Bakewell pudding - the delicious pudding whose origins are...?

The Pudding Club

The origin and recipe for the delicious Bakewell pudding (no, not the one with the cherry on top a la Mr Kipling variety) is a hotly contested subject in these parts - Abigail Day takes a closer look...

You should never make the mistake of calling the delicious, almond paste and puff pastry delicacy known as a Bakewell pudding a “tart”, when you visit the pretty Wye-side town which gave it its internationally-famous name. Here, they are more correctly known as Bakewell puddings – because puddings is exactly what they are.

Made to a recipe which is a still closely-guarded secret in at least three bakeries in the ancient market town, they are now exported all over the world – and they bear no resemblance to the cherry and icing-topped Mr Kipling variety.

It is believed that the original Bakewell Pudding came about as a complete mistake. Sometime in the mid-19th century, a flustered cook in the White Horse Inn (now the Rutland Arms Hotel) in the centre of town was charged by the owner, Mrs Ann Greaves, to make a strawberry tart for some expected important visitors. Mrs Greaves explained that the egg mixture was to be stirred into the pastry, and the strawberry jam spread on top of the pastry.

But the panicking cook either forgot or misunderstood the instructions and didn’t stir the egg mix into the pastry but poured it over the strawberry jam. So what was meant to be a tart turned out to be a pudding. The accidental delicacy was so well received by Mrs Greaves’ guests that she instructed her cook to continue making them in that way – and so the Bakewell pudding was born.

But at least three bakeries in Bakewell claim ownership to the original recipe of the Bakewell pudding. Among these is the bow-fronted Olde Original Pudding Shop in The Square. The original owner, Mrs Annie Wilson, actually claimed to have been one of the guests at the hotel when the cook made her famous mistake and wrote down the recipe in pencil in a small notebook, which is now kept in a fire-proof safe. She saw the potential of the dessert and set up her own company from her home, which is the site of the current bakery.

Bloomer’s Bakery in Buxton Road claims that Mrs Greaves left the recipe in her will to a Mr Radford, who in turn passed it to Mr Bloomer. The unfortunately-named Bakewell Tart Shop & Coffee House in Matlock Street also claims to be the only establishment still baking to the original recipe, which is also kept safely locked in a fireproof safe. The most recent addition has been the Bakewell Pudding Parlour and Factory Shop, at Wye House in Water Street.

One thing is sure,  a true Bakewell pudding can only be found in the town of Bakewell. This fact is currently being defended by campaigners hoping that the EU will award the Bakewell “Protected Geographical Indication” status.. This would require an agreed recipe to be decided upon.

Once granted it would prevent Bakewell puddings being made elsewhere and being called Bakewells, just like champagne is exclusively marketed and named after the region of its origin in north-eastern France, and nearer to home, the Melton Mowbray pork pie, which takes its name from the Leicestershire town. 


Living relative Paul Hudson claims to bring clarity to this issue once and for all in his article Bakewell Pudding - the truth behind the myth so have we heard the last of the issue? Me thinks not :)  

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015