For spring and summer ­— from warm cobblers to layered trifles, gelled panna cottas and syllabubs, there’s something satisfying about a pudding beyond the kind
that comes out of a box.

These elaborate fruit-based desserts you serve up with a spoon, old-fashioned flummeries and grunts are the things summer dreams are made of.

The parameters of what constitutes a pudding is broad; our minds might first go to soft, milk-based custards — one dictionary definition of a pudding — but then there are puddings made with stale bread, dried-fruit-studded, moulded and steamed puddings, and syrup-drenched sponges. Even crisp, eggy Yorkshire puddings have the same name. Unless you’re British, in which case all desserts are referred to as pudding, it’s a safe argument that any sweet thing you’d default to serving with a spoon could be considered a pudding.

In spring and summer, rhubarb, berries and juicy stone fruits like peaches, apricots and plums are well-suited to such desserts, and can be used interchangeably or in combination with each other, with enough sugar to suit your taste or the tartness of the fruit. If you find yourself flipping through old cookbooks, you’ll likely come across dozens of methods for fancy chilled jellies and puddings designed to revive stale bread or cake; pudding is just the thing when juicy fruit is at its peak.

Two more of Julie’s recipes in this collection are Stone Fruit Flummery and Berry Cornmeal Cobbler.

Rhubarb Charlotte

As desserts go, charlottes are all over the map — they can be fancy or plain, set on a cake base or wrapped in ladyfingers, but are most often fruit-based and set with gelatin. This rhubarb version is creamy and tart, a more sophisticated (if not as aesthetically perfect) Jell-O. Simmered and strained berries are delicious, too — instead of or combined with the rhubarb. Adapted from Nellie Lyle Pattinson’s Canadian Cook Book, circa 1923.
Servings 8
Author Julie Van Rosendaal


  • 1 tbsp plain gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream


  • Soften the gelatin in cold water in a small dish. Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a sauce pan over medium-high heat with ½ cup water and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb is very soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin and vanilla. Let cool completely.
  • In a medium bowl, whip the cream until softly stiff peaks form; fold in the rhubarb mixture and pour into a plastic-lined 1 L bowl or gelatin mould. Refrigerate for several hours, until set. Invert onto a plate to unmould and if you like, fill the middle with berries.