It’s 6 a.m. on a rainy morning just before Canada Day. In six hours I need to be ready to drive to Mayo, with three canoes on the roof and six days of breakfasts, dinners and desserts packed and labelled for the communal kitchen, and 17 days of lunches for me and my companion.

Tomorrow morning we’ll climb onto a Twin Otter and fly to the put-in for a trip down the Wind River. We have to be careful with weight — we get 2,300 pounds, and the six of us and our canoes weight about 1,500 pounds (canoe weight is doubled because of wind resistance) not including gear and food.

So I’ve gotten to know the food dryer really well. I’ve had it for years, but the most I’ve dried ‘til now is mushrooms. The jury’s out on the results, but I’ve tried Moroccan moose stew with preserved lemon, mushroom paté, white bean, lemon and rosemary dip and chicken tetrazzini, to name a few experiments.  

The really exciting thing is we’re taking a Dutch oven, and are looking forward to baking on our rest days. I’m new to this, too, though I did cook some ciabatta successfully a couple of years ago. For this trip I’ve made up homemade chocolate pudding, lemon cake, wacky chocolate cake, homemade custard powder and, the pièce de résistance, a chocolate pudding cake – that gooey, delicious, chocolate mess remembered from childhood that we never get tired of.

During the long hours of drying food it struck me that it’s too bad you can’t dry wine. I read somewhere, or possibly dreamt, that desiccated wine is in the works. But in the meantime, boxed wine is the solution, or, your favourite red or white decanted into collapsible plastic bottles.

That’s what we’re doing, and crossing fingers that we’ll come in under the weight restriction. We’re prepared to leave the wine behind, but not the whiskey. The best accompaniment to a Dutch oven chocolate pudding cake is a small shot of peaty single malt, with a splash of water. But no more than a splash! Leave the flow to the river.


Dutch Oven Chocolate Pudding Cake

(adapted from SmokingPit.com)

For a 10-inch round Dutch oven. This is a multi-phase dessert, in which you combine ingredients for the pudding and the cake into two re-sealable bags to be assembled in camp. Label two quart-size re-sealable bags “#1” and “#2”.


In bag #1 combine the following ingredients:

1 cup (250 mL) all purpose flour

¾ cup (180 mL) granulated white sugar

3 Tbsp (45 mL) unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder

½ tsp (2.5 mL) salt


In bag #2 combine the following ingredients:

¾ cup (180 mL) granulated white sugar

½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar

4 Tbsp (60 mL) unsweetened cocoa


Pack with you:

½ cup (125 mL) milk *or, in camp, mix ½ cup (125 mL) water with 2 Tbsp (30 mL) whole milk powder

⅓ cup (80 mL) butter

1½ tsp (7.5 mL) vanilla extract

A baking pan that fits into your Dutch oven (Store-bought aluminum ones work well, and can be reused several times.)

Parchment paper, pre-cut to fit your baking pan.


When ready to cook, prepare your Dutch oven. Light 21 charcoal briquettes in a charcoal chimney.

Line the baking pan with parchment paper and butter it. Pour the contents of bag #1 into a bowl or pot.  

Melt the butter. Combine with the milk and vanilla and stir into the contents of bag #1. Mix thoroughly and spread out evenly across the bottom of the baking pan. Place pan in Dutch oven.

Boil 1¼ cups (310 mL) water and reserve. Pour contents of bag #2 over the top of the cake mix and distribute evenly with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Don’t stir or mix it in. Pour hot water evenly over top. Again, don’t stir or mix. Place the cover on your Dutch oven.

In your prepared, safe, cooking spot, place six hot charcoal briquettes in a circle and 1 in the middle. Set your Dutch oven over top. Distribute 14 hot briquettes evenly over the top of the Dutch oven.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check if it’s done by inserting a knife or a toothpick into the centre and pulling it out; if it comes out clean the cake is ready.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and take off the cover. Let the cake rest for 15 minutes and then serve, right from the oven. (You can remove and clean the baking pan later.) As you serve each piece of there will be chocolate pudding in the pan underneath. Spoon this over top of each serving. It will be messy and delicious.