Skip to content

Before a recent visit to Los Angeles, I’d heard a lot about Sqirl, a quirky restaurant with a funny name. People were imploring me to go. So much so, that if I didn’t, I’d be racked with guilt for the next five to seven years. (Which I think was the intended effect.) Whatever it was, it worked, and when planning to meet up with a friend, I suggested we go there.

Since he lived in Silverlake, he was familiar with Sqirl, and said we should go mid-morning to avoid the lines. I’m of the age where I don’t want to wait in line anymore to eat. At least I thought I was.

Yet there I was, standing on the sidewalk at 10:30 am, waiting in line to get in and order. It helped that the weather in L.A. is often spectacular, so standing on the sidewalk while you wait for a table is not the same hardship it is in New York or Paris, in the winter.

My friend and I lived in San Francisco for a long time, so we’re food snobs of the highest order. I’d been coached to try the sorrel pesto rice (below). And, once again, to avoid any guilt, we ordered one of those, as well as a few others things to try.

While we waited for our food, I was sipping my first Turmeric Tonic (which was excellent; I hadn’t ever had turmeric tonic, as hasn’t quite hit Paris yet), while feeling very good about myself, and my health. Then I took my first forkful of the rice bowl the server brought over.

We both stopped talking and looked at each other, nodding in silent agreement over how good it was, and continued to dive in; it was one of the best things I’d ever eaten, and one of the few things that lived up to the hype. Each mouthful was a Gordian knot of overlapping flavors—tangy sorrel-pesto rice, bright watermelon radishes sliced rapier-thin, salty sheeps’ milk feta, bursts of fresh dill, preserved Meyer lemon, creamy avocado, a tangle of bacon, with a poached farm egg resting amongst the other ingredients in the bowl.

The ingredients were bathed in a fermented jalapeño sauce…it was like the best of southern California,  in one bowl. I think most San Franciscans might get nervous that it’s time to concede their status as the best food city in America, to Los Angeles. (Although I had so many great meals on my book tour, I think there’s a lot more competition out there in the other 49 states.)

I have a funny sixth-sense about food, and usually tell if a restaurant is good even before I walk in. At Sqirl, there is usually a line to get in, so it was a little easier to gauge that ;) But when we’d finished ordering and the counterperson asked if we wanted desserts, the ones in the glassed-in case didn’t have the appearance of being anything special. However there was something intriguing about the almond cakes with a few sunflower seeds scattered on top, and the somewhat plain-looking pudding cakes, so I ordered one of each. As they say in Southern California – like, oh my God!…were those ever good.

Fortunately, the owner, Jessica Koslow, was kind enough to share her recipe in her book Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking. You can make the avocado toast, which defines the genre, topped with ribbons of pickled vegetables, garlic cream, and spices. There are socca pancakes with labne, as well as kohlrabi tzatziki and, yup, their recipe for the turmeric tonic. (I often see fresh turmeric at natural foods stores in Paris, so perhaps there’s an underground turmeric tonic network I need to plug into?)

Happily the Malva Pudding Cakes are also in this engaging and user-friendly book. The book says when you serve these, everyone will ask where the recipe is from, so I’m here to tell you they’re from Sqirl. And they’re terrific.

You’ll need to work fast when the cakes come out of the oven to get the cream mixture into the cakes. Make a small slit in the top with a sharp paring knife and pour some of the cream into each cake, until it reaches the top. Once you’ve reached that point, stop and move on to the next one. Then go back and pour enough of the cream back into each cake until it just reaches the top of each individual cake, but no more.

I overdid it the first time I made them, so sent Jessica a message, asking when to stop pouring. She told me to “let the liquid in, in a pace where you can see it absorb, then add more.” She stops when she sees it staying on the surface, and not absorbing further. So you may have some of the cream mixture leftover.

These are are the sweet side (think sticky toffee pudding, but without the dates), but are small in size, so you don’t have to feel too bad about indulging in one all by yourself.

