We know by now that the English have always loved to serve one dish under the guise of another. This imitation plum pudding is no different. It also resembles the Nesselrode pudding, an ice-cream pudding that was very popular in Victorian England but designed in France for Count Nesselrode. Food historian Ivan Day reckons the count’s chef, Monie, probably designed his Nesselrode pudding as a joke to poke fun at the English plum pudding.
There are Nesselrode pudding recipes aplenty in the nineteenth century books, but I was only able to find one version described as an ‘imitation plum cake’.
Imitation plum cake ice
Prepare a custard cream ice with six ounces of chestnut farina added to the other ingredients composing the custard, and mix therewith stoned raisins, currants, candied peels, shred pistachios, and a wine-glassful of curacoa; mould the ice in a Charlotte mould, and when dished up pour a vanilla cream ice half frozen over it.
Charles Elmé Francatelli, The Royal Confectioner, 1891
This pudding requires chestnut flour, where Nesselrode pudding often uses chestnuts that are boiled then puréed. I find the second version has a much nicer flavour than using chestnut flour, which is only really good if you can get it fresh. You can easily use the chestnuts bought ready peeled in a jar or vacuum pack; I use a small brand from the Ardennes. Boiling and then peeling the chestnuts is a tedious task you don’t want to get into.