Boiled Rhubarb Pudding

One of my favorite things about Isabella Beeton’s 1861 cookbook, The Book of Household Management, is that she lists practical information about the cost, time to make, serving size, and season for each recipe. Knowing the season was especially important; although some fruits and vegetables could be grown in greenhouses all year, others were only available for short windows of time. Even today, that’s still the case with rhubarb, which in my area at least only appears for a few brief weeks in late spring. To make this recipe, I started haunting my grocery stores and local farmers’ markets at the start of April, checking constantly for the first sign of rhubarb’s bright red stalks. Somehow, the excitement of finally finding it after weeks of waiting feels much more gratifying than if I had been able to get it all year round.

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Miss Bremer’s Pudding

This recipe comes from Eliza Acton’s 1845 book Modern Cookery In All Its Branches, my favorite historic cookbook of all time – so far I have made more recipes from this cookbook than any other. In addition to her clear instructions and the fact that she actually lists measurable quantities for each ingredient, I also love Eliza Acton’s cookbook for its literary references. Acton was a published poet as well as a cookbook author, and seems to have been interested in contemporary literature. Some of her recipes, such as Ruth Pinch’s Beef-Steak Pudding, are named after specific characters; others relate more generally to the profession of writing, such as The Author’s Christmas Pudding. This recipe, Miss Bremer’s Pudding, is most likely named after the Swedish author Fredrika Bremer, whose works were popular in England at the time.

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Sponge-Cake Pudding

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.

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Christmas Pudding

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.”

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Chocolate Bread 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.”

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