It’s maple sugar season! As the last of winter drags on, one of the first signs of spring is sugaring season. In the Northeast USA and Southeast Canada, maple trees begin the process of moving sugar sap from their roots and trunk to the branches, feeding the budding leaves. The cycle of warm days but freezing nights moves the sap up and down the trunk. Maple farms tap the trunk by drilling a hole and collecting the sap as it flows by. The sap is then boiled down to syrup and filtered of any impurities in a sugar shack. Syrup comes in different grades, where light colored syrup is called Grade A and has a light taste. For cooking, Grade A dark or Grade B are most useful as their taste is most distinct.
Demo of the sugaring process at Ipswich Bird Sanctuary
The sugaring process was developed first by Native Americans and First Nation groups. Maple syrup is now a major export of Northeastern USA and Quebec, Canada. Although expensive, maple syrup used to be a cheap sugar substitute for the working class as white sugar was prohibitively costly. Pouding chômeur, translating to ‘poor man’s pudding’, is a classic Québécois take on the English self saucing pudding cake. The recipe has been modified over the years to use modern ingredients as the original recipe was a dense mass, but the concept of a cake poached in maple sauce is the same. The buttered syrup is poured over the batter, and cake floats to the surface as it bakes. The sauce forms at the bottom and can be spooned over the cake before serving. This recipe has been adapted from the recipe by Reclaiming Provincial, to be served as single serving desserts. Topped with whipped cream, this delectable dessert is sweet and moist with a strong maple syrup flavor.
Makes 6 cakes
For the sauce:
- 1/2 cup maple syrup, dark Grade A or Grade B
- 1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp butter
For the cake:
- 2 tbsp butter, softened + more for greasing
- 1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 beaten large egg or 1 small egg
- 6 tbsp milk
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup flour
- pinch of salt
- whipped cream for serving
- Electric beater
In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce over medium-low heat. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring frequently so the sugar does not burn. Boil for two minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool. Skim any film that may form before using.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Heavily butter six muffin cups, being sure to grease the sides and bottoms of the tin. In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Add the egg and beat into the sugar and butter until the mixture is frothy. Add the milk, lemon juice, and beat again. Using a fork or spatula mix the flour into the wet ingredients a little at a time until just combined, the batter will be lumpy. Continue until all the flour is used. Divide the batter among the six muffin cups. Pour the maple sauce over the batter in the muffin tin, until the cups are filled right below the rim. Carefully transfer the muffin tin to the oven. The sauce may boil over, so a baking sheet can be placed under the muffin tin to catch any overflow. Bake for 18-23 minutes, until cake has puffed, floated to the top, and just golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Slide a sharp knife around the edges of the muffin tin to separate the cake from the sides if necessary. Using a spoon, carefully remove the floating cake from the cup and flip onto a dessert plate, flat side down. Spoon the sauce formed at the bottom of the cup over the cake. Repeat for the remaining cakes in the tin. Top with whipped cream and serve immediately.
Bonus Sketchie! USK Boston
Northwest American Indian Paddle, Harvard Museum of Natural History