“Irish Bread Pudding with Whiskey Custard Sauce”

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m making “Irish Bread Pudding.” You may ask, what is so Irish about bread pudding? I am making my favorite New Orleans-style bread pudding recipe and I am adding Irish Cream to the custard. Irish Cream is a liqueur containing whiskey, cream and various flavors such as coffee and vanilla extracts, sometimes chocolate. To be labeled legally as “Irish Cream Liqueur,” the whiskey must be produced in Ireland. Bailey’s Irish Cream is the quintessential Irish brand of this liqueur. When the Irish Cream Liqueur is added to this extra-rich bread pudding, the dessert really has some kick. And as some interesting trivia, New Orleans actually has a significant Irish population. The first Irish immigrated to this city in the late 1700’s, attracted because of Catholic traditions. More Irish settled in the city during the potato famines. The first Patrick’s Day celebration was held in 1809  So, let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a festive manner with this “Irish-inspired” dessert.

For the topping sauce, I found a bottle of Irish Whiskey stashed away in a kitchen cabinet. Since we don’t drink a lot of whiskey, I had really forgotten that we had this bottle but my husband remembered! And it still tastes like good whiskey. It will add flavor and authenticity to my “Whiskey Custard Sauce.” Yum. The sauce really adds a nice sweetness and punch to the bread pudding — don’t skip it.

Adapting a traditional New Orleans Bread Pudding Recipe

For my “Irish Bread Pudding” recipe, I adapted my favorite classic New Orleans recipe for bread pudding. The basic recipe is the same but flavorings are different. I like to use traditional French bread in the recipe because it is coarse and airy and soaks up the custard so well. If this is not available, challah also works great in the recipe. I added raisins to the bread pudding, as traditional Irish soda bread often contains raisins.

I downsized the ingredients in this recipe just a bit from my original one. It makes a smaller bread pudding but it is still plenty to serve six people. This dessert is so rich, you don’t need large servings.

This recipe uses Irish Cream to make it an authentic “Irish Bread Pudding.” Bailey’s Whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream is the brand most traditionally used in Irish Bread Pudding recipes. However, these liquors are so, so expensive. I found Ryan’s brand of Original Irish Style Cream Liqueur to be quite tasty and much more reasonable for my food budget and so I purchased that brand. The Ryan’s brand is owned by the Sazerac Company which has an interesting connection to New Orleans. I’ll save that story for another blog post.

This recipe doesn’t use the entire bottle of Irish Cream. Refrigerate the remainder and use during the next six months. It makes a great cocktail when served iced and it is also delicious when a little is added to coffee.

Although you can also make your own Irish Cream, I opted to purchase a bottle of liqueur for this recipe.

Making the recipe

To make this dessert, first add the raisins to a little boiling water. Let them soak so that the raisins will plump up. Then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut up the French bread (or challah) to make small bread cubes. French bread is so airy and light; pack the cubes into the measuring cup when measuring them out. Add the cubes to an oiled 9″ diameter springform pan. along with the raisins.

I like to use an electric mixer to mix up the ingredients for the custard to make sure that the eggs and sugar are well-blended. The eggs should be pale yellow and creamy. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients including the melted butter, vanilla extract, low-fat milk, heavy cream and Irish Cream Liqueur.

Pour the custard over the bread cubes and raisins and gently mix together using a spatula. Sop up all the custard on the bottom the bread cubes as the bread cubes will settle down. Setting the springform pan on a baking sheet is helpful, as inevitably some of the custard will leak out the bottom of the springform pan.

Bake the bread pudding in a 325 degree oven for 50 minutes until the custard is very brown on top and cooked through.

“Whiskey Custard Sauce” recipe

Meanwhile, make the “Whiskey Custard Sauce.” The sauce contains half and half cream, an egg, brown sugar, butter, Irish Whiskey and vanilla extract (not shown).

