How do you make a pudding fit for the Queen? It’s a tough brief (not least because at 96, Her Majesty must have eaten some truly exceptional puddings in her time) but it’s one that bakers all over the country will be spending the next three weeks trying to fathom. The Platinum Pudding Competition, launched by Fortnum and Mason to commemorate the upcoming jubilee, is in full swing, and I couldn’t resist throwing my hat in the ring.
The criteria is simple enough: it must taste great, be easy for amateur bakers to make at home, and it should have a story behind it.
I thought of making something involving leftovers initially, knowing how the Queen can’t abide waste. An Apple Betty, perhaps – a great way to use up stale bread by bathing it in an unholy amount of brown sugar and butter. It’s one of my favourite things but it isn’t exactly a looker; more a tray of bubbling beige. To satisfy the brief, it really needs to be a bake that means something to you; I soon realised my great-grandmother’s trifle was just the thing.
I never met Eleanor Henry, but I’m named for her. In my mind’s eye she’s the tiny old lady in a hat in the faded picture in my mum’s house, who kept toffees by her armchair and liked watching Match of the Day with a plate of meringues. But she also ran a pub in Belsize Park and by all accounts was a pretty fierce landlady. Her sherry trifle, I’m told, was legendary. We still make trifle every Christmas, Easter, the odd Sunday lunch, in her cut-glass bowl. My parents’ kitchen is haphazard at the best of times – every shelf is stacked precariously – but Great Nanna Eleanor’s trifle bowl is kept on a high shelf away from harm, and only my mum is allowed to get it down.
As is so often the case with family recipes, hers isn’t written down, it’s just in my mum’s head. Trifle sponges, a heavy-handed dousing of sherry, raspberry jam, tinned custard, whipped cream and, naturally, plenty of glacé cherries and silver balls on top. This incarnation is a slight update on her original, with homemade lemon custard, a few poached raspberries, and a slosh of Dubonnet along with the sherry – a nod to the Queen’s favourite tipple.