Home Lifestyle Food & Drink The 10 best British desserts – with recipes
Last update on October 21, 2021
Sophie Pettit Written by Sophie Pettit

Grab your spoon and get ready to delve into the most devilishly delicious British desserts that every expat should try.

British cuisine is famous for its hearty and wholesome dishes, and the nation’s best-loved desserts are no exception. From airy sponges and crispy crumbles that capture the spirit of an English summer to custard topped tarts designed to warm you on a chilly winter’s evening, the Brits certainly know how to bake from the heart. So, if you’re looking to recreate The Great British Bake Off in the comfort of your own kitchen, here are the 10 most popular and classic British desserts to inspire you. Happy baking!

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1. Bread and butter pudding

Fewer desserts are more quintessentially British than the humble bread and butter pudding. This hearty delight consists of slices of buttered bread that are scattered with raisins and covered with egg custard before being baked in the oven until turning golden brown. Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices are also added to the mixture for extra flavor. Like most hearty British desserts, people typically serve it with custard or cream. There are also several recipe variations, some of which involve adding jam, marmalade, or lemon zest into the mix. Whatever ingredients you choose, though, it is always better to use stale or day-old bread. Cutting the slices into triangle shapes will also allow the pointy bits to turn crunchy in the oven, creating a beautiful contrast with the soft, creamy texture beneath.

bread and butter pudding

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2. Sticky toffee pudding

This sticky, sweet British dessert is certainly not for the faint-hearted. In fact, the combination of black treacle, cream, and custard might even induce a coma! Those with a serious sweet tooth, on the other hand, will no doubt love it. Sticky toffee pudding essentially consists of a very moist sponge cake that is made with soaked, chopped dates and rich, black treacle. A thick toffee sauce is then drizzled over the steaming hot pudding which is typically served with custard or cream. Rich, gooey, and bursting with intensity, the iconic dessert remains a beloved British classic, alongside others such as bread and butter pudding, jam roly-poly, and spotted dick.

Sticky toffee pudding

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3. Jam roly-poly

Another classic British dessert is jam roly-poly, a flat-rolled suet pudding, which is spread with fruity jam and then rolled up and steamed or baked. Similar to a Swiss roll, it is recognizable by its swirly pink appearance and light, spongey texture. This simple yet delicious dessert tends to evoke a lot of nostalgia among Brits who have fond memories of tucking into it as part of their school dinner back in the day. Historically, many families also enjoy sharing a jam roly-poly after eating a traditional Sunday roast.

Like many British desserts, it is typically served with hot steaming custard, making it one of the nation’s favorite comfort foods; particularly during the colder winter months. If you’re feeling really naughty, though, you can always substitute jam with chocolate spread.

jam roly-poly