the perfect custard

Is it possible? Is THIS the perfect custard?


My friend Estelle, also a custard fanatic, sent me this recipe yesterday. It's her Mum's custard recipe and Estelle warned that it's so good I may need to eat it all standing at the stove.

This is always possible.

I was surprised to see full cream milk powder in the recipe, in place of milk. But always willing to give something a go for the sake of food exploration, I also happened to have milk powder in my cupboard as it's an ingredient in a protein bar I make for Adam when he's endurance training.

So late last night I made Estelle's Mum's custard.


2 tblsp custard powder
4 tblsp sugar
Half cup cold water
2 eggs
2 cups full cream milk powder
4 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a saucepan mix the custard powder with the sugar and the cold water. Then add the eggs and whisk. Then mix in the milk powder, not made up, just the powder. Stir in the boiling water one cup at a time and cook over a low heat until thickened. Add vanilla at the end.

Now this is interesting! Someone other than me uses custard powder!! You'd never find it in a professional kitchen but what I love about it is it's stability. There's nothing tricky about custard with custard powder.

Nigella Lawson has a kick arse custard in Nigella Bites which involves plunging saucepans into sinkfuls of cold water etc, plus half a litre of cream and 5 eggs. 

But when it comes to the end of a rotten day and all you want is custard, you need to be able to make something you can trust. Something that will never split and will work every time.

Estelle's custard rocks, it really does. It's even better cold.

But being the daughter of a dairy farmer, I'm not sure if I can revert permanently to the superior custard… I also wonder if there's something about the custard your Mum made you when you were growing up that will always taste like the proper custard.

So in the name of exploration, I made another batch today, this time of my Mum's custard, just to do a scientific comparison. Of course. I did this because the recipes were so close, I had to see the difference.

My Mum's custard


2 tblsp custard powder
4 tblsp sugar
4 cups full cream milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a saucepan mix the custard powder with the sugar and half a cup of milk. Then add the eggs and whisk. Add the vanilla. Whisk in the remaining milk and cook over a low heat until it almost comes to the boil and thickens. 

One last little note: If you're making a dish with only a few ingredients, it makes sense to use the best you can afford. The fewer the ingredients the more you taste the individual quality. For an awesome custard use organic milk, free range eggs and good quality extract (or even better, a split vanilla bean in with the milk and take it out at the end.) Or not. It's still awesome. 

I wonder if your kids will have a thing about your custard?!


7 Comments on “the perfect custard

August 21, 2009 at 7:07 pm

OK – so the suspense is killing me – which one wins?

August 21, 2009 at 7:19 pm

To clarify: Estelle’s custard wins. It’s the best. Ever. But I’m pretty sure even though it’s the superior custard I’ll still be making my Mum’s, based on the whole dairy-farmers-daughter thing (prone to suspicion towards powdered milk) and the you-want-the-custard-your-mum-made-you-growing-up thing. xxx

Alex N
August 22, 2009 at 4:56 am

I like custard, I really do, but I have to say, I love Ambrosia ready made custard. Waitrose does a pretty awesome ready made too. Otherwise, if I’m in the market for some home-made, proper stuff, it’s Delia all the way – eggs, milk, cream, sugar and a vanilla pod. Divine.

Gayle Greber
August 22, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Dear Fiona, I am the Original and only ESTELLE’S MUM !! and I am delighted that you like my custard! Your Mum’s reciepe sounds beautiful, and I will make it next time we have baked apples. Love Gayle.

August 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

i haven’t had custard since i was i little kid, but after reading this i think i will have to put an end to my custard drought.

can the sugar content be reduced or substituted so to be more suited for younger babies?

June 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Hi i am looking for a home made custard, and on whole web sides i found every time custard powder custard powder, how can you show perfect custard if it’s all about that powder ?? I am a polish person and love custard but in my country we do not have a custard powder …. :/ shame

February 5, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Hi.. ive tried ur custard recipe n it was delicious! i poured it onto a layer of sliced chocolate cake and made it to several layers before i sprinkle cocoa powder on top..gone in a sec.. Thanks for d recipe! ❤


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