Welcome to “Eating History,” a series in which Jaya Saxena of the New-York Historical Society mines the vast archives of the museum and library in search of vintage images and ephemera that offer a look into how New Yorkers used to dine. Follow the museum @NYHistory for more.

For this my most recent foray into the New-York Historical Society’s Library, I set out in search of a good recipe for Valentine’s Day. In a nameless personal recipe book, I found many contenders, from brownies, to molasses-lace cookies, to crème brûlée, but one stood out above all the rest, just for the name: The Queen of Pudding.

How can you not want to make the Queen of Pudding? It’s a traditional British dessert, consisting of a custard base made by soaking breadcrumbs in milk, then topped with a layer of jam and another of meringue. The book that holds the recipe has no date on it, but it was given to the New-York Historical Society in 1947, with the recipes coming from the “early 1900’s.” Though I wouldn’t be surprised to find this 100-year-old recipe in a bakery today.

The Queen of Pudding

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs (I used Panko and it worked just fine)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp of butter
  • Vanilla, rose, or lemon seasoning (I went with vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups fresh milk
  • ½ cup jelly or jam (I used a raspberry ginger jam I had in my fridge, which had enough tartness to cut through the custard nicely)

Rub the butter into the sugar; beat the yolks of eggs very light, stir together to a cream. The bread crumbs soaked in the milk come next, then seasoning. Bake this in a buttered pudding dish, two-thirds full, until custard is “set.” Spread over with jam or nice fruit conserve. Cover this with a meringue of the whipped whites of eggs and 3 Tablespoons of powdered sugar and cook until the meringue begins to color. Serve cold with cream.

The custard “set” after about an hour at 350°F, and what emerged was a light and elegant dessert that convinced me I have a future as a professional baker. I know we’ve had a lot of follies here, but I must tell you: If you make no other recipe from Eating History, make this one. It’s decadent, it’s colorful, and I just ate it for breakfast.