Malva Pudding Cakes

Makes 8 cakes Adapted from Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow These pudding cakes get baked in small, ungreased paper panettone molds. Plan on serving them in the cups because I don't think you'd have much luck getting the pudding cakes out neatly. They're best enjoyed by digging a spoon right in. Small panettone molds (about 2 1/2" x 1 3/4," 6.5 x 4.5cm) can be found in cookware stores or online. I tried baking a few cakes with free-standing muffin baking cups, the kind that will stand up on their own, and don't need to be baked in a muffin tin, which worked very well. (The portions will be more modest as well, although you'll need more than 8 of those cups since they're smaller.) Fill each halfway up with the batter and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until deeply bronzed across the top, like the larger ones. Make sure the filling is quite hot when you pour it in. If you make it a bit in advance and it cools down, rewarm it before pouring. I made these a couple of times and had some leftover filling so you may not need it all. Next time I might try reducing it to 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of water. But since I don't want you to get caught short, make them as written and if you find you have leftover, make a note to make the reduced amount of filling the next time. And there will be a next time...
Servings 8 servings

For the cakes

  • 1 cup (140g) flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (75g) strained apricot jam
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole or lowfat milk

For the filling

  • 3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces, 115g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water

For the cakes

  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Set 8 small panettone molds on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a medium bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, and salt on medium speed until the batter is thick and pourable, like a melted milkshake, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the jam until incorporated. Then mix in the melted butter and vinegar.
  • Add one third of the milk, then half of the flour mixture. Then add another third of the milk, then the rest of the flour. Finally, add the rest of the milk and stir until smooth. If there are large lumps, whisk it briefly, just enough until the batter is smooth.
  • Pour the batter into the 8 molds, which will fill them a little more than halfway up. Bake the cakes until they are deeply bronzed across the top, 35 to 40 minutes. The cakes need to be well-baked, or as Jessica says, "...almost overbaked - in order to soak up the filling."

For the filling

  • While the cakes are baking, heat the cream, sugar, butter, and water, whisking gently, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Keep warm while the cakes are baking, or rewarm right before filling the cakes. (I found it easiest to transfer the hot filling to a measuring cup, for pouring in the next step.)
  • When the cakes come out of the oven, using the tip of a paring knife to poke and pull back a little flap from the middle of the top of each. Poke the knife in the cake to make a little space inside and pour enough of the filling in each until the cakes can't take any more of the filling.
  • Once you've filled all the cakes, go back and repeat the process, filling the cakes with additional filling just until it reaches the top. You may have not use all the filling but don't worry if some spills over.


Serving: Serve the cakes warm. They need no accompaniment.
Storage: The cakes can be made up to two days in advance, although are at their best served the same day they are made, preferably warm from the oven. You can rewarm them on a baking sheet in a 325ºF/160ºC oven, until they're warmed through.



    • Lorraine

    Reading this recipe was like a trip back 20years for me. Malva pudding is a South African dessert originating from the “Boer”/Afrikaans culture there. It’s in a few South African cookbooks and is always delicious. Amazing to see that it’s now attained gourmet and international status!

      • Tharien van Eck

      I often bake malva pudding as it reminds me of the sunshine and blue sky days of South Africa. It is delicious served with custard, ice cream or caramel sauce. Decadence at it’s best!

    • Savannah

    I wonder if I could bake these in crème brulee ramekins? They might be a little on the shorter, squatter side.

    • Taste of France

    Interesting, especially the note about the South African origins. Kind of like savarin, with a butter/cream bath replacing the rum syrup.
    Would be interested in replicating that rice bowl. Hint, hint.

    • Kim Heber-Percy

    Ah – malva pudding. It originates in South Africa (as far as I know) every South African will tell you that. I have made individual ones and big pans of it and everyone loves it! (I’m a South African living in France. :-) ).

      • Nadia GRAVES

      Me too. I am in Dordogne

    • Julie Cade

    Hi David, What GF flour would you recommend for this? Also, would love the recipe for the rice bowl, too. Merci.

    • Nathalie (@spacedlaw)

    Do you think these could be made using porcelain ramequins like for pots de crème?
    It feels they might be easier to eat from.

      • Tharien van Eck

      Yes, you can. I have done that before

    • Kathy

    Ever since visiting South Africa in ‘13, I’ve wanted to find a good recipe for this cake! Thank you for sharing. You never disappoint

    • Tammy

    I think so too (I am an Afrikaans South African)! This is a staple and we all have a family recipe. No gathering is complete without a large helping of malva pudding. David, I’ve been following you for years and this post put an extra large smile on my face. I think (now that you’ve had a little taste of one of our many delicious dishes) you should plan a trip here? (I’m a South African incapable of leaving )

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Lorraine: Thanks. I didn’t know where they originally came from, or how they got that name. They’re so good they deserve international acclaim (!)

    Savannah and Nathalie: I only tried them in panettone molds and cupcake cups. But if you try them in ramekins or custard cups, let us know how they turn out.

