Mrs Beeton was a bestseller in her time. While her critics say she didn't write most the recipes, and that Eliza Acton was the first to include a list of ingredients, she is the best known cookery writer of the period. She certainly knew what her audience wanted, and could be considered as the first celebrity chef.
In view of the current economic situation, and thinking that the chancellor may need some sustenance in these troubled time, I picked this pudding for my first Mrs B recipe.
Cabinet or Chancellor's Pudding
Ingredients - 1 1/2 oz candied peel, 4 oz of currants, 4 dozen sultanas, a few slices of Savoy cake, sponge cake, a French roll, 4 eggs, 1 pint milk, grated lemon-rind, 1/4 nutmeg, 3 table-spoonfuls of sugar.
Melt some butter to a paste, and with it, well grease the mould or basin in which the pudding is to be boiled, taking care that it is buttered in ever part. Grease the mould, thoroughly. This is important, as you want to be able to turn out your pudding once it's done to present to your guests, not dig it out the mould.
Cut the peel into thin slices, and place these in a fanciful device at the bottom of the mould, and fill in the spaces between with currants and sultanas; then add a few slices of sponge cake or French roll; drop a few drops of melted butter on these, and between each layer sprinkle a few currents. Proceed in this manner til the mould is nearly full; Simply build up the fruit and cake it layers
then flavour the milk with nutmeg and grated lemon-rind; add the sugar, and stir to this the eggs, which should be well beaten. Beat this mixture for a few minutes; then strain it into the mould, which should be quite full; This is your basic custard to go over the cake.
tie a piece of buttered paper over it, and let it stand for 2 hours; then tie it down with a cloth, put it into boiling water, and let it boil slowly for 1 hour. I used a plastic pudding basin with a lid. I trust Mrs B would recommend the same if they'd only been invented, as it's much easier. Just don't fill it too full, or the lid might ping off when your pudding expands.
In taking it up, let it stand for a minute or two before the cloth is removed; then quickly turn it out of the mould or basin, and serve with the sweet sauce separately. Miraculously, my pudding turned out! The 'fanciful device' was a little worse for wear, but otherwise perfect. I served it with a little jam sauce.
The pudding was absolutely delicious. I was a bit worried, as I'd had a nibble of the cake while building up the pudding, and it was pretty nasty. So, a real Cinderella story for the supermarket sponge. I'd also been expecting it to be quite stodgy, but it was very light, more like a baked custard than a heavy pudding. The fruit was soft from soaking up the liquid, not at all chewy. Couldn't taste the lemon, but Mrs B does suggest you could substitute essence of vanilla or bitter almonds, or make it richer with cream. I loved it just the way it was. Mrs B says seasonable at any time and I agree. I don't know why it ever went out of fashion.