You know what the best parts of baking are?

First, imagining the final product when you're reading a recipe.

And second, imagining the final product when there's NO recipe – when you're playing the "what if..." game with yourself.

What if... I add a cup of crunchy granola to my favorite sandwich bread dough?

What if... I spread a pan of brownies with melted marshmallow, and sprinkle with toasted pecans, and drizzle with chocolate ganache?

What if... I make bread pudding, but substitute cubes of cake for the bread? And instead of milk or cream for the custard, I use...

Nuh-uh, not so fast! My lightbulb moment regarding the custard didn't come until my imagined "cake pudding" had gone through a few iterations.

First, I needed to develop a recipe with a pumpkin theme.

What, you think here in the test kitchen we just willy-nilly make up any ol' recipes we want to?

Well, sometimes that happens. But more often, our teammates – on the product team, in the flour division, in graphics – are asking us (well, telling us) –

Do a recipe using chocolate chunks and espresso powder.

Or how about something with SAF Gold yeast and Hi-maize fiber?

We REALLY need a good-looking pie for the November 2 King Arthur Flour home page...

My mission for mid-September, should I choose to accept it – which, of course, I did – was a pumpkin recipe. Preferably something new and different.

I mean, there's pie, and scones, and quick bread, and muffins. And yeast rolls.

But we've done all of those. Let's see...

How about pumpkin bread pudding?

Hmmm, did that, too.

Well, how about bread pudding made with cake, instead of bread? Like, gingerbread. And then add pumpkin to the milk/eggs/sugar you pour over the bread (er, cake), and you've got pumpkin CAKE pudding.

Now, that sounded good to me, and I was running with it. Until I looked at the pumpkin bread pudding recipe, and started thinking again.

What if, instead of adding canned pumpkin and sugar to milk and eggs, I just use [lightbulb moment] –

...pumpkin-flavored coffee creamer?

Which, of course, got me all revved up imagining other combinations. Like yellow cake pudding with caramel macchiato coffee creamer. And chocolate cake paired with Bailey's Irish Cream creamer.

But wait, there's more! Never mind a plain cake pudding. How about stirring in chocolate chips, or berries, or dried fruit? And how about adding a crunchy topping, a pleasant contrast to the soft, smooth pudding below?

Guess what? It all worked.

Substitute cake for bread: check. Use coffee creamer instead of milk and sugar: check. Add chips or fruit or nuts to the filling: check.

Crunchy topping? Check.

Which, dear readers, is how this Easy Cake Pudding (pumpkin-gingerbread version) came to be.

Is your imagination taking flight yet?

If so – you're one  of us!

Join me as I make gingerbread, then turn it into pumpkin-gingerbread cake pudding.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it'll work for any of our photos.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the following in a mixing bowl:

2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, or 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves and nutmeg

Stir in 3/4 cup molasses. Melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, and pour that, too, into the dry ingredients in the bowl, mixing to moisten.

Whisk together 1/4 cup water, 1 large egg, and 1 cup buttermilk. Stir into the batter until it's evenly combined. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger, if desired.

No buttermilk? Substitute 1/4 cup yogurt stirred into 3/4 cup milk.

Pour the batter into a 9" square pan, which you've greased lightly.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it just begins to pull away from the edge of the pan.

Remove the cake from the oven, and cool it on a rack.

OK, now we're ready to make cake pudding. Obviously, I'll continue with the gingerbread here; but use any flavor cake you like. You'll need about 1 pound of cake. (When you're in a rush, a plain, unfrosted 16-ounce cake from the supermarket works fine. I'll never tell!)

Cut the cake into 1" chunks. Spread the chunks on a baking sheet and let them sit overnight, uncovered.

If you don't have time for this step, it's fine; your pudding will just be smoother in texture.

Place the cake chunks into the pan, squeezing them together but keeping them in a single layer. If you've used a 9" square cake (as I'm doing here), use only enough of the chunks to fill the pan in a single layer; if you really squeeze them close you might fit them all in, but what the heck – why not just enjoy a few. A short zap in the microwave will restore the gingerbread to its just-baked glory.

Scatter chips, nuts, dried fruit, or berries over the cake if you like, pushing them down into the cracks as much as possible.

Next, whisk together the following:

6 large eggs
2 cups flavored coffee creamer (pumpkin pairs nicely with gingerbread)*
1 cup milk: skim, low-fat, full-fat, half & half, or light cream

*Truth be told, seasonal pumpkin coffee creamer wasn't yet in the stores when I made this pudding; but I know it'll be delicious, once I can get my hands on some.

Note:  If you prefer not using flavored coffee creamer, substitute 2 cups whole milk or half & half for the 2 cups creamer. Sweeten to taste; 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar should do it.

Pour the custard over the cake in the pan; it should just about cover the cake, with perhaps some "islands" remaining uncovered.

Interested in some crunchy topping?

This Praline Pumpkin Seed Crunch is yummy; think toffee peanuts, but made with pumpkin seeds, then coarsely crushed.

I sprinkled 1/2 cup of the crunch over the pudding before putting it into the oven.

Bake the pudding for 40 to 50 minutes, until it's set on top and possibly beginning to brown a bit. The pudding's internal temperature, at the center, should be at least 185°F.

Remove the pudding from the oven, and serve warm.

Or cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, reheat individual servings in the microwave briefly, just until warm. Top with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

I desired. Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche, to be exact.

OK, what about other versions?

In case you missed this on our Facebook wall (and trust me, hundreds of you saw it and were kind enough to share your own kitchen disasters), this is a golden cake with chocolate chips and French vanilla custard pudding.

Which slipped out of my hand as I was taking it out of the oven. It hit the rack, flipped, and landed with an enormous splat on the oven floor.

I was unable to salvage more than a taste – but it was really good!

This one, with pound cake and frozen raspberries and "sweet cream" coffee creamer, was a big hit with my mother-in-law, a bread pudding aficionado.

And with me, too. Especially with a scoop of strawberry sorbet on the side...

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Easy Pudding Cake.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!