    Tammy: Glad you’re smiling : ) A South African friend of mine once brought me some ‘rusks.” They were so good! Someday I’m going to tackle those, too…

    Julie and Taste of France: I only feature one recipe from a book on the blog, but the recipe is in the book (which is pretty terrific), and you may be able to find it elsewhere. I’ve never used gluten-free flour blends but perhaps someone else could chime in with one they like?

      • Nadia GRAVES

      Malva pudding is traditionally served in a large dish but i often make them in ramekins. Just need enough space for the “sauce”. JAN restaurant in Nice serves malva pudding pops on rosemary skewers!

    • MR in NJ

    David, LOL at the prospect of your being “racked with guilt for five to seven years” for NOT trying a restaurant. (Other people are more likely to be racked with guilt for doing bad things.) I needed that laugh very much as I enter week 3 of the flu and losing my sense of humor about it. Food blogs have many uses.

    • Carolynn

    Hi, David— what’s with the vinegar, I wonder. My first thought was that someone just didn’t have the prescribed buttermilk the day that recipe was passed down… could I use buttermilk instead of the vinegar and milk, is where i’m going…
    Thanks for your always-inspiring blog!

      • Nadia GRAVES

      No. They must include vinegar and it is often called vinegar pudding in South Africa.

    • Terry

    Strained apricot jam means I am using mostly the chunks of fruit with a bit of smooth jam attached? Is that correct? Maybe my brain isn’t working or maybe the picture looks like unstrained jam, but please advise, this sounds so good. I can’t wait to try the recipe.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Strained jam means to press the jam through a meash strainer, which disperses or breaks up, any lumps of fruit.

        • Terry

        David, Thanks so much, that makes perfect sense, guess I was just making it complicated.
        I really enjoyed your last book. You really captured the sense of how difficult it can be to deal with some of those kinds of situations. And I can’t imagine how hard it would be to deal with those people when the language is not your first. Good thing you have your Romain!

    • cinzia

    David, I just finished your new book. Loved it!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks so much…glad you loved it! : )

    • Ella

    Off to order that cookbook!!

    • Catherine Browne

    This recipe looks amazing! I have a question about the butter in the filling. Since we’re going to melt the butter, does it have to be room temperature? It would be easier to just take it out of the fridge.

    • Roseann Skoniecke

    Thanks David for another spectacular dessert from a place in LA where my daughter lives and will visit next I fly there. But most of all thanks for adding to my huge library of cook books as recommended by you. I think more than half were ordered from your recommendations. My husband thinks I need to open my own library. Hate to think of what will happen when we move in the next few years. I will guard them with my life.

    • Alex S

    I’m so happy you liked it. (Handstands!) I knew Sqirl when there were only a few people at the counter, wondering if & when (hoping not) it would close. So many great restaurants in LA have gone that way (just backspaced.) I’m a native. Now the paps make it so hard.

    • Natalie

    Oh wow I love the texture – looks delicious!

    • Nadia GRAVES

    This is the ultimate classic South African dessert. Decadent and delicious, also known as vinegar pudding. We serve it with heaps of whipped cream. It is one of the most requested recipes in my cookery school when i do a south African themed lesson.
    You need to taste koeksisters, melktert, cape brandy pudding now.

    • Audrey

    Another South African! Just bake in a a suitable sized dish. Make sure that it is well cooked otherwise it will be too soggy.

    • abby

    OMG! This looks sooo decadent!!!

    • Susan Hill

    Your book was reviewed the Sunday New York Times book review section. I did not agree with the negative comments because I loved the book as it is but any publicity in the NYT has to be good.

    • Cyndy

    Sounds/looks delicious.

    Wondering how to pronounce sqirl.

      • j

      …take a wild guess…

    • Taffy H.

    David, I loved you already, but can I love you any more? The Gordion knot comment reminds me of why your writing is so entertaining! Thanks!!

    • Linda

    I’ve also read L’appart, loved it as it mirrored some of my challenges emigrating and immediately passed it on to my French teacher who’s married to a Brit (for eons) and she too enjoyed your take on France and the French. So, there are two Kudos for you!

    • Nikki P

    This looks truly decadent!!
    Looks like a tea cup or coffee cup might be the right size to bake these in. I pick odd ones up at resale shops to bake in and give stuff away. Don’t have to worry about getting the container back either.
    Question is would the cups need to be greased? The paper mold can be pulled away but what about other baking vessels?

    • Madeleine Morrow

    Your recipe suggests that malva pudding (as it is known in South Africa) needs no accompaniments but in South Africa it is served with pouring cream or ice cream or custard. The recipe is thought to have originated in the kitchen of the Boschendal wine estate outside Cape Town in the 1970s. I was fortunate to eat it there for dessert on several occasions when my family ate lunch there. It was utterly heavenly and the dessert’s reputation spread from there.

      • Beryl

      In my family we eat it with ice cream AND custard! And it has to be hot custard

      • N

      I stand to be corrected, but I find that origin story highly unlikely – the date seems way too recent. Every family in South Africa has a recipe for this that supposedly comes from “Ouma” or “Ouma-Grootjie”…

    • Marianne McGriff

    David, A few comments…I finished “L’Appart” while recovering from flu/pneumonia during Christmas. I LOVED it and can’t wait to make some of the recipes. Secondly, I’ve decided to save Darina’s book that you signed until we’re in Ireland next, probably this summer. She has a new book as well and will bring a signed copy for you. Third, did you know that NY Times on Sunday had a nice article about “L’Appart”? You probably can get online, but if not, I’ll save my copy for you…the Malva Pudding Cakes look wonderful…thank you for your posts…Blessings on your week, Marianne McGriff

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Madeleine: I found these quite rich, with that pour of buttery cream in the puddings, but if you’d like to serve it with additional cream (or ice cream, or custard), you certainly could.

    Nikki P: I didn’t try baking it in another type of vessel, but suppose you should butter tea or coffee cups; make sure they can withstand the heat of the oven before you bake in them. If you try those. If you do, let us know how they turn out.

    • Sharon Harebottle

    As a South African who includes this pudding just about everytime I have guests, using honey instead of jam is equally delicious. Serve the left over sauce in a jug. It wont last long!

    • Nikki

    Hi David,
    Delighted to see the words ‘Malva Pudding’ pop into my inbox this morning!
    I spent some time exploring the origins of SA’s beloved Malva, here’s the story:
    Loved reading about your experience and this incarnation!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Wow, thanks so much for sending your article…and writing it. I didn’t know the history or lore of the puddings and your story was really fascinating. Appreciate your sharing it!

      • Beryl

      Thank you Nikki what a beautifully written article. I think at one time you could pick up a copy of the recipe at Boschendal. My MIL has the recipe typed out on a Boschendal letterhead.

      • Pia

      This whole thread is making me so happy. Malva pudding sounds delicious and I can’t wait to make it. Nikki, your article was fascinating, and I’m enjoying Googling all the South African recipes mentioned in the other comments here.

    • Esther Farber

    I ate at Sqirl (it’s within walking distance of my parents’ house!) back in December and my husband and I were very impressed. The pudding cake was delicious! Very rich and sweet, but absolutely delicious. Thank you for providing the recipe! Can’t wait to try it.

    • Vickie

    I have been resisting buying Squirl, but may have to get it. My local Whole Foods has fresh Tumeric, so now I have a use for it. Thanks for posting the recipe!

    • James

    Malva is the Afrrikaans work for both marshmallow ( the cake can have a marshmalloy texture) but also the word geranium Some very old recipe variations/references will use the rose scented geranium as a flavourant. Stick it in theh pan before pouring in the batter. Dont eat the leaf as its bitter, but will make the whole thing mildy victorian .

    • Margaret

    Is that an All Clad butter warmer in one of the photos?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s an All-Clad measuring cup. I was given a set a couple of years ago and I think they’re cute – like mini-saucepans!

        • Margaret

        They ARE cute. Mine don’t have the rolled lip like your’s but I noticed they have the star-like highlighting on the bottoms just like the bigger cookware does :) I’d never noticed that before your post. Thanks David.

    • Tim

    This looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it. I wouldn’t worry about San Franciscans, they are seldom nervous and they will never concede, lol.

    • Martie Manley

    Yes Malva Pudding is a favourite in South Africa. We in the Northern Cape ate malva Pudding long before it was a favourite in Boschendal, where Maggie Pepler made it. I can sent you the real South African recipe, if you want it.

    • Martie Manley

    I disagree. Malva puddng and Vinegar pudding are two completely different puddings.

    • Carol

    Just finished baking the Malva Pudding Cakes and eating one. It was very hard not to eat more. My husband just finished his second one. So yummy!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Liandra

    Oh hey! The humble South African Malva has made it all the way into the shores of California! Sure going to try out this recipe (and compare it to my great grandmothers hand me down one ;))

    • Lexa Timothy

    good old Malvapoeding, when i first saw the photo and the headline, i was, so, that’s not new, only today do isee it’s you,t so cool. i love to place a slice of pear in the bottom of the “cup” and add brandy to the sauce, sometimes I :”toffee” it up a bit. LEKKER!!

