Every now and then my friend, Alice, sends me an idea for a blog post. Her recipe for “English Cottage Pudding,” turned out to make a delightful dessert. As we discovered, it is not a pudding at all. Americans would call this a small 8″ x 8″ cake. When a sauce — in this case cherry sauce — is poured over the cake as a topping, the result is a moist and flavorful cake. Alice practices gluten-free cooking and she substituted gluten-free flour in the recipe. It changes the texture of the cake, but it is still delicious. Since fresh cherries are plentiful in the grocery stores in August, I made a fresh Cherry Sauce for the topping. And I found some antique English china dishes dating from 1875 to photograph my cake.
Antique China Dishes
I went searching through my china cabinet to find a pretty dish to photograph my English cake. This cup and saucer caught my eye. I turned the saucer over and, to my surprise, found an inscription written by my father — great-grandmother Whitsell, 1875. The china was iron ware imported from England. Perfect the photos. I brewed a cup of English Twinning’s Darjeeling tea to go along with my cake and sat down to absorb the idea of using 150 year old china for my dessert.
The china is from my father’s ancestors and I inherited it since no one else in the family seemed interested. The Whitsells were of German heritage who settled in the Shenandoah Valley in the late 1700’s. After the Civil War (and no, they didn’t own slaves) the economy in Virginia was in disarray and depression. The Whitsells moved “west” to Ohio in search of a more prosperous life. And they do have several fascinating stories of the Civil War which I will tell another time. I love flowers and roses and can see why this china pattern caught the attention of my great-great grandmother. So, I will enjoy my afternoon eating English cottage pudding on English china along with some English tea!
Alice’s Commentary and Recipe
Alice has sent me several recipe ideas for my blog. Her recipe for “Southern Fig Preserves Cake” has turned out to be one of my most visited blog posts. It always makes things more interesting and lively when you collaborate. Here’s Alice’s take on “English Cottage Pudding.” Alice writes:
“The year 2020 has been memorable. A bit chunk of it was related to several months of being quarantined followed by wearing masks. When I’m bored, I often surf the Internet for recipes and foodways. My search recently was, “What foods were typically served at a roaring 20’s Party?” I may have a “good riddance party” on December 31st. Caviar and deviled eggs came up the most often along with lots of booze. Cottage pudding came up often, too.” (Note: We are now 100 years from beginning of the Roaring 20’s.)
What is Cottage Pudding?
According to Alice: “Cottage Pudding recipes were bountiful and it looked easy to make. There is no cottage cheese in the recipe. It is a yellow cake, usually baked in an 8 “x 8” square pan and topped with jam, lemon curd or chocolate sauce. Hey, didn’t I have that in school lunch, the college cafeteria or at a buffet? I didn’t know it had a name. First of all, it is a cake and not a pudding. Dam those Brits, they have a secret code or spelling for lots of things. I found out that the British call lots of sweets and desserts “pudding.” Now, I understand Harry Potter books. When Harry was trying to describe the spread of food at Hogwarts, he referred to the assortment of puddings. I like a good pudding occasionally, but there is more to the world of desserts than pudding.”
Making the Cake
To make a traditional English Cottage Pudding, you need a small cake pan. These cakes are traditionally baked in an 8″ x 8″ square cake pan. The recipe is just enough to make one layer, not an American-style two-layer cake. If you don’t have one of these cake pans, check out my BFF (Best Friend Forever) — Amazon — who makes shopping so, so easy. I found a non-stick 8″ square cake pan at a very reasonable price on Amazon. Never left my house to go shopping. So easy (and addictive.)
Alice states: “The first time that I made the recipe, I thought that it had too much baking powder. The batter looked good. You will have to take my word for it. The second time I made the recipe, I made the cake with only three teaspoons of baking powder. And I cooked it for 5 minutes less than the original recipe.” And so we have adapted the written recipe instructions using Alice’s modifications.
Here are the ingredients for the cake. Alice used King Arthur 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Flour and lactose-free milk in the cake batter. With this brand of flour, simply substitute equal amounts King Arthur Gluten-Free flour for regular all-purpose flour in pastries and desserts. The cake turned out great, although it did have a slightly different texture. A word of caution; not all gluten-free flours can be substituted in equal amounts. Check the instructions on the brand that you are using. Also, gluten-free flour can’t be used for yeast breads or other recipes which require kneading; only cakes and pastries and similar foods. Of course, you can use all-purpose flour if you are not interested in making a gluten-free cake.
Alice used lactose-free milk in her cake. I used Almond Breeze Vanilla Unsweetened milk in my cake. And I used almond extract rather than vanilla extract — either could be used.
Make the cake like any homemade yellow cake recipe. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until smooth and airy. Add the egg and vanilla or almond extract. Then add the flour-baking-powder-salt mixture alternating with the lactose-free milk or almond milk. It’s not hard! Bake in oiled 8″ x 8″ cake pan.
Here is Alice’s Cake.
Toppings for Cottage Pudding
The hallmark of a Cottage Pudding is really the toppings. Chocolate Sauce and Lemon Curd are traditional toppings. Use your imagination. Alice tried several different ones. Alice states:
“The first try at making the cottage cake, I simply dusted it with powdered sugar. The second piece, I spread strawberry jelly on top. The third piece was topped with homemade lemon curd. The strawberry jelly got my vote for the best tasting cottage pudding. The lemon curd came in second and the powdered sugar came in third.” Alice made homemade lemon curd for her cake using a recipe from “My Recipes” by Southern Living. See the reference for a link to “Quick and Easy Lemon Curd.”
So, we are really enjoying Alice’s recipe and are delighted that the gluten-free cake turned out so well. Here’s my Cottage Pudding with Fresh Cherry Sauce. Hope you will like the cake, too. Thanks for the blog post idea and recipe!
Alice's Small English Cottage Pudding
- 1/4 cup margarine (not diet margarine)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp almond extract or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup lactose-free milk or almond vanilla unsweetened milk
- 2-1/4 cup King Arthur 1:! Gluten-Free Flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- toppings of lemon curd, strawberry jam, powdered sugar or cherry sauce
Method and Steps:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8″ x 8″ baking pan.
- Cream margarine in medium-sized bowl of electric mixer until softened.
- Gradually pour in sugar. Cream mixture on medium speed-high until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add egg and vanilla extract and mix until blended.
- In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.
- On low speed of mixer, add approximately 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until blended. Scrape down sides as needed. Alternate adding flour and milk, ending with flour.
- Pour batter into oiled cake pan and level off top of batter. Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from oven, cool on wire rack and cut into serving pieces.
- Top with optional toppings of lemon curd, strawberry jam, powdered sugar or cherry sauce.