Roly-poly pudding is cheap, quick and easy to make. As well as being incredibly tasty, it’s also very filling, perfect for the workhouse inmates who would have tucked into it in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. This recipe (which makes 1lb of pudding) is wonderfully flexible – you can add salt to taste, boil or steam it, and take your pick of jams. And, for a truly hearty dessert, why not cover it in custard?


  • 8 oz flour
  • just over 1/4 of a pint water
  • 2 oz shredded beef suet
  • 1 1/2 oz jam
  • (to pref) salt
  • icing sugar (optional)
  • custard (optional)


  • STEP 1

    Mix the suet, flour, baking powder and salt with the water.

  • STEP 2

    Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Spread the jam over the dough and wet the edges.

  • STEP 3

    Roll up, pressing edges together.

  • STEP 4

    Tie it up fairly tightly in a floured pudding cloth or baking paper. Tie the ends with string to keep the cylindrical shape.

  • STEP 5

    Boil or steam for two hours, or until cooked.

  • STEP 6

    Sieve icing sugar over the top or serve with custard.

Recipe adapted from the Manual of Workhouse Cookery (1901)

This article was first published in the September 2021 issue of BBC History Magazine