Cooking Skills: Patiently cooking custard sauce

This is a custard sauce which is cooked on the stove. It takes patience to successfully make this sauce. You have to stand by the stove and keep stirring — it just doesn’t work go off and tend to other things. When cooking with cream and eggs, either use a double boiler set-up or turn the burner on the stove to very, very low heat. High stove heat will curdle the eggs and half and half cream. What a mess!

To make the sauce, melt the butter and brown sugar on the stove. Over low heat, stir in the cream and scald (heat until steam appears but don’t boil). Take the pot off the stove, carefully pour small amounts of the hot custard into the beaten egg. Return to stove and cook over low, low heat while stirring constantly for several minutes until the egg custard thickens. Don’t boil. Remove from stove and add the Irish Whiskey and vanilla extract. I ended up with a clumpy custard and needed to strain out the clumps. But it still tastes great. It is okay to sample the sauce; there is plenty!

After the bread pudding has cooled down, run a knife around the inside edge of the springform pan to loosen the bread pudding and remove the sides. Transfer the bread pudding to a serving platter. Add the whiskey sauce. Cut in slices and serve, passing extra Whiskey Custard Sauce.

New Orleans is a true melting pot of cultures. The Irish have blended into this city. I’ll make my traditional French “Bread Pudding” into an Irish one for this holiday. What a better way to celebrate this holiday. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy the recipe.

Irish Bread Pudding with Whiskey Custard Sauce

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 6 cups packed, day-old porous-type French bread (this is 5 to 6 oz of a loaf of French Bread), May substitute challah; in this case, use measurements not weight of bread
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup Ryan’s Original Irish Style Cream Liqueur or similar brand
  • maraschino cherries and fresh mint, optional garnish

Ingredients for Whiskey Custard Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup half and half
  • l large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Irish whiskey

Instructions and Steps:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Oil a 9″ diameter springform cake pan. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Bring water to boil in small sauce pan. Add raisins. Turn heat off, remove pot from stove  and let raisins set for 10 – 15 minutes to plump. Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, cut French bread, including crust, into 1/2 inch cubes. There should be 6 cups of packed French bread cubes. Place in oiled springform cake pan.
  4. Sprinkle drained raisins over the bread crumbs and gently stir in using a spatula. Set the springform pan on the foil-lined baking sheet. Set aside.
  5. In medium-sized bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs on high speed until thick, pale yellow and frothy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add the sugar. Beat on medium speed to blend.
  7. Add melted butter and vanilla extract and blend in.
  8. Beat in low-fat milk, heavy cream and Irish Style Cream Liqueur.
  9. Pour the custard mixture over the bread cubes and raisins. Toss with spatula and gently combine, coating all the bread cubes and sopping up all the custard in the bottom of the springform pan.
  10. Place springform pan on the aluminum-lined baking sheet in 325 degree oven. Bake for 50 minutes until brown and puffy.
  11. Remove from oven, let cool ’till the bread pudding is warm.
  12. Run a knife around the edges of the springform pan to loosen. Remove sides. Place bread pudding on serving platter or cake stand.
  13. Pour Whiskey Custard Sauce over bread pudding. Cut in wedges and serve. Pass additional Whiskey Custard Sauce,
  14. If desired, garnish with maraschino cherries and fresh mint.

Steps and Instructions for Whiskey Custard Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add half and half cream, stirring constantly. Heat over low heat until cream is scalding (steam should escape, but cream should not boil).
  4. Remove cream mixture from stove. Stirring constantly, add several tablespoons of hot cream mixture to egg to temper egg. Continue to slowly stir cream mixture into egg until all is incorporated.
  5. Return to stove. Over very low heat, cook custard until it thickens, for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not boil.
  6. Remove from stove, stir in vanilla extract and Irish Whiskey.
  7. Strain custard to remove clumps, pressing down on sieve.
  8. Transfer to serving bowl.
  9. Store leftover custard in refrigerator.

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