Thanks to its eponymous dessert, the small Peakland town of Bakewell punches above its weight in terms of name recognition. However, it is the Bakewell Pudding that the town owes it success to – not the ‘tarted up’ variant made famous by Mr Kipling in the 1960s.
The pudding – created by accident in the 1800s – consists of a flaky pastry base covered with a layer of sieved jam and topped with a filling made of egg and almond paste. Culinary tourists still flock to Bakewell to try the local delicacy. Visitors on the hunt for this 19th century treat expect a certain archaism, which the small market town is more than happy to provide.
However, bubbling beneath Bakewell’s quaint exterior is a bitter dispute. Three shops, situated within 100 metres of each other, all claim that they alone have the original recipe for the Bakewell Pudding.
At the start of the 1800s, the town of Bakewell became a magnet for creative types. Jane Austen visited whilst researching Pride and Prejudice, Lord Byron would often cross the border from Nottinghamshire and Turner would visit to fill his Derbyshire sketchbooks.
The hotel of choice for luminaries spending a stint in Bakewell was the Rutland Arms coaching inn. For almost the whole of the 19th century, the inn was run by two families: the Hudsons and the Greaves.
Linking these two families is Ms Ann Summers, who took over the running of the establishment after the death of her first husband Mr James Hudson. Later, she married William Greaves Jnr whose family then became involved with the Rutland arms.
During a particularly busy evening, Ann asked a waitress called Ann Wheeldon to help her create a dessert dish. It is thought they were attempting to create a jam tart. Eggs and almond paste were supposed to be mixed into the pastry, but they were instead spread on top of the jam and ended up setting like an egg custard.
Presumably they didn’t have enough time to rectify the situation so served the dish anyway. Much to their surprise, the diners were delighted. Ms Greaves made a note of the recipe and the Bakewell pudding was born.
The recipe was kept as a speciality of the Rutland Arms until Ann Greaves (née Summers) passed way in 1866. She left the recipe to both her Hudson and Greaves descendants. It is still a tradition to this day that any woman marrying into the Hudson family is given a copy of the original recipe.
The Three Puddings
Three shops in Bakewell claim to possess the original recipe for the pudding. The town relies on the pudding not just for its identity, but as a key economic driver; a multitude of tourists flock to the town to sample the offerings of the following three shops:
The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop (TOOBPS)
The oldest – and most popular – of them is the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop.
This is the largest of the shops, also housing a restaurant. As well as puddings, they stock a large amount of pudding merchandise including teddy bears, tea towels, postcards, tote bags and hampers.
The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop’s claim of originality comes via one Mrs Wilson. Around the time Mrs Greaves invented the pudding, Mrs Wilson obtained the recipe and began selling puddings out of her house. This house later became the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop.
It is widely accepted amongst pudding scholars that Mrs Wilson began selling puddings in the 1860s. What is not clear however is exactly how Mrs Wilson obtained the original recipe.
Bloomers of Bakewell
Unlike the almost-department-store TOOBPS, Bloomers is simply a small bakery. They do sell a few tea towels and postcards, but the focus is very much on the baked goods.
Bloomers are by far the most militant about their originality claim.
All mentions of ‘Bloomers Original Bakewell Pudding ®’ on their website are followed by a registered trademark symbol. Attempts to engage the shopkeepers with discussion around the town’s differing pudding claims are met with a polite, yet firm, assertion that it is Bloomers that has the genuine recipe.
The story of how Bloomers obtained the recipe is certainly the most easily verifiable.
It wasn’t until 1889 that the recipe fell into the hands of bakery founder George Bloomer. George happened to be good friends with Mr Will Hudson, a relative of pudding creator Mrs Ann Greaves.
Will wasn’t impressed with the pudding monopoly that Mrs Wilson & TOOBPS had created. So in exchange for one free loaf of bread a week, Will provided the Bloomers with the secret family recipe for the Bakewell pudding.
This story has been corroborated by the great-great-great grandson of Mrs Ann Greaves, Mr Paul Hudson. He remembers his grandfather strolling along to Bloomers to collect his free loaf of bread well into his 80s.
The Bakewell Pudding Parlour/Factory
The Bakewell Pudding Parlour is a bit of wild card when it comes to the authentic Bakewell Pudding.
Wikipedia says that the bakery claims to have an original recipe, but their website simply states they have made puddings to a recipe they have “been using for over 50 years.”
Like Bloomers, the Parlour puts the focus on its baked goods rather than merchandising. They do however offer a post-a-pudding service, allowing you to post a Bakewell to anywhere in the world. Further research shows that the other two stores also offer this service, but in the Parlour it is highlighted front and centre.
The staff claimed that both they and another store in Bakewell actually have the original recipe. Unfortunately, they couldn’t remember which other store and an origin story wasn’t provided. Perhaps a more distant relative of Mrs Ann Greaves has recently traded away the families secrets in exchange for baked goods.
The best option for a Bakewell Pudding hunter is to follow the Odd Days Out method of trying them all. Their locations are highlighted on the map below.
However, if you are simply seeking authenticity, Odd Days Out thinks the safest bet is to head to either Bloomers or TOOBPS for the original pudding.
Sources and Further Information
Mrs. Ann Greaves of the Rutland Arms and the Bakewell Pudding – Pynot Publishing – Hudson, Paul (Available to buy here http://nicwhe8.freehostia.com/pynot/history/ann-greaves/ann-greaves.html)