Retro Custard

Retro Custard

Custard: A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow, and the cook.

~ Ambrose Bierce, American Author ~


When I came across this quote by American short story writer Ambrose Bierce, I decided to use his quote for one reason only, and that is to prove him wrong! I love custard! Especially old-fashioned, retro custard. I know there are people who don’t, but I honestly can’t understand their dislike. My daughters grew up eating custard served on anything from jelly, Apple Tart, Malva Pudding to ice cream. If you questioned them, you might even be told of The Great Custard Injustice of 2006. My youngest daughter had tonsillitis and was offered custard for breakfast (just to get something in her stomach). My older daughter was promised custard later and never got any! This was a contentious issue in my house for at least ten years until I eventually tried to make amends by offering my oldest daughter a batch of custard just for her!


No home should be without it – 1970s advertisement for Bird’s Custard Powder

Even though I always thought real custard was only made with cream, sugar and eggs, I have learnt that the name actually covers a variety of sweet, thickened sauces. Flour, cornstarch and gelatin are all acceptable thickeners if you don’t want to use eggs. My mother definitely did not make delicate English egg custards in the seventies when I grew up. It was also before the great debut of the South African favourite long-life custard, Ultramel. Some might realise that I am making my way to something that most chefs would cringe at. Yes, I grew up making retro custard with custard powder. Very 1970s. Custard powder is a mixture of cornflour, colouring and flavouring that is sold in an eye-catching bright yellow container. It is still sold in supermarkets and still makes delicious custard. Ask my daughters!


A hack before hacks were a thing!

If you read the instructions on the custard powder container, you will see it is easily made up using sugar, milk and water. But I was taught to make custard with custard powder, condensed milk and water! Why bother to mix milk and sugar if you can dilute a tin of condensed milk with water? The best part is that you use half a tin of condensed milk for one batch of custard. That means half a tin is left for sampling! My mom used to frugally put the other half of the tin in the fridge for next Sunday’s custard. But come Sunday she had to open a new tin of condensed milk as there was usually only a scraping left in the bottom. No of course it wasn’t me!


Retro Custard on baked pudding


Retro Custard

Delicious thick custard using custard powder, condensed milk and water
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Course: Dessert
Keyword: condensed milk, custard, custard powder
Servings: 4 people
Author: Melby


  • ½ tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tins warm water Plus 2 tablespoons cold
  • 2 tbsp custard powder generously heaped


  • Pour ½ a tin of condensed milk in a medium-sized pot.
  • Use the empty tin and measure two tins of warm water into the pot. Stir to dissolve the condensed milk completely.
  • Place the milk mixture on medium heat and bring up to temperature, but don't let it come to a boil. Stir occasionally.
  • While the milk mixture is heating up, mix the custard powder with two tablespoons of cold water to form a slurry, making sure there are no lumps of powder.
  • When the milk mixture is steaming, use a ladle to mix a little of the hot milk into your cold custard powder mixture.
  • Once mixed, add custard powder mixture to steaming milk while stirring constantly. Once the mixture starts to thicken, reduce the heat and let it cook for 2 minutes to ensure the flour is cooked.
  • Pour into a jug and serve hot or cold over puddings, jelly or ice-cream.


  • If you are not serving the custard immediately, cover with cling film patted down onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming.

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