How to Make Spotted Dick, a Traditional British Pudding

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The name raises eyebrows, but this dessert is delicious! Here's how to make spotted dick with custard sauce.

If you’re looking for an old-fashioned dessert that also serves as an interesting conversation starter, this British pudding is just the ticket. Learn how to make spotted dick, a treat with a wonderful, lightly-sweet flavor that’s made even better with a drizzle of vanilla custard sauce.

Make this and other British-style recipes to celebrate the Queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee!

What Is Spotted Dick?

It’s a type of traditional English pudding—a term that needs elaboration because it’s different from Americans’ Jell-O type of puddings. In the U.K., there are two categories of pudding. You may be familiar with savory pudding, like black pudding sausages and batter-based Yorkshire puddings made with meat drippings. But “pudding” also refers to a number of desserts, either steam-cooked or baked. The texture of dessert puddings might be heavy with liquor, fruits and nuts like a holiday plum pudding, or have a lighter, cake-like texture like that of spotted dick.

As for the unusual name of this dessert, “spotted” refers to the dark currants suspended in the light cake, and “dick” comes from puddick or puddog, Old English versions of the word pudding. (This pudding is sometimes called a spotted dog.) Because the traditional name tends to raise eyebrows and prompt crude jokes, some government dining halls in England reportedly refer to this dessert as “spotted Richard” instead!

Here are more British foods with highly unusual names.

Key Ingredients in Spotted Dick

Suet or Butter

The fat used in a traditional spotted dick is suet, an ingredient found in many English recipes. This fat comes from the kidney area of cows or sheep and gives dishes a rich, slightly savory flavor. However, butter works just as well in this recipe and is easier to find than suet.

Baking powder

The cake-like texture of this dessert is thanks to baking powder in the batter which helps it rise. It works first when milk is added and again with heat from the steam-cooking process.

Currants

Tiny, chewy, dried currants give this pudding sweetness and texture, as well as its “spotted” appearance. Look for dried currants, often labeled as Zante currants, in the same aisle as raisins and other dried fruits.

How to Make Spotted Dick with Custard Sauce

This dessert is adapted from a recipe shared with the BBC by celebrity chef James Martin. It’s made in a 1-quart bowl and serves 4-6 people.

Ingredients

Spotted Dick ingredientsNancy Mock for Taste of Home

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar (superfine or granulated can also be used)
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup milk

Custard:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tools You’ll Need

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the bowl and pot

Spotted Dick bowl and potNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Find a lidded Dutch oven or pot, large enough to hold a 1-quart pudding bowl that has a rim.

Determine how much water you’ll need in the pot: Fill the pudding bowl with water and set it in the pot. Add water to the pot until it comes three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pudding bowl. Remove the bowl. Cover the pot and set it on the stovetop over medium-high heat to begin heating to a boil.

Pour out the water from the pudding bowl, dry it off, then generously butter the inside of the bowl. Hold this aside.

Step 2: Prepare the covering and twine

Spotted Dick preparationNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to wrap over the top and sides of the pudding bowl. Fold a pleat down the center of the paper. Butter one side of the parchment paper. Cut a piece of aluminum foil the same size as the parchment, and fold a pleat down the center of the foil. (The pleats in both pieces will allow for expansion in the batter.) Hold these aside.

Cut a piece of kitchen twine to 72 inches—this will be used to tie the coverings over the bowl and to create a handle.

Step 3: Prepare the batter

Spotted Dick Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Grate the cold butter into the mixture, then toss the butter pieces until they’re coated in flour. Stir in the sugar, currants, and lemon and orange zest. Pour the milk into the bowl and stir until the mixture becomes a thick batter. Spoon the batter into the buttered pudding bowl.

Step 4: Cover and tie the pudding bowl

Spotted Dick cover and tie bowlNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Cover the pudding bowl with the parchment, buttered side down. Place the foil over the parchment and fold both down all around the bowl. Tie the twine around the bowl over the foil; it should go around the bowl twice and sit just under the rim. Pull it tight, then tie a knot. Bring the ends over to the opposite side of the bowl, tuck them through the twine under the rim and tie another knot—this creates a handle to lift the bowl. Trim off any extra foil and parchment, leaving about an inch hanging below the twine.

Editor’s Tip: The tight covering of parchment and foil allows the spotted dick to steam cook while preventing water from seeping into the pudding bowl.

Step 5: Steam the pudding

Once the water in the pot is boiling, use the twine handle to lower the pudding bowl into the water. (If you want, you can put a folded piece of cloth under the pudding bowl, so it doesn’t rattle.) Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and steam-cook the pudding for 60-65 minutes. The simmering water should always be about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pudding bowl; check the level once or twice during cooking and add more water if necessary.

You can check for doneness with a digital thermometer. Poke the thermometer through the foil and parchment into the center of the spotted dick; it’s done when the temperature reaches 180°F.

Step 6: Unmold the pudding

Spotted Dick unmoldedNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Use the twine handle to lift the pudding bowl out of the water. Remove the twine and coverings, and run a knife around the edge of the cooked pudding. Use potholders to hold the bowl while you invert it over a serving plate. The spotted dick should release cleanly from the bowl.

Step 7: Make the custard sauce

Spotted Dick custard sauceNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a small bowl. Pour the milk, heavy cream and vanilla into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Once the milk is simmering, remove the pan from the heat. Slowly add a few tablespoons of the hot milk to the egg yolks while whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling.

Then, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the milk in the pan. Return the pan to the burner over low heat, and whisk the mixture for a just few minutes until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but still pourable. Transfer the custard to a serving bowl or pitcher.

Step 8: Serve the spotted dick

Spotted DickNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Serve slices of spotted dick while warm or at room temperature, with custard sauce spooned or poured over the top.

Tips for Making Spotted Dick

How do you store spotted dick?

This pudding tastes the best the day you make it, but leftover spotted dick can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Store cooled custard sauce in the fridge for up to three days as well.

What’s the best type of sugar to use in spotted dick?

Recipes for spotted dick may call for caster sugar, which is a common ingredient in English baking. The texture of caster sugar falls between granulated and powdered sugar, and the closest American equivalent is superfine sugar. This finer texture is important in recipes like meringues and hot drinks because it dissolves more quickly. If caster or superfine types of sugars aren’t available in your area, the good news is that granulated sugar will work just as well.

What is a pudding mold?

Traditional steamed pudding recipes like spotted dick may call for a pudding mold, which can be a heatproof, ceramic bowl like we use in this recipe, or a metal basin with a clamp-on lid and a center tube much like a Bundt pan has. If you have a metal pudding mold, use it to make spotted dick. Since it has a lid, you won’t need to tie on a parchment and foil cover. Metal pudding molds like this are available in kitchen stores and online shops.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making a full dessert, try out some of this delicious British candy.

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.