Queen of puddings

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Prep 25minBake 35minMakes 8-10 serves

This traditional English pudding is quintessential nursery food – nurturing, soul-warming and economical. Feel free to replace the mixed berry jam with raspberry, plum or strawberry to ensure the sweet but subtle middle layer suits your tastes.


500ml (2 cups) milk
55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
30g butter, diced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
5 egg yolks
2½ teaspoons natural vanilla essence or extract
150g (2½ cups, lightly packed) fresh white breadcrumbs
85g (¼ cup) mixed berry jam (see Baker’s Tips)
1 tablespoon icing sugar, to dust

    Meringue topping

    3 egg whites
    Pinch of salt
    110g (½ cup) caster sugar
    1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract or essence


      1. Put the milk, sugar, butter and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Use a balloon whisk to whisk the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl until smooth. Gradually add the warm milk mixture, whisking constantly until well combined. Stir in the vanilla and breadcrumbs.
      2. Pour the custard mixture into a shallow 1-litre (4-cup) ovenproof dish. Set aside for 15 minutes for the bread to soak up some of the custard.
      3. Preheat oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan-forced).
      4. Place the ovenproof dish into a roasting pan or larger ovenproof dish. Add enough boiling water to the roasting pan or larger ovenproof dish to reach halfway up the sides of the dish with the custard mixture to create a water bath or bain-marie. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the custard has almost set but still wobbles slightly when touched on the top. Remove from the oven and remove the custard dish to a wire rack. Set aside for 20 minutes or until cooled slightly (stop here if pre-preparing your pudding, see Baker's Tips). 
      5. Increase the oven temperature to 190ºC (170ºC fan-forced).
      6. To make the meringue, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. With the motor running, gradually add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, and whisk until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture is thick and glossy. Whisk in the vanilla.
      7. Carefully spread the jam over the top of the custard (see Baker's Tips). Spread the meringue mixture over the jam to cover, swirling as desired.
      8. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until the meringue is lightly golden (see Baker’s tips). Serve immediately.

      Baker's Tips

      • If your jam is a little thick you can warm it in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring often, until runny, to make it easier to spread.
      • You can cover the bottom of the roasting pan or larger ovenproof dish with a folded tea towel to stop the dish with the custard sliding around when transferring it to and from the oven.
      • You can make this pudding up to the end of step 4 (note in method) up to 2 days before serving. Stand the puddings at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing with the recipe.
      • You can caramelise the meringue topping with a blowtorch instead of baking it a second time for a more ‘dramatic’ effect if you wish.

      This recipe is from Anneka's SBS Food online column, Bakeproof: Best of British Baking.

      CLICK HERE for more Bakeproof recipes.

      Photography by Alan Benson.