A classic summer pudding with a loaf-ly twist

Aoife Noonan: This Madeira-based beauty is really two desserts in one

It isn’t known for sure who invented the summer pudding, but you can bet this British classic came about through inspiration from someone who had a glut of summer fruit and too much bread lying around.

I love a little bit of old-fashioned, but here I’ve upgraded it ever so slightly. A summer pudding is made up of main two parts: a bread casing, filled with lots of summer berries. However, instead of using bread in this recipe, I am using sponge — a delicious citrusy Madeira cake. Sponge adds a gentle sweetness that bread doesn’t, which works well with the tart berries. This particular sponge is a little denser than other sponges, and so it holds together well and keeps the pudding intact, even when sliced.

This recipe really is two desserts in one. You can bake the Madeira cake in a loaf tin and enjoy as is — it is perfectly fluffy and unfussy with a subtle orange scent. Or you can slice it up and use it as the casing for your summer pudding.

For the filling, I make a quick syrup by heating water and sugar together with a few flavours that I know work beautifully with berries; elderflower cordial, vanilla and a little crème de cassis. Any berry liqueur would work, and you can use one of the above or a mix of all three, it is up to you. The fruit is then added once the syrup has reduced and thickened slightly. It is important not to boil the fruit too much as you want to retain their shape, so add them at the end, once the syrup has bubbled away for about five minutes.

The gorgeous ruby-coloured syrup not only flavours the fruit but is used to soak the sponge too. This allows all of the flavours to permeate the sponge and turns it a beautiful pink hue.

I use a loaf tin rather than a traditional pudding basin, as I prefer the shape of the individual slices and, as the cake is baked in a loaf tin, you will naturally have the perfect amount of sponge for the pudding. Compacting the fruit is an important step, as is weighing the pudding down to keep everything compressed together.

Serve your summer pudding with some crème fraîche, whipped cream or cool ice cream.

Recipe: Summer pudding loaf