Post image for Maple Pudding Cakes (Pouding Chomeur) + Sugarbush Spring

Maple Pudding Cakes (Pouding Chomeur) + Sugarbush Spring

by Laura on March 23, 2012

Spring came in with such a rush this year.  By mid-March—mid-March!—the snow had receded, the grass greened, the buds burst, the crocuses bloomed, and people were out swilling cold beer on patios, the smell of charcoal grills in the air.   A week later now, the ice on Lake Minnetonka has gone out, the first vinca bloom has appeared, and bleeding hearts and sedum and hyacinth are up from the ground.  We are known to have snowfall in late April and even early May here.

I find myself in the market feeling like something of a lost child.  I should be making all the dishes in my head: a pork loin roast rubbed with juniper and ginger and stuffed with prunes, a choucroute garnie with the last of the sauerkraut in my refrigerator, or an enormous cassoulet, bubbling in the oven with a hairy piece of pig skin, magret de canard, thick tight-skinned sausages, and white beans.  But it’s been 80 degrees, and humid to boot.  I’m not ready for salads.  It’s too early even for asparagus, and I don’t want the Mexican asparagus they have displayed like daffodils anyway.  I stand amid the produce so long, looking charily, that eventually my Sweet Boy asks me what I’m doing.  I have cooking cognitive dissonance.

But there are signs of our old winter, of winter’s routine here.  The earth is holding back a full bouquet of spring shoots and flowers, and, until yesterday, the trees were waiting, too.  And last week the taps began to appear on the maple trees as we drove through neighboring towns.   The sap is running and soon people will be boiling down in their sugar shacks and on backyard fires, and about a month from now the year’s new maple syrup will be ready.

One of those neighbors is Marsha Wilson Chall, in theory anyway.  We haven’t met, but I know we live in the same town, and according to the dust jacket of her storybook, Sugarbush Spring, she grew up keeping this tradition.  The book is a lovely way to connect with the rituals of sugaring: the snowy woods, the perfume of the fire and its wood smoke and the sugared steam of the syrupping pan, the first syrup poured into the snow and eaten as sweet streams of maple candy, the long hours tending the fire, the woolen filtering stockings, the glow of the first jars filled.  If you have a maple tree, you can make your own maple syrup at home, too.  Taps are inexpensive, if you don’t go in for the whole kit, and available at the charming Egg Plant Urban Farm Supply store, if you live within driving distance of St. Paul, Minnesota.  Or you can order online here.   You may read more about the process of maple sugaring in my article for Honest Cooking here.

Maple pudding cake, or pouding chômeur, was originally a poor man’s dessert, first made in Canada during the Depression era with brown sugar and water, but it has evolved to ubiquitously include pure maple syrup, thus upending its humble roots.  It’s still a homey dessert, but one that’s rather dear.   I bake my nutmeg- and vanilla-scented cakes in a bath of maple syrup and heavy cream and finish them in a hot oven until they are bubbling and caramelized.   They’re a nice way to make a bridge at the table from winter to spring.  And a cure, for now, for my cognitive dissonance.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lizzi March 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I would like you to change this entry to read “don’t substitute the fake stuff EVER…. EVER. THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES.”

These look so, so good! And your writing and beautiful imagery never cease to leave me gutted… in a very good way.

2 Laura March 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Amen. I think fake maple syrup is corn syrup with artificial flavor and dye. That doesn’t sound very tasty to me, but to each his own. And, Lizzi, thank you. So much. For your kindness. xox

3 kris jacobson March 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

oh wow.

4 Laura April 7, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thanks, Kris. xo

5 Jean October 23, 2013 at 6:02 am

Looks like a great recipe. However hard to see with the grey background.
Hope to try it soon with Real Vermont maple syrup.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: