Sometimes you want pudding topped with whipped cream. Sometimes (make that most of the time, if you're like me) you'd rather have whipped cream topped with pudding. I imagine it was a like-minded home economist with a fondness for cream who came up with the recipe for "Pudding in a Cloud," a retro recipe consisting of chocolate Jell-O nestled in a cloud of Cool Whip.
Traditionally served up in a low pudding cup, this treat looks, at first, like a dream. But when you grab a spoon and rub your dessert-dazed eyes, it becomes instant pudding on a bed of imitation whipped cream. Doesn't sound quite as tasty, does it? Bravetart's recent pudding column, where she cracked the code for making J-E-L-L-O at home, inspired me. Could I create a tasty approximation of Pudding in a Cloud minus the high-fructose corn syrup, polysorbate 60, and sorbitan monostearate?
Let me preface all this by saying that I grew up with Cool Whip. As a kid, it was a familiar guest at special occasions. Thanksgiving? Pumpkin pie with Cool Whip. Memorial Day? Berry pie with Cool Whip. Fourth of July? Jell-O pudding pie with Cool Whip. Lots of good memories wrapped up with Cool Whip. While I'll admit that Cool Whip still tastes pleasantly nostalgic to me, it's loaded with more food science than flavor (any food that remains virtually unchanged in appearance after 12 days without refrigeration kind of freaks me out). Yet for all its faults, there's something about the fluffy texture of Cool Whip that works really well with pudding. What to do?
For this recipe, I feared that regular old whipped cream wouldn't be able to cradle the pudding as well as Cool Whip. So instead of straight whipped cream, I whipped up some mascarpone, a touch of sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream to create a slightly thick but intensely creamy "cloud" that is a worthy partner to the chocolaty, jiggly, ever-so-slightly salty, homemade Jell-O pudding. Dish this up in a martini or wine glass to add a touch of whimsy to a childhood favorite that's all grown up.