rice pudding cake with mango caramel

It’s already our tenth bake from Dessert Person—and we’ve got just under 100 recipes left to go. This next recipe in the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of Claire’s book is a Rice Pudding Cake with Mango Caramel. We’d seen quite a few of our lovely fellow bakers post about this one, and there were mixed reviews, so we were curious and excited to give it a try ourselves!

Lauren’s Take

Hello hello and welcome to bake number 10! We have reached the double digits with this week’s bake which is a rice pudding cake with mango caramel. When I saw what we were making this week, I was instantly excited for a couple reasons —1) I have always had this weird and intense love of rice pudding (even though I think I’ve only had it like 3 times in my life) and 2) mango might be my favourite fruit.

So this week starts off with another classic Lauren baking debacle, but this time it is the debacle of the 10-inch cake pan. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, my partner and I are in the middle of moving and everything is all over the place right now. So when I came to see him and thought I had brought everything I would need for this recipe, I realized during my drive that I had forgotten my cake pan and was instantly devastated. The next day, I went to our nearby grocery store to check the home section, but due to the emergency lockdown in Ontario, every aisle not including food was blocked off with layers and layers of tape. I was shook and didn’t know what to do. I went to the baking aisle and could only find 8-inch aluminum cake pans and thought to myself: “Well, I guess this is my fate.” So I, disgruntled and sad, bought them. When explaining this experience to my partner, he had the brilliant idea that I could order one online for pickup from another store, which I ended up doing thankfully and it all worked out in the end. But if anyone is in need of two 8-inch aluminum cake pans, hit a sister up.

Although this recipe is listed as Level 2 or easy in Claire’s book, it definitely involved more steps than any of the previous bakes. First thing you have to do is make the mango caramel; yes, you heard me right – MANGO caramel. This was a revolutionary discovery for me that you can actually make fruit-flavoured caramel. Claire says that you can substitute the fruit for anything that is in season. Essentially, you make a caramel but cook fruit into it and then puree it at the end—revolutionary, and extremely delicious. Once I finished the caramel and tasted it, I knew I was in for a great dessert.

The next step is making the rice pudding cake, which involves SO MUCH DAIRY (and I’m not one to complain about dairy). You got butter, whole milk, evaporated milk, cream—a lactose lover’s fantasy really. You put all these components plus the rice, sugar and spices together in a pot and cook it slowly as the rice absorbs the liquid. It was during this step that I had another revelation; rice pudding is essentially dessert risotto! Who knew! Well I certainly didn’t but as I was making the rice, it felt very familiar as a lover and frequent maker of risotto. This step, as anyone that has made risotto before probably knows, can be extremely finicky. You have to recognize that delicate balance of when the rice has puffed enough and isn’t too al dente but there is still liquid. My one critique of this step is I think you should add the liquid slowly as the rice absorbs it. Claire writes in the recipe to put all the liquid in right away and let it cook down, but I think you’d get better results and more distinct absorption if you added the milk a cup at a time, similar to how you make risotto. Regardless though, it does absorb eventually and then you add a bunch of butter and eggs to finish off the cake.

This cake comes out looking pretty flat, since there is no rising agent but gets a lovely light brown colour on top to indicate that it’s finished. The cake itself is so moist and tastes exactly like rice pudding and let me just say, the combination of dairy with cardamom is such an excellent smell and taste. But once you add the mango caramel and fresh mango slices to it, it is a GAME CHANGER. All in all, an excellent dessert and if you love rice pudding, you won’t be disappointed. 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

I was extremely skeptical about this recipe—I’m not a big fan of rice pudding, and there was something about turning it into a cake that really did not appeal to me. I keep waiting for my skepticism to be proven right and to get to that one recipe that just really doesn’t fly; we have a lot of baking left ahead of us, so it may just happen eventually, but so far I continue to believe that Claire is a magical genius.

There was something about the process of making this cake that was so soothing. It is a bit of a slow-burn recipe; you have to slowly and gently combine the various ingredients at each stage and gradually watch everything come together the way Claire describes. The rice pudding base of the cake (it sounds strange to call it a cake because it has none of the traditional dry ingredients) comes together with arborio rice, whole milk, evaporated milk, cream, sugar, and some special flavourings—rum, cardamom, and vanilla bean.

The smell of this and the little flecks of vanilla were so satisfying as the custard simmered and began to thicken over the course of about 30 minutes. Once you have your base, butter and a lot of egg get added in which is what helps the cake set—this is not what you would call a “light” recipe. SO. MUCH. DAIRY. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many different cartons of dairy products in my fridge in my life. Considering how rich it is, it doesn’t taste overly sweet or heavy.

On its own, this custardy cake is pretty subtle—it’s really hard to describe because it’s something totally unique for me. The texture doesn’t read as “cake,” and you can tell that it’s rice in a weird way, but I didn’t find that as off-putting as I thought I would. There’s a slight chew to it from the rice, but it’s also soft and sort of creamy? It both confused me and made me happy when I had my first bite. Overall, I found it really comforting and liked how the flavourings that went into the custard came through.

Now… all that being said, combining the cake with this mango caramel brings this recipe to a whoooole other level. I don’t think I would ever make the cake on its own; you really do need the sauce and the slices of fresh mango on top to make this recipe come together in the best way. When you eat it all together, it’s truly something special.

I had never made caramel before and was hit with a burst of energy at 10:30pm so decided that would be the best time to start my first try. Like the rest of this recipe, it’s a test of patience if you really want to get it right, and patience is not usually my strong suit. It could have just been the end-of-the-week exhaustion setting in, but I realized that the process of cooking sugar to create caramel is just a series of mini panic-attacks—is the heat too low? I don’t see any colour. Is the heat too high? It looks too dark. Am I swirling enough? Is it sticking? Does this taste right? Did I burn it? Too thin? Too thick? Ultimately, I just kept referring back to Claire’s indicators and was really happy with the result. I had never heard of fruit being blended into caramel before and it’s something I definitely want to do more of. The flavour was so incredible!

Altogether, I’d say this was a 4-star bake for me. If I could just give a rating to this mango caramel, though, it would get at least 50-stars. It is so delicious and something I want to have a permanent stash of in my fridge. This recipe might not be for everyone, but it’s absolutely worth trying!

Coming up next week: Ricotta Cake with Kumquat Marmalade!