9 easy English desserts to make at home

Move over banana bread, you’ve had enough of the limelight. It’s time we tie up our aprons and have a great ol’ British bake-off. From pastry and cake recipes to tarts and puddings, here’s a round-up of easy English desserts to make at home or order online if you're feeling lazy.

Bakewell Pudding

Woman eating in front of The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, Bakewell, Peak District, Derbyshire, England.

Before you say anything, no, we don’t mean Bakewell tart! The original Bakewell pudding is a round flaky pastry layered with jam, and an egg and almond paste mixture. Nope, not a cherry in sight!

First made in the Derbyshire town of the same name, legend has it that the first pudding was made by accident in the early 19th century. Mrs Greaves, the landlady of the local White Horse Inn, asked her cook to make a jam tart, but instead of adding the eggs and almond into the pastry, the cook spread it on top of the jam.

Despite the mistake, the pudding was an instant hit and is still handmade to this day using a secret recipe at The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. When it re-opens, get them to go, or sit in and bask in the olde-worlde atmosphere.

Learn the tricks of the trade

Chelsea Buns

A tray of traditional Chelsea bun at Fitzbillies Restaurant and Cafe, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.

Chelsea Buns are a type of currant bun that were first baked in the 18th century at London’s Old Chelsea Bun House. Just like today’s decadent doughnuts, the buns were the fashionable sweet treat of the century, with both Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll mentioning them in their stories.

Similar to cinnamon rolls, these buns are made of rich yeast dough flavoured with either lemon peel, cinnamon or mixed spice, and filled with a mixture of currants, brown sugar and butter. As soon as they’re out of the oven, they’re glazed with a sugar and cold water mixture to give them their signature sticky glaze.

Nowadays, the delicious buns are not famously found in their birthplace, but in Cambridge at Fitzbillies, who have been baking them since 1920, and sell over 200,000 of them every year.

Get baking

Fat Rascals

Fat Rascals at Betty’s Café Tea Rooms, York, Yorkshire, England

These plump fruity scones, topped with glazed cherries and almonds, came about in Yorkshire in the 19th century as a form of turf cake, and were so exclusive to the region that they weren’t a staple outside of northern England until the 1980s.

Fat Rascals are now a trademark of the world-famous Betty's Tea Rooms (who have branches dotted around Yorkshire), and with over 400,000 sold every year, they’re the café’s most popular baked good – Prince Charles is even said to be a fan. If you can’t get to the bakeries themselves, you can have a batch of the funny-named cake delivered straight to your door.

Tea time sorted

Lavender Scones

Afternoon tea at Leeds Castle near Maidstone, Kent, UK. A cake stand with a selection of foods.

A floral take on an English staple sees lavender-infused sugar and/or dried lavender buds added to the recipe, turning the simple scone into a summery delight. Crumbly in texture, these easy-to-bake scones aren’t typically paired with the traditional strawberry jam and clotted cream. Instead, try a sharp lemon curd or a dollop of lemon cream, or perhaps a drizzle of lavender-flavoured honey!

When it’s safe to do so, why not head out to explore the world-renowned lavender gardens in Norfolk, where you can tour the scented fields before tucking into fresh lavender scones in their tea room. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, you could even invest in some glorious lavender-infused oils and perfumes.

Dig out the rolling pin

Eton Mess

This traditional summer dessert, a mish-mash of chopped strawberries (or any other berries for that matter), crushed-up meringue and a generous helping of whipped cream, is the dog’s dinner.

Rumour has it the pudding first came about by accident at Eton College’s annual cricket match against Harrow, after an excited Labrador sat on a picnic basket containing a strawberry pavlova. Whatever the story, there’s no doubt this light, fruity finisher is a favourite when it’s hot outside, and is still served today at the famous Berkshire college.

Whip up your own

Sussex Pond Pudding

Continuing with the theme of quirkily named British dishes, this zingy, warm, syrupy pudding is the perfect dish for all the stodgy school-dinner lovers out there.

First recorded in a recipe book in 1672, it’s made from suet pastry and filled with chunks of butter, sugar and, more recently, a whole lemon (though this element didn’t come into play until 300 years after its first appearance). Instead of being baked, this pud is boiled in a cloth or steamed for several hours. Once cooked, the lemon skin candies with the butter and sugar, blending into a thick, caramelised sauce which, upon serving, pools around the dish creating a ‘pond’.

You’ll also find variants of this pudding, like the wonderfully named Blackeyed Susan or the Kentish Well Pudding, both of which add currants into the mix.

When life gives you lemons

Classic trifle

Raspberry and Rose Geranium Trifle

Another classic English dessert, the trifle is an after-dinner spectacular made up of layers of fruit or jelly, sponge cake, custard, whipped cream, and a splash of sherry if you’re feeling naughty. Erected in a large glass bowl to show off all its elements, the trifle is a fabulous contrast of colours and textures. And it’s so light that there’s no doubt it’ll have you coming back for seconds.

While it goes way back (with some mentions dating back to as early as 1598) the trifle as we know it now first appeared in around 1755. It has had lots of reinventions since then, so if you’re not one for tradition, why not try a Bakewell, coffee or even banoffee trifle.

Wooden spoons at the ready

Eccles Cake

Originating from the town of Eccles (historically part of Lancashire but now in Greater Manchester), this small, round cake made of flaky pastry and packed with currants is an English teatime classic.

Also known as a ‘squashed fly cake’, the Eccles cake dates back to the 18th century where it was typically made for the town’s feast day of St Mary. At one point Oliver Cromwell banned the sweet treat (along with the feast day) because of their pagan connections, but luckily that didn’t last too long. While the Eccles cake isn’t at the forefront of many bakeries today, it’s still famously made by hand at the Lancashire Eccles Cake Factory, just a few miles away from the town.

Check out the recipe

Jam Tarts

No childhood is complete until you’ve tucked into one of your nan’s freshly baked jam tarts!

Even the smallest bakers can turn their toddler hands to prepping this sugary snack, as they’re just small shortcrust-pastry shells filled with any fruit jam you fancy – from strawberry to apricot, or if you’re feeling zesty, lemon curd. And the best bit? They’re ready in no time at all.

These nostalgic sweet treats are so good that even the Queen of Hearts loved them.

Make your own

VisitEngland would like to invite you to take part in a short survey about our website, it should take no more than a couple of minutes.

Go to the survey

To add items to favourites …

… you need to be logged in.

If you already have an account, log in.

Or register a

Access your account

Enter your e-mail address or username.
Enter the password that accompanies your e-mail.
Forgot your password? Recover your account
Don't have an account? Register an account