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Great-Grandma Laughlin's Lemon Pudding Circa 1870

Great-Grandma Laughlin's Lemon Pudding

In the inevitable passing down process from generation to generation we would argue that the most prized possessions come in the form of recipes. Hand written on index cards, carefully collected in notebooks, clippings preserved in the pages of cookbooks, these are the real treasures we hope to find. Recently, combing through some old boxes of paper in a storage locker almost forgotten we found a very special trove.

In meticulously scripted, gently sloping, slightly fading script we discovered Mrs. M.B. Laughlin's Receipt Book, dated May 9th, 1870. Receipts, or recipes, were a far different thing in M.B.'s day. No step by step videos on a phone, sped up and scored with a pop tune for these ladies. Just the most basic of facts on ingredients, occasionally a brief note on a particularly difficult step, and then one was left to figure out the rest entirely on one's own.

Here amidst the fading pages she'd written recipes for practical things like How to Boil Maple Syrup and How to Pack Eggs, alongside more familiar dishes like Corn Bread and Pound Cake, Whole Mountain Cake, and Roly Poly Pudding. In fact there are many, many pudding recipes in this book- they must clearly have been a family favorite.

Back then, if you did happen upon a newspaper there were usually a few tidbits, tips and tricks for the ladies, and M.B. clipped the most helpful and carefully kept them with her hand lettered pages. Her saved pieces included a column called Some Timely Kitchen Hints, and another entitled Things Worth Knowing, both no doubt relevant as much today as when they were written in 1870.

When we found this lemon pudding recipe we had to try it, and once we tasted it we had to share. This is an easy dessert that's bright with the flavor of lemon, softened by the cream, and gently thickened with corn starch for a silky smooth mouthfeel that's simply delicious.

Fun to imagine great-grandma Laughlin sitting down to a dish after a hard day of packing eggs, and fun to have this very personal glimpse into foodie life 150 years ago. 

Lemon Pudding Circa 1870



  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 C. whole milk
  • 1 C. heavy cream  
  • 3 T. cornstarch 
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 C. fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 t. salt


  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan, let mixture sit for a few minutes, and then whisk again to break up any lumps.
  2. Over a medium heat, whisk the ingredients until the pudding reaches a boil.
  3. As soon as the pudding reaches a boil, remove from the heat, and continue whisking for a few minutes, until thickened and glossy.
  4. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a medium bowl, removing the zest and any remaining lumps.
  5. Pour the pudding into dessert glasses or small bowls, serve it warm, or allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with fresh fruit or whipped cream.

Lemon Pudding Circa 1870

Great Grandma Laughlin's Receipt Book Inside Cover from 1870
Some Timely Kitchen Hints from 1870


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