Manchester Tart or Pudding: Wartime Recipe and Variations
As part of a series of low-cost recipes from wartime (or the 1950s), I am pleased to include a recipe for the Manchester tart, a much-loved dessert by those in the area that was even supplied by the local authorities as part of a school lunch.
The forerunner of this tart was known as the Manchester pudding, which goes back to around 1860 and the days of Mrs. Beeton. Some people prefer the older version, so I have included recipes for both. They have basic similarities, but although called a pudding, it was really more of a tart, as some versions incorporated pastry.
The first recipe is a relatively simple and modern one.
Manchester Pudding (Without Pastry)
8 oz sponge cake crumbs (I think these can be bought as sponge fingers for trifles, and then you can crumble them up.)
- 2 oz granulated sugar
- 2 large free-range eggs (or powdered egg or carton of egg white, although meringue is difficult to achieve with this. You can also buy cartons of egg yolks.)
- 1 pint whole milk
- Grated rind of an unwaxed lemon
- A nice raspberry jam
- Separate the egg whites and yolks, and set aside.
- Crumble the sponge cake into crumbs and set aside.
- Using a large mixing bowl beat the milk, egg yolks, and 1 oz sugar together.
- Stir the grated lemon rind into the cake crumbs and add to the egg/milk mixture.
- Pour the mixture into a greased dish and bake in an oven for about 45 mins or until the mixture is set. Remove from oven and spread the surface with a layer of jam.
- Beat the egg whites stiffly just before pudding is ready, and mix in remaining sugar. Cover the pudding with this meringue mixture.
- Return to oven until meringue is coloured (meaning slightly brown/caramelized). You can use a blowtorch lightly to colour off the peaks.
Manchester Pudding (With Pastry)
This is the older Mrs. Beeton's version of Manchester tart from about 1860. She calls it Manchester Pudding, but it uses pastry, so is really a tart.
- 3 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
- ⅔ pint or 10 fl oz whole milk
- Strips unwaxed lemon peel
- 2 large free-range eggs, beaten (or powdered egg)
- 2 large free-range egg yolks (save whites in fridge or cool shelf for later cooking)
- 2 oz unsalted butter (or use homemade)
- 2 oz granulated sugar, more or less to taste
- 8 oz puff or flaky pastry
- 3 Tablespoon brandy
- A good-quality raspberry jam
- Glacé cherries
- Infuse the lemon rind in the milk for about half an hour to an hour. Then pour into a saucepan, through a strainer, into the breadcrumbs, and boil it for about three minutes.
- Allow to cool a little (otherwise you will end up with scrambled egg), and then add the eggs and yolks, butter, sugar, and brandy. Mix together, and leave to cool.
- Roll out the pastry, and use it to line a pie plate or flan dish.
- Spread it with a thick layer of jam, pour on the above mixture, and bake for about one hour at 375 F/190 C. Make sure the top does not become too brown.
- Serve cold with some glacé cherries and a little sugar sprinkled on top.
This recipe will serve five to six people.
For any of you that went to school in the Manchester area, this will remind you of the best part of school “dinners.” I have given two recipes here as it varies—a lot—from one side of the Manchester area to the other. The recipes given are for a full-size tart, but sometimes they were made as individual tartlets.
Version One (More Simple)
- 1¼ pints or 20 fl oz full-fat milk
- 1 sheet ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
- 4 tablespoons raspberry jam
- 3 tablespoons custard powder (use proper Bird's Custard powder if possible)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or one vanilla pod cut open
- 5 tablespoons desiccated coconut
- 4 tablespoons caster sugar, divided between custard and topping.
- Glace cherries (if you have any left from pre-war or use British cherries, stoned and soaked in sugar syrup)
- Preheat oven to 200ºC/390ºF.
- Line a ten-inch round, lightly greased baking tin with pastry.
- Prick the base all over with a fork.
- Lay a sheet of baking parchment on top and cover with baking beans.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove the beans and baking parchment and let cool.
- Meanwhile, make the custard. Place milk, custard powder, two tablespoons sugar, and one teaspoon vanilla extract into a saucepan. Stir until smooth and gently heat until it starts to thicken.
- Set aside to cool slightly.
- Spread jam thickly over pastry case and sprinkle with half the coconut.
- Pour in custard, sprinkle with coconut, and add glacé cherries and remaining sugar.
- Chill until ready to serve.
This recipe will serve six people.
Version Two (Slightly More Complicated)
This recipe is a little more complicated and probably could not be made until the mid-1950s, but you can simplify it by using ready-made pastry.
To make the pastry:
- 5 oz of unsalted butter
- 3½ oz of caster sugar
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- 6 oz of plain flour
- 1 tsp of baking powder
To make the filling:
- 7 oz of raspberry jam
- 2 tbsp of caster sugar
- 2 tbsp of rum
- 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 4 bananas, ripened and sliced
To make the custard:
- 1½ pints of semi-skimmed milk
- 4 free-range egg yolks
- 4 tbsp of caster sugar
- 5 tbsp of custard powder
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180°C. Very lightly grease a 12in x 8in x 2in baking tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
- Beat in the egg, and then fold in the flour mixed with the baking powder.
- Flatten down the mixture in the tin using the back of a wooden spoon.
- Prick all over with a fork.
- Cover with baking parchment, and cover with baking beads.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown colour.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes.
- Remove beads and paper.
- For the filling, spread the cooled base thickly with the jam.
- Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add the sugar to the pan and melt to form a caramel. Make sure you don’t burn the sugar; you'll want to be swirling it all the time.
- Add the rum. Do not flame. Then whisk in the butter.
- Add the banana slices and toss gently until completely coated and caramelised.
- Layer caramelised banana on top of the raspberry jam, and then place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- To make the custard, put the milk in a saucepan, bring gently to a boil (make sure you don’t scald the milk), and then reduce the heat.
- Using a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, custard powder, and an extra splash of milk together until smooth and without lumps.
- Pour a little of the hot milk onto the mixture, whisk well, and then add it back to the hot milk.
- Gently cook the custard over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens considerably.
- Pour the custard on top of the banana-caramel mixture.
- Sprinkle it with the coconut, and then refrigerate for 30-40 minutes until the tart is set.
This recipe is probably too rich for wartime, as it would take too many of your rations, and bananas were not available until well after the war had finished.
© 2013 Peter Geekie