Batter Pudding with Cherries

This recipe comes from Sarah Tyson Rorer’s first cookbook, the Philadelphia Cook Book, published a few years after she opened the Philadelphia Cooking School in 1883.

Sarah Tyson Rorer, ca. 1886. Frontispiece of Philadelphia Cook Book.

Rorer, sometimes called “the first American dietitian,” was a prolific writer and lecturer who greatly influenced the scientific cookery movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Proponents of scientific cookery focused on the nutritional value of food (a relatively new concept at the time), and strove to make cooking an exact science rather than relying on luck and guesswork. Neatness and cleanliness were emphasized; Sarah Tyson Rorer usually wore light-colored silk dresses during her cooking demonstrations, to show that it was possible to cook without making a mess (I would not recommend that while making this recipe, though…Mrs. Rorer must have been very skilled indeed if she could stone 2 cups of cherries without getting cherry juice everywhere!).

"Batter pudding with cherries 1 pint of milk 3 1/2 cups of flour 3 eggs 1/2 teaspoonful of salt 1 tablespoonful of melted butter 2 heaping teaspoonfuls of baking-powder 1 pint of stoned cherries Beat the eggs, whites and yolks together, until light; then add the milk, then the flour, and beat until smooth; then add the butter melted, salt and baking-powder. Drain the cherries, dredge them with flour, stir them into the pudding, and turn into a greased pudding mould. Cover, stand in a pot of boiling water, and boil continuously for three hours. If the water evaporates in the pot, replenish with boiling water. Serve with Fairy Butter."

Batter Pudding with Cherries

  • 1 pint of milk
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups cherries, stoned and cut in half
  1. Beat the eggs until light and frothy, then whisk in the milk.
  2. Add the flour and whisk until smooth.
  3. Whisk in the melted butter, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Cut the cherries in half, remove the stones, and drain them. Toss the cherries in a bowl with a little flour until they are coated.
  5. Add the cherries into the batter and pour the batter into a buttered 3-pint (or larger) pudding basin.
  6. Place a piece of buttered parchment paper over a piece of aluminum foil. Fold a pleat in the middle of both the paper and the foil; this gives the pudding room to expand, which you will definitely need with this recipe. Place the paper and foil over the pudding basin, with the buttered side of the paper facing the pudding. Tie a string around the rim of the pudding basin and trim off the excess foil (or, ignore all that and just watch this video for a better explanation of how to tie up a pudding).
  7. Put an upside-down saucer on the bottom of a pot and place the pudding basin on top of it. Pour in boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the pudding basin.
  8. Keep the pot boiling for 3 hours; if you need to top up the water, make sure the water you add is already boiling.
  9. After three hours, take out the pudding, remove the foil and parchment paper, and turn out the pudding onto a plate.
  10. Serve with whatever pudding sauce you prefer. Mrs. Rorer’s recipe for “Fairy Butter” is given on pg. 438, but I actually didn’t make it since I was out of both sherry and eggs. I used a similar recipe from Fannie Merritt Farmer for “Hard Sauce,” which is essentially just a buttercream frosting. If you do make either Fairy Butter or Hard Sauce, sprinkle it with a little ground nutmeg to serve.

Tasting notes:

This was the first time I had ever made a batter pudding (my other steamed pudding experience, Christmas Pudding, was much denser), and I am very pleased with how it turned out. The texture reminds me of a light bread or cake. The pudding rose quite a bit while steaming; my 3-pint pudding basin was just barely large enough, even with the pleat in the foil to allow for expansion. The very top (or bottom once it was turned out) of the pudding ended up slightly compacted once it ran out of room to rise. Next time I would either use a larger mold, or cut the recipe in half.

The pudding itself is very plain except for the cherries, but with the sauce and nutmeg it was delicious. Although Sarah Tyson Rorer recommended serving it with Fairy Butter, which is similar to frosting, I think it would also be tasty with a liquid sauce. Even the leftovers were excellent when slathered with sauce and briefly heated in the microwave (or you could try toasting the slices like bread).

In the preface of her book, Sarah Tyson Rorer promises to make the directions in her recipes “so plain…that a beginner may successfully make, with few exceptions, any dish contained herein.” I think this recipe definitely delivers on that promise.

References:

Davidson, A. (2006). Rorer, Sarah Tyson. In A. Davidson & T. Jaine (Eds.), The Oxford companion to food (p. 671). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rorer, S.T. (1886). Philadelphia cook book: A manual of home economies. Philadelphia: George H. Buchanan and Company. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Philadelphia_Cook_Book/2n4EAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1

Shapiro, L. (2009). Perfection salad: Women and cooking at the turn of the century. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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