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Wassail Custard


Wassailers toasting the orchard
Image: Unknown

A form of Trifle based on sponge or bread soaked in rich wine, topped with custard and decorated with nuts. Known from newspaper reports at least since the 1820s. This seems to be a development of the spiced ale or cider most traditionally used to salute the orchard trees at Wassail, combined, perhaps with the tradition of egg-based celebratory drinks such as Egg-Hot or Butter-Beer.

Original Receipt in 'The Cook and Housewife's Manual' (1828) by 'Mrs Margaret Dods' (Christian Isobel Johnstone) (Johnstone 1828)

937. Wassail-Bowl a centre Supper Dish for Christmastide Crumble down as for Trifle a nice fresh cake (or use macaroons or other small biscuit) into a china punch-bowl or deep glass dish. Over this pour some sweet rich wine, as Malmsey or Madeira, if wanted very rich, but raisin-wine will do. Sweeten this, and pour a well- seasoned rich custard over it. Strew nutmeg and grated sugar over it, and stick it over with sliced blanched almonds. Ohs, This is, in fact, just a rich eating posset, or the more modem Tipsy Cake, A very good wassail-bowl may be made, with mild ale, well spiced and sweetened, and a plain custard made with few eggs. The wassail-bowl was anciently crowned with garlands and ribbons, and ushered in with carols and songs.

Original Receipt from 'Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery' (Cassell 1883)

Wassail Custard.A wassail custard is really a tipsy cake under another name. Cover the bottom of a punch bowl or a deep glass dish with a mixture of macaroons, ratafias, and sponge biscuits, all crumbled. Moisten with sherry or raisin wine, and add a glassful of brandy and the strained juice of a lemon. Let the biscuits stand in a cool place for an hour, till they have absorbed the wine. Cover them with some rich, highly seasoned custard, sprinkle grated nutmeg and powdered sugar lightly upon the surface, and ornament with blanched and sliced almonds.

Original Receipt from 'Pot-luck; or, The British home cookery book' by May Byron (Byron 1914)

611. WASSAIL CUSTARD (Hertfordshire)

Line a dish with slices of stale sponge cakes, ratafia biscuits, and macaroons. Mix the juice of a lemon with a little raisin wine and pour it over the cakes. When these have quite absorbed the liquor, pour a pint of good custard over, and decorate the top with angelica, chopped cherries, and a little chopped pistachio nut.

Original Receipt from Daily Mirror - Tuesday 20 December 1932

WASSAIL CUSTARD Line a dish with slices of stale sponge-cake, biscuits and macaroons. Mix the juice of a lemon with a little raisin wine and pour over the cakes. When quite absorbed pour a pint of custard over and decorate with cherries, almonds and pistachio nuts. Stale bread can be used, but this should be sweetened to taste. From Mrs. Armitage, Hemel Hempstead.

See also: Wassail Bowl

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