Published January 1, 1995.
The secret to a light, puffy pudding cake, which separates into cake and pudding layers during baking, is an extra egg white.
In developing this recipe, we baked some 15 pudding cakes. We immediately noticed that those made with lemon or orange juice came out especially well, while those flavored in other ways tended to have flimsy, fast-dissolving tops and rubbery, dense bottoms. We set out to solve this problem.
Pudding cakes are basically egg custards, but with two clever improvements. Unlike ordinary egg custards, pudding cakes contain a little flour and some beaten egg whites. During baking the beaten egg whites float to the top, forming a spongy, cakelike cap. Meanwhile, the remainder of the batter settles to the bottom to make a puddinglike layer. We wanted our pudding cakes to be light and puffy.
We eventually deduced that it was the acidity of the citrus juices that made the difference. Because the juice lightly clabbered the milk-based batter, causing it to thicken, the frothy upper layer became stiffer and more stable and thus better able to puff. At the same time, the acidic juice undercut the thickening power of the flour, making it a more tender custard. To shore up the cake part of those variations made with coffee, chocolate, and vanilla, we tried adding an extra egg white. We liked the results so much that we ended up using the extra white in all of the recipes. The excessive thickness of the pudding layer in the nonacidic variations was easily fixed by reducing the amount of flour.list of recipes