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Dr. Boylston's Honeycomb Pudding

Dr. Boylston’s Honeycomb Pudding
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Boylston Street is one of Boston’s main thoroughfares, the final leg of the Boston Marathon and home to the Boston Public Library. Its name pays honor to Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, who braved the threat of mob violence in 1721 in order to get Bostonians inoculated against smallpox. In doing so, he introduced the lifesaving technique to the United States. Boylston also performed the first surgery by an American physician and removed the first breast tumor in 1718. He was  the great-uncle of President John Adams.

This honeycomb pudding, which tastes a bit like a very moist gingerbread topped with lemon sauce, was one of his favorite desserts. As it cooks, the baking soda bubbles, leaving the little holes from which the dish gets its name. It’s so tasty that I’m finding myself obsessed with the whole category of British-style puddings. Expect to see more in the coming weeks.

Dr. Zabdiel Boylston’s Honeycomb Pudding

Total time: 50 minutes; hands-on time: 30 minutes

 Ingredients for Dr. Zabdiel Boylston’s Honeycomb Pudding

For the honeycomb pudding:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cloves and allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup molasses

For the honeycomb pudding sauce:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Garnish: lemon slices


Method for Dr. Zabdiel Boylston’s Honeycomb Pudding

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Butter and flour a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Make the pudding: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Add the butter, milk, eggs, baking soda, and molasses and stir to combine. Pour the mixture quickly into the prepared pan and bake until firm,  30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Put the sugar and butter in a medium saucepan and stir. Add the lemon juice, egg, salt, and cornstarch and stir. Add the boiling water, then set the pot over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the pudding is cooked, turn it out on serving dish. Slice to serve (the honeycomb will show), then spoon the sauce over the slices and serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with lemon slices if desired. Yield: 8 servings

Amy Traverso


Amy Traverso


Senior lifestyle editor Amy Traverso oversees Yankee's Food and Home & Garden departments and contributes articles to the magazine. Amy book, The Apple Lover's Cookbook (W.W. Norton), won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award for the category American. Follow !
Updated Thursday, January 17th, 2013

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One Response to Dr. Boylston’s Honeycomb Pudding

  1. Nancy March 17, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    I found a version of this in my mother’s handwritten recipes that was attributed to my great grandmother (who died in 1927) and in my grandmother’s cousin’s recipes with a note saying it was her most prized recipe. In searching the Internet for its true origin, I’ve learned that it appeared in the Fannie Farmer cookbooks as far back as 1918. One article talked a lot about the fact that the original version may have been made with sulphured molasses because when she makes it now the honeycombs do not appear as they did years ago. I did try our family’s version and didn’t really see the honeycombs. I do plan to try this one in hopes they will appear. (My great grandmother’s version also had Flora Dora sauce, rather than the lemon sauce.)

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