19th Century: Treacle Sponge Pudding


Preparation info

  • Makes


    large pudding in a 16 cm 6 inch /No. 36) basin (mould)
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Pride and Pudding: The History of British Puddings, Savoury and Sweet

Pride and Pudding

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2016

  • About

There is a tale that tells of the secret treacle mines in England, and everyone knows about them, but no-one knows exactly where they are. There are old folk who remember talking to a treacle miner back in the day, or so they tell their grandchildren …

Treacle, called molasses in America, began to be mass-produced in 1950 by the British manufacturer, Lyle’s. Treacle pudding, like treacle tart, began to be made with golden syrup (light treacle) after it was invented in the 1880s by Lyle’s, which still exclusively produces Golden Syrup and Black Treacle today. Both thick sweet syrups are a byproduct of the sugar cane refining process, but have a completely different taste.

Many Brits will think of their schooldays when a steamed treacle pudding is presented to them. It was one of those classic school-dinner puds, like spotted dick.

The earliest recipe for treacle pudding that I could find dates from 1852, but it doesn’t look like the pudding we know today.

A Treacle Pudding.

Ingredients, two pounds of flour, twelve ounces of treacle, six ounces of suet or dripping fat, a quarter of an ounce of baking-powder, a pinch of allspice, a little salt, one pint of milk, or water. Mix the whole of the above-named ingredients in a pan, into a firm compact paste; tie it up in a well-greased and floured pudding-cloth; boil the pudding for at least two hours and a-half, and when done, cut it in slices, and pour a little sweetened melted butter over it.

Charles Elme Francatelli, A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, 1852

It is hard to tell how the treacle in Francatelli’s recipe would have tasted. Lyle’s Black Treacle is quite bitter, while some other brands of molasses are softer in flavour. The first treacle puds were made with a suet dough like that of the spotted dick: it was only at the start of the twentieth century that a sponge cake batter became more popular.

Mrs C F Leyel’s book, Puddings (1927), gives a recipe for boiled treacle pudding. It is made by making layers of suet dough in a pudding basin, covering each layer with syrup and a squeeze of lemon, then boiling it by wrapping the basin in a cloth. In the same book she also gives a recipe for a treacle sponge, in which she instructs the cook to create a sponge cake mixture using golden syrup and adds ground ginger as a flavouring. Other cookery books of the early twentieth century also use golden syrup and a sponge batter becomes standard.

Beware, this pudding will give you a sugar rush: don’t say I didn’t warn you!