Do you know when your least productive time of the day is?
Mine is definitely mid-afternoon, especially when I’m at home (at the office it’s a bit easier to stay focused, thankfully). Saturdays and Sundays around 2 o’clock, if I’m not already embroiled in a big project, there’s no sense starting anything new, at least not until the sun goes down.
FortunatelyÂ I’m aware of this, and can combat it in little ways. It’s a great time to go run errands (something else that kills my productivity), catch up on my RSS feeds, or even do some cleaning. This Saturday, though, I decided to bake.
I’d seen the Cooking Panda video aboutÂ a poke cake and it reminded me of the Poke ‘n Pour cakes I grew up with. It’s basically the same thing, though I still contend that the order of the video’s layers is just not using the ingredients to their full potential, so I made my own cake and decided to video it, too!
Direct link for the feed readers: Blueberry Poke ‘n Pour Cake
The cake base is a Betty Crocker gluten-free yellow cake mix, prepared according to the box instructions. I don’t go gaga over the cake on its own, but when doctored up (with pineapple juice for the luau upside down cakelets or as a base for a banana chocolate chip quick bread) it’s a convenient thing to have on hand, and I try to keep one in the pantry for these sorts of spur-of-the-moment bakes.
The blueberry layer is a simple cooked mix of frozen blueberry (maybe 2 cups?), 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, a couple tablespoons of cornstarch, and a sprinkle each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves–not enough to feel like a fall pie, but just enough to add interest. Set it on medium-low, stir it occasionally, and let it cook until the syrup is thickened.
I had a partial block of cream cheese in the freezer (they say not to freeze it, but for applications like this it’s totally fine), so I defrosted the 3 or so ounces in the microwave (take it out of the foil packaging, first!), then stirred in enough powdered sugar and vanilla to taste right. Just your basic cream cheese frosting.
The custard, though, that I’m pretty proud of and I want you to have the recipe in case you’ve ever had issue with cooked pudding not coming together (like what happened with my banana pudding for the luau). A simple vanilla pudding doesn’t usually include eggs, that more of a custard thing, but a custard doesn’t usually contain any sort of flour or starch–that’s the pudding side. Plus, the eggs that the custard uses have been separated, generally you only use the yolks. I didn’t have a ready use for egg whites coming up, I didn’t want to waste them, and I knew that if I cooked it right, the protein in the egg whites would lend stability to my custard. I also doubled the sugar and used a free hand with the vanilla (I always do, it’s hard to overdo adding vanilla).
Foolproof Vanilla Pudding
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Scald the milk in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat.
- While the milk is heating, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in a metal mixingÂ bowl.
- Adding a little at a time, whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Don’t rush it–if you heat up the eggs too quickly the whites will start to cook and you’ll need to strain your custard.
- Fill the now-empty pot with hot water to a depth of 1 inch and return to the stove. Bring it to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
- Place the heatproof bowl over the simmering water and cook the pudding, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Yeilds ~3 cups
The recipe was adapted from a couple of recipes found in The Kitchen Companion by Polly Clingerman.
It’s a simple recipe, the trick is in the technique. The double-boiler method is what keeps the egg whites from cooking too fast and ruining the texture (seriously, though, run it through a fine mesh sieve if you need to, all will not be lost). I remember a time when double boilers were a standard part of a pots and pan set, but I seldom see them anymore. Even in a pro kitchen, the metal bowl over a pot is what’s used more often than not. Just make sure that the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl when they’re nested together, and that the level of what’s in the bowl isn’t over where the bowl and the sides of the pot meet. (If that happens you just have to make sure to scraps the sides of the bowl more often as the touch-point of the two pieces will be hotter than anywhere else and the custard will cook quicker there.)
Describing it takes longer than actually doing it. Give it a try, you’ll see what I mean.
While a poke-n-pour cake is best served at room temperature (cold cake can be a bit dense, even with this preparation), it’s still a good idea to chill it for a few hours to let everything set up nicely.
I was very pleased with how this cake turned out. Of course it wasn’t the Jell-o and Cool Whip-filled version of my youth, but a slightly more grown-up version. If I were to make the cake from scratch in the future, I think I’d use a basic sponge cake, letting the berry mixture serve the purpose of the sugar syrup that is usually brushed over a sponge cake before filling and layering. Like I said in my video, had I planned this out instead of just jumping in, I would have split the cake and added a layer of strawberries prepared the same way. You could also use cherries, peaches, even spiced apples could go nicely. Anything you can find in the pie filling aisle (but make it yourself, it’s so much better than canned).
I hope you have a great Memorial Day and enjoy the time with whomever you’re spending it with. It’ll just be Todd, Duncan, and I today, but I’m certainly not complaining. This dessert will go great with the hot dogs, corn on the cob, and macaroni salad we’ll be cooking today.