Beautiful Sponge Pudding

The recipe

Ingredients:

  • Small tea cup of sugar
  • Large table spoon butter
  • 2 level table spoon flour (plain)*
  • 2 eggs
  • a little grated rind of lemon, juice of lemon
  • breakfast cup of milk

Method:

Cream butter and sugar – add flour lemon, yolks of eggs, milk

Just before placing in oven, fold in beaten whites of eggs

Bake in pie dish placed in pan of boiling water about 45 minutes

* to make this gluten free, substitute for fine brown rice flour

Notes for a modern kitchen

Ingredients:

  • ¾ of a cup of caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 level tablespoons of plain flour
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Grated rind of one lemon or a ⅓ of a cup
  • 1 cup of milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and grease an ovenproof dish (or separate ramekins).

Mix butter, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest and milk in a bowl and whisk to combine. sift in caster sugar and flour and then combine.

In a clean bowl mix the egg whites together into a soft peak, then fold into butter and flour mixture gently.

Spoon mixture into your baking dish gently, then place in a larger baking dish. Pour boiling water into the larger dish until it comes halfway up the side of the original dish. Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden and just set.

What to look for in ‘beautiful pudding’:

Tart lemons, sweet. Plenty of sauce (this is a ‘self-saucing pudding’) that has a nice custard thickness to it. The ‘pudding’ part should float gently in the sauce and be light, fluffy and moderately high with a slightly gold crust on top. Fold everything in gently! We also recommend using self-raising flour for this recipe.

Serve with: Cold, thickened cream.

The significance

Australia’s colonial history is expressed very much through its relationship to British food, whether that is in terms of the types of food eaten, or in traditions around eating. For large parts of the country – both rural and regional –it was traditional to serve a ‘pudding’ after a Sunday roast (roast lamb and vegetables, roast pork, roast chicken, etc). The common United States understanding of pudding to be made of curd or custard, is what the British and Australians classify as either custards, blancmange or jelly. For Australians, pudding is primarily cake mixtures that are steamed or boiled, with or without added fruits. Puddings were traditionally both sweet and savoury. Thus ‘black pudding’ sausage is where the blood and other spices are boiled to create the sausage. In the case of ‘beautiful pudding’ the dish is cooked primarily by boiling the dish of water the pudding sits in. Versions of this recipe can be traced back to seventeenth-century England.

The Berrambool cookbook originates from a small town down on the southwest coast in the state of Victoria. Berrambool is close to Warrnambool, now perhaps most famous for its whale watching. The recipe book was compiled by Mrs Jessie Moffat in 1915 to raise money for the Wycliffe Hall Improvement Fund. Wycliffe is on the banks of the Hopkins River near Warrnambool. Our copy containing the recipe “beautiful pudding”, attributed to Molly Miller, likely belonged to Eileen Ann Mahon*, whose family ran the Middle Park Hotel. Eileen was born in Middle Park in 1891, the second daughter of Elizabeth Mary Mahon (nee Monks) and John Mahon. Sadly John took his own life at the hotel in 1903. Elizabeth (known as Bessie) became the licensed victualler of the hotel.

While the “E. Mahon” could equally be referring to Elizabeth, Eileen definitely owned the copy at some point as there is a letter addressed to “my dear Eileen” tucked into the pages. The letter was likely written by the wife of Samuel Steel, who lived at 9 Beach Rd, Hampton at the time. The writer refers to Sam telling her that Eileen was looking for marmalade “receipts”.

The social pages of the Melbourne newspapers reveal that Eileen, her mother, and sisters (Frances, Mary, Elizabeth, and Kathleen) were frequent attendees at events like the Old Collegians ball, the Carmelite ball, and bridge parties. Another frequent guest at these same events was Mary Marjorie Foy Miller, known as Molly. The Miller family also lived in Canterbury Rd, Middle Park (in 1912). Molly was born in Fitzroy North in 1889, and her father James A. Miller was a partner in a successful printing business (JJ Miller and Co.). Later the family moved to “Moyston” in Burke Rd, East Malvern where Molly lived until her death in 1973.

Eileen Mahon died in 1965, and had no children to pass her recipe book on to.

*There were only a few Eileen Mahons living in Victoria between 1915 (when the book was initially published) and WWII (the date of a number of recipes clipped from Melbourne newspapers). Only one, Eileen Ann, lived in the bayside area.