Victorian cooks hated to waste food, and had all sorts of creative ways to use up leftovers. This super simple one-sentence recipe is an excellent way to use up leftover sponge cake (or, in my case, to use up a failed pound cake that didn’t rise properly. It’s not a failure if you can turn it into something else!). It works on the same principle as a custard-based bread pudding, just using cake instead of bread.
Eliza Acton, one of the first authors to provide a recipe for a specifically “Christmas” pudding, actually included 3 different recipes for Christmas puddings in her encyclopedic work, Modern Cookery in all its Branches. This one, titled “The Author’s Christmas Pudding,” is evidently her own recipe; she calls it a “remarkably light small rich pudding.”
Fannie Merritt Farmer’s The Boston Cooking School Cook-Book was an instant best seller when it was first published in 1896, and remains in print to this day. Called “The Mother of Level Measurements,” Farmer was known for her insistence on accurate measurements, unusual in a time when many recipes used vague quantities such as a “heaping spoonful” or a “handful.”