Friday, June 8, 2012

Pompadour Pudding

by Sheila Connolly

I post this recipe in honor of my college reunion this past weekend. Pompadour Pudding was one of our signature desserts, and we alumnae are still talking about it (well, that and the chocolate-peppermint pie…).

I don't know about your college experience, but back in my day meals were a big deal.  The menu didn't matter, just the break, sitting with friends, and so on.  Of course, in those distant days each dormitory had its own kitchen and made a lot of its food from scratch.  Now, mainly for economy reasons, the kitchens have been consolidated, and students must actually leave their dorm to eat (not much fun during New England winters!).  On the plus side, there is far more diversity than there once was (including one vegan/vegetarian/kosher dorm kitchen), and the hours are far more flexible.  Life, including food, marches on.

I've had this recipe for years.  I own custard cups because of it (I found them at a yard sale).  I know, nobody makes custard any more, but in this case I think it's worth it.  The custard is sweet and creamy, topped with a crisp and chocolaty crust that melts on the tongue.  And the whole thing is actually easy to make.

Makes 4


1½ cups whole milk
4 Tblsp. sugar
1 Tblsp. flour
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
½ tsp. vanilla

Mix all the custard ingredients except the vanilla and cook slowly (in a double-boiler if you have one) until it thickens slightly.  Add the vanilla last.

Pour the mixture into heatproof custard cups.

Chocolate meringue topping:

½ square chocolate (semisweet)
2 Tblsp. sugar
1 egg white
1 Tblsp. milk

Grate or finely chop the chocolate, then cook it together with the sugar and milk until the chocolate is melted.  Let the mixture cool (but not too much or it will stiffen).

Beat the egg white until stiff peaks form.  Fold into the cool chocolate mixture.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the meringue over the custard in the cups (it will float).

Set the custard cups into a pan of hot water (the water should come only partway up the sides).  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven the meringue is domed and looks crisp on the surface.

How long? Well, the original recipe said something like "cook until done."  I looked at an old Fanny Farmer cookbook recipe for custard and it said the same thing.  But this is not very time-sensitive.  I cooked mine (in the water-filled pan) for an hour, and the custard was set but not rubbery and the topping was crisp. 

And it tastes just the way it used to.


  1. Gosh, your food must have been a lot better than ours Sheila! I'm wondering where in the world the name "Pompadour pudding" came from?

  2. Lucy, in one of those middle-of-the-night moments it occurred to me, "why pompadour?" Nobody ever explained it, but I'm going to guess that it was due to the poofy topping, resembling the hairstyle. I'd welcome any other suggestions.

  3. I'm agreeing with Lucy... this was on a dorm menu??? Wow

    I have sadly fond memories of meatloaf surprise (and the surprise was usually how little actual meat was in it).


  4. What a wonderful, nostalgic recipe!

    In my dorm, we had TERRIBLE food, except for a cook on the breakfast shift who made the most amazing muffins. I wish, oh how I wish, I had his chocolate chip muffin recipe. I've never had any that came close.

  5. Pudding and meringue! Two of my favorites together. How come I never thought of this? Oh, yum! And, BTW, I have custard cups, too! ; )

    ~ Krista

  6. I was 30 pounds heavier in college, thanks to the wonderful desserts I ate at Wellesley in the late 50's. Our dorm was lucky enough to have the Wayside Inn's pastry cook in its kitchen. Pompadour pudding was one of my favorites, and I was thrilled to find the recipe in our alumnae magazine a few years ago. It different quite a bit from yours. It called for 3 C milk, 1 square of Baker's chocolate, bake for 30 min. (I think 45 min. would be better to make the souffle crisp). Also it called for 2 T cornstarch, not flour. It said it would take 5-7 min. to get the custard thickened, but it takes me 25 min., even after I preheated the milk! It is as delicious as the original was in 1958.

    1. I was there just a wee bit later (oh, all right, a decade) than you, but it's lovely that the tradition lives on. Do they still serve it at Wellesley, do you think? And I envy you your pastry chef!

  7. Pompadour pudding was still going strong when I was there in the early '70's (though the little blue custard cups were apparently disappearing at an alarming rate). My daughter (class of 2010) had never heard of it until we made it today - from the same recipe Mary Sauer cites. We concur with her suggested increases in cooking time.

  8. When I was there we called that dessert "Bus Seats" because that's what it looked like. I'd like to try and make it again.

  9. I don't have custard cups, can you make this in a small casserole with quantities adjusted? And what would you do about timing? It was my favorite dessert then. Louise French '58.