    • Carol

    I used the leftover Malva cakes filling for French toast this morning and it was quite tasty. I mixed 1/2 cup / 1.2 dl filling with 2 eggs and some cinnamon to coat the bread.

    • Sue Chiverton

    altho i’m aiming to make these goodies, i have a question on another receipe – the almond cake adapted from “chez panisse desserts”. i made it this morning for the first time and all seemed to go easily according to plan, but when i baked it (10″ spring form pan buttered and floured), the sides rose much higher and the middle stayed low. it didn’t sink when it came out of the oven, but was that way while baking. i haven’t cut into it yet and am assuming it will be delicious, but just curious what you may think about it looking pretty opposite from your photos with the recipe.

    i do live at 6500′ but have not seemed to have problems with other baking that i do. happy to hear whatever thoughts you might have about it

    fyi the low center of the almond cake will nicely hold the cinnamon ice cream (from The Perfect Scoop) with a drizzle of caramel sauce over it all.

    thanks for all of your wonderfully presented and inspirational recipes. i always am happy when i see you in my inbox!!!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know much about high-altitude baking but cakes that rely on leavening (as that one does) may need adjustments. Unfortunately that’s a specialty area of baking that I’m not familiar with so can’t advise. You might want to check the books of Letty Flatt or Susan Purdy as they may have tips for conversions.

    • Shannon

    These are fabulous! They did erupt over the top of the panettone molds, but the excess was easily scraped off. My attempt to make the 8th in a cupcake liner failed – perhaps if I had put it in a muffin tin it wouldn’t have collapsed.

    • Faatimah

    There’s a very common and much easier way to make these. You liquidize a can of fruit cocktail with eggs, flour etc. Super quick and just as delicious.

      • Ruwaida Vawda

      Oh yay Malva pudding. I always thought only South Africans knew about it. I like it with custard.

    • dv8

    i made quite a few of your recipes already so when i came across malva pudding i picked up your version.
    made it today in a single large pie dish. reduced sugar in the cake and the filling by half, reduced butter in the filling by half.
    served the cake after family lunch, it came out excellent, everyone asked for seconds and i had thirds.
    fantastic, thank you.

    • annmartina

    I made these on Friday night. Heartbreakingly delicious. I have tiny cream jugs from Eataly that I used to pour the custard into the cake. I just kept going back over the cakes again and again pouring a little at a time until all that custard was gone :)

    • Kristina

    Delicious! I made a half recipe (since it seems these are best eaten fresh) and we very much enjoyed them. I realized belatedly that they are very much like a childhood favourite, “mandarin orange cake”, which is built around one of those little cans of mandarin orange segments rather than apricot jam (it was the 70’s!). It’s a very similar batter, and the warm sauce that you pour over the hot cake involves brown sugar, milk and butter. The most sought-after pieces were always the corners, which were thoroughly soaked by the warm caramelly sauce. This has inspired me to give mandarin orange cake a try in the little panettone molds – I suspect it’s the ideal format for this kind of cake, allowing each one to be both properly cooked and thoroughly moistened by the sauce. Thank you for sharing this recipe and for prompting recollection of this happy memory!

    • Laura M

    David, the website of thé pop-up restaurant is not set up to accept réservations after 14h45, not even on thé 23rd. They need to adjust their hours on that day.

    (Or else you are already completely booked up. Mais je m’en doute.)

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, the dinner sold-out so that’s perhaps why the website is not showing reservations available.

    • Andy

    I love these! We have a South African tea house on Queen Anne hill, here in Seattle. It’s called the Cederberg Cafe. They specialize in “Red Espresso”, Rooibos tea that has been ground up and is made using an espresso machine. They make lattes with it. Their Malva puddings are little loafs.

    • Jennifer

    These tasted amazing with marmalade (I was fresh out of apricot). I left the orange peel in and loved it.

    • Shal

    Made these for Christmas and they were mindblowing. This is essentially a South African tres leches (since most people are familiar with tres leches).
    I did not strain the apricot jam because it sounded too painful to do and the cakes came out totally fine.
    David, I love your blog and your writing! Please keep it up.

    • Rene S Matthew

    Hi David,

    I’m so excited to “meeting” you tomorrow in the Baker’s Dozen Zoom meeting! Just a snippet of information about “malvapoeding”. Malva (malvalekker) is the Afrikaans word for Marshmallow and it is presumed that the dessert was given this name because of it’s spongy texture. Do try another great South African dessert; Cape Brandy Pudding, also known as Tipsy Tart.


Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!


Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...