favorites.
Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake ingredients
FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY

How To Make Chocolate Pudding Cake

This isn’t your typical cake recipe, but trust us. The process is worth it. Find the full instructions below; this is just a brief outline:

  • Make the cake batter by first mixing the dry ingredients together. Then, add the wet ingredients.
  • Add the batter to the baking dish, and spread it to an even layer.
  • Combine the pudding ingredients. Separately, mix the brown sugar, sugar, and cocoa, and sprinkle over the cake batter.
  • Add hot water. Pour the hot water over the sugar mixture. Do not mix.
  • Bake. Bake the cake until the center is set and the top is cracking a bit.
  • Cool, garnish, and serve. Let the cake sit for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle it with flaky sea salt while it sits. Then, scoop the cake into a bowl, and serve with ice cream, caramel sauce, and toasted walnuts (or any combination you prefer).

Serving Suggestion

The pudding sauce will end up on the bottom of this cake, so we recommend you flip the spoon when you scoop it into a bowl so the sauce ends up on top, like a rich hot fudge sauce on ice cream.

Tips for the Best Chocolate Pudding Cake

Trust the process for the best chocolate pudding cake. That’s our ultimate advice. It’s kind of an unusual cake, but the end result is absolutely worth it.

How To Store Chocolate Pudding Cake

Always store your pudding cake in a refrigerator. Room temperature can accelerate its spoilage. In the fridge, pudding cake is good up to five days.

You can reheat pudding cake in the microwave in 30-second bursts. However, the cake will likely absorb most of the pudding sauce while it sits, so you won’t get the same layers. Still, the leftover cake will be plenty gooey and rich.

How To Serve Chocolate Pudding Cake

This is a dish that needs to be made and eaten right away for the full effect. We recommend serving it with ice cream, caramel sauce, and toasted walnuts. But feel free to pick the toppings you want. Even a nice fruit compote would be great with this cake.

More Favorite Chocolate Desserts

Craving more chocolate desserts? Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Chocolate Cool Whip Cookies
  • Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake
  • Chocolate Babka
  • Turtle Cheesecake
  • Dirt Pudding

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup (4 1/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. instant espresso powder (such as DeLallo)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, divided
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup (2 2/3 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups hot tap water
  • 2 tsp. flaky sea salt
  • 1 pt. vanilla ice cream
  • Caramel sauce and chopped toasted walnuts

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients for cake:Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat an (8-inch) square baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, espresso powder, 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of the cocoa.Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake whisking together the dry ingredients FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY
  2. Make cake batter:Whisk in milk, butter, and vanilla until a thick batter forms.Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake preparing the cake batter FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY
  3. Add batter to pan:Spread batter evenly in prepared baking dish.Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake spreading the batter in the prepared dishFRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY
  4. Combine sauce ingredients:Whisk together brown sugar, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and remaining 1/4 cup cocoa; sprinkle evenly over batter in baking dish.Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake sprinkling the batter with more of the dry ingredients FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY
  5. Add hot water:Pour hot water over mixture in baking dish, completely covering surface. (Do not stir mixture.)Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake pouring the hot water over the pudding cakeFRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY
  6. Bake cake:Bake in preheated oven until center is set, about 40 minutes.Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake after bakingFRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY
  7. Garnish and serve:Remove from oven, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let cool 15 minutes. Scoop into bowls; top evenly with ice cream. Garnish with caramel sauce and walnuts.Southern Living Chocolate Pudding Cake after baking sprinkled with sea salt and ready to serveFRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY