College pudding

With my love of old recipes and old recipe books I’ve come across the same items in different versions many times; some I know from our own modern versions, but many, though quite ordinary and made of quite everyday ingredients have either passed out of use, or I just have not found them. One of these is college pudding; it’s origins are probably;ly from many ordinary homes all across the country where cooks and housewives and mums use up spare ingredients to make something delicious. I was born and brought up in Cambridge and I’ve never come across Cambridge pudding, but some recipe books insist that college and Cambridge puddings are one and the same. Well, from what I have discovered, i don;t think they are! Although they do have similar ingredients, Cambridge pudding is yeasted in the traditional recipes, whereas college pudding is not. In some recipes I’ve looked at, college pudding is cooked in individual cups or timbales.

The reason I’ve set off on this ramble about College pudding is that I’ve been looking at my most recent acquisition, The “A1” Cookery Book, by H.N. Lawson (Helen N. Lawson), and opening it at random I found myself in the sweets section, and there was college pudding. I guess the origins of this are many, but probably its name did come from a university college, where the cooks would make it for the young gentlemen – I don’t suppose students these days would make anything like this – would I if I had found this book when I was at college? Maybe!

College pudding

  • 5 large tbsp of breadcrumbs
  • 2 large tbsp of suet chopped fine
  • 2 large tbsp of castor sugar
  • 3 large tbsp of currants
  • 3 large tbsp chopped raisins
  • i large tbsp of brandy (I realise here that it must be a large tablespoon, rather than a heaped tablespoon!)
  • 3 eggs, well whisked
  • nutmeg
  • salt
  • candied peel
  1. put all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix with the beaten egg and add the brandy
  2. pour mixture into some little tins (number not specified) and bake till light brown (no oven temperatures given so i would guess the all-purpose gas mark 4, 180º C, 350º F)
  3. sprinkle with sugar and serve with…

… Sauce

  • ½ dsp arrowroot mixed to s smooth paste with a little cold water
  • 1 dsp castor sugar
  • ½ wine glass of white wine
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • ½ boiling water
  1. add sugar, wine, juice to the arrowroot and mix
  2. gradually add boiling water  and stir it quickly over a clear fire till it boils

What strikes me about this recipe is that although it’s in some ways a cheap recipe it has brandy and wine which most ordinary people wouldn’t afford. I must say the sauce doesn’t sound very delectable, custard would be much nicer!

Why use arrowroot? The answer may lie here:

“is most appreciated as a thickener of liquids because it makes sparkling clear jellies”

Here is a completely different take on the origins of college pudding, by someone more learned than I am:





    1. Lois

      I’m surprised we didn’t have it as children – it’s just the sort of thing my mum would have made! I’m definitely going to try it with left over bread! With proper custard though, not thee arrowroot sauce which sounds slightly horrid and slimy!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. John Watson

    My mother used to make college puddings for us but the mixture was put into breakfast cups and steamed on the hob. They were dark brown in colour and custard was poured over them. I’m 82 now but still remember how good they tasted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      I can just imagine it – I have a memory now you’ve said it of cups being used as small pudding basins – not at home so maybe at a relative’s. I must have a go at making them and see if I can recreate the flavour I remember so well! In these days of mugs, I’m going to struggle to find teacups! As for breakfast cups, I wonder where I could find a set of them!


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