One-hundred-year-old Strawberry Soft Custard Recipe

Strawberry Custard 2

Fresh, juicy strawberries at the peak of the season are best served in simple desserts that celebrate their natural sweetness and nuanced tart undertones. If you are looking for the perfect summer dessert try Strawberry Custard. This classic soft custard has the consistency of a rich cream, and is heavenly when spooned over luscious sliced strawberries.

Here’s the original recipe, in a hundred-year-old cookbook:

Strawberry Custard Recipe
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

I found this recipe to be more challenging  than I anticipated. The first time I made it, I ended up with a curdled mess.  After doing a little research I realized that I’d overcooked the custard. I think that I was picturing that the custard would get firm, like modern puddings – but this custard is quite soft and really a sauce (which probably should have been obvious from the name of the custard recipe, Soft Custard — but, somehow that slipped by me the first time around).

The second batch, I watched like a hawk when I cooked it, and removed the custard from the heat the instant the hot liquid coated the spoon that I was using to stir it. This time the custard turned out perfectly.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks.

Strawberry Soft Custard

  • Servings: 5 - 7
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

2 cups milk

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

sliced strawberries

Put the milk in a sauce pan (use a double boiler, if available), and using medium heat,  scald the milk. This is done by stirring the milk continuously until steam begins to rise from the milk and small bubbles form along the sides of the pan. (Do not allow the milk to boil). Remove from the heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and salt; beat until the mixture is smooth and lemon-colored. While continuing to beat, slowly pour the scalded milk into the mixture.  (It is important not to add too much milk at a time since the hot milk could cook the eggs into scrambled egg clumps.)

Return the mixture to the sauce pan that was used for scalding the milk. Using medium heat, heat the mixture while stirring constantly. As soon as the mixture coats the spoon, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Put the hot custard into a bowl and refrigerate until cold.

To serve, put sliced strawberries in a serving bowl or dessert dish; spoon the desired amount of custard over the strawberries and serve.

The original recipe calls for using only 1 cup of strawberries. For modern tastes, this recipe needs to be adjusted so that each serving lots of strawberries, so I didn’t specify the amount of strawberries.

48 thoughts on “One-hundred-year-old Strawberry Soft Custard Recipe

    1. I think that you are right. Food preferences definitely change over time – though I don’t exactly understand why some foods that are quite tasty (like strawberry soft custard) become less popular. 🙂

  1. You know that picture you took is a real teaser. If it wasn’t 9:30 pm … I would make this custard. I don’t have fresh strawberries right now ,but I bet kiwi would work as second best.

    1. Your comment made me smile. You definitely shouldn’t be starting a cooking project at 9:30, but today’s another day. . . It would be wonderful with kiwi. 🙂

    1. I think this is one of those old-fashioned foods that seems to require a sense of when it has reached the “just right” stage.

    1. You’re an excellent cook, and used to the challenges of making candy recipes. In some ways I think that making soft custard is a somewhat similar process that is very dependent upon temperature, and that you’d have fun with this recipe. If you make it and have any tips, be sure to let us know. 🙂

  2. I’ve never made a soft custard, but this looks so good I believe I’ll give it a try. Our strawberry season is over — they begin coming in during February! — but blackberries are abundant now, and would do just fine. I can even imagine this with peaches, which are available now, too.

    1. It would be perfect with blackberries or peaches. I hadn’t realized how early your strawberry season is. It’s amazing how much difference there is in when some crops get ripe across the various regions of the US.

  3. I love creamy custard! This sounds wonderful and would be great to use in a trifle! I think I’ll try that! Do you remember bavarian cream? I wonder if you have come across any recipes for bavarian cream from days gone by.

    1. Vaguely. . . my memory is that it’s similar to custard, but contains unflavored gelatin. I know that I’ve seen recipes for Bavarian Cream in hundred year old cookbooks. . . hmmm. . . sometime I should do a post on it. 🙂

  4. This looks so very tasty Sheryl! I can see myself curdling the eggs too. I need LOTS of leeway with mistakes when cooking, lol! I just love strawberry season, though. Thanks for the recipe. 🙂

  5. Can’t wait to try this one Sheryl! It will be amazing when the strawberries come in up at the lake.

  6. Yummy! This is alot like my Mom’s coconut pie recipe. Decades ago, I bought a double boiler just so I could make it. I attempt it every few years. My pies were never good as Mom’s though.
    It never occurred to me to put fruit in it (other than coconut); strawberries sound delightful.
    Your custard looks delicious and refreshing for a warm Summer day.

    1. For some reason, double boilers seem to be less popular now than they once were. I can’t figure out why. Double boilers make it so much easier to cook foods like this without the risk of burning it.

      1. I agree. I think it’s because it’s extra work to use them. I have a recipe for Coco pie that was my Grandmother’s. It requires a double boiler and the pie turns out rich and creamy. However, I’ve seen similar recipes for a coco pie where they put all the ingredients in a pan and cook it. I tried the second version and it wasn’t the same quality. So, I stick with my Grandmother and Mom’s recipes and make them in the double boiler when I want a tasty creamy pie. 😉

  7. I don’t remember ever making this type of custard, but I read about it often in the old, 10 year old books I read. Sounds good and I may try it while I have my grandbabies here for a visit.

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