Why you should care

Because this is the dessert dreams are made of.

Take a taste of dulce de leche, mix it with spongy cake and drench it in cream liqueur, and you’ve got malva pudding. Possibly the most decadent frosting-less cake out there, malva pudding is a traditional South African dessert that has yet to take root around the world. It’s a sweet bread-pudding-slash-cake — don’t let the “pudding” part confuse you — baked in a pan and best served piping-hot with a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream.

This isn’t for the dessert-wary. It’s decadent. Secret ingredients include apricot jam and vinegar, a couple of South African staples, but caramel is the main flavor. The real kicker, though, is what happens after you bake it. While it’s still hot, you poke holes throughout the cake with a toothpick, pour a hefty serving of Amarula over the top and let it soak in. Amarula is a more delicious and flavorful South African version of Baileys, made from sugar, cream and the fruit of the marula tree.

The golden-brown pudding’s history isn’t quite nailed down, but we do know it has Cape Dutch origins, and that malva is Afrikaans for “marshmallow.” No, it doesn’t contain marshmallows. But otherwise that translation works — the texture is super-fluffy. Others say it gets its name from a particularly sweet woman named Malva. The truth? We’ll never know. (We could not reach Malva for comment.)

Malva pudding is tough to come by in American stores (Woolworths, anyone?), so we’re here to hook you up with a recipe you can make at home. Here’s one from food writer Michael Olivier, who claims that it’s the original, straight from South Africa to your kitchen. These instructions call for a homemade cream sauce, but trust us and go with the Amarula instead.

Happy eating!

Malva Pudding

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a baking dish with butter. Mix the flour, baking soda and sugar in one bowl. In another, beat the egg and add the jam, vinegar, melted butter and milk, one at a time. Fold together the ingredients from the two bowls, and pour the batter into the baking dish. Cover it with foil, but make sure the side of the foil that faces the soon-to-be cake is coated with butter. Bake for 45 minutes.

Check that the cake isn’t underdone before you take it out of the oven; otherwise it won’t properly soak up the Amarula. Once it’s done, poke holes throughout the cake with a toothpick and pour Amarula on top. Use as much as you’d like, though we went with around a quarter of the bottle.

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