A pudding with such a regal name must be of royal origin. Except it isn’t. Some claim it was invented in honour of Queen Victoria, but it wasn’t. Puddings using milk-soaked bread, custard and jam were plenty in historical cookery books. The first time one appears under the name queen of puddings is in Massey and Son’s Comprehensive Pudding Book, where it is named ‘A queen’s pudding’. The pudding is made of a layer of custard thickened with breadcrumbs, on which a layer of jam is spread followed by a layer of pretty meringue swirls.
Add one pound of bread crumbs to one quart of milk, a quarter of a pound of sugar, the zest of a lemon, No.986, two ounces of butter, and four eggs; bake in a buttered pie dish; when done, spread the top of the pudding with apricot jam, and mask with meringue, No.979; set in the hot closet, and serve cold with whipt cream in a boat.
Massey and Son’s Comprehensive Pudding Book, 1865
The modern recipe usually uses raspberry jam (it appears the Brits have a love for raspberry jam). Alan Davidson, author of the formidable Oxford Companion to Food (3rd edition, 2006) notes that this pudding, in its modern form, is one of the best British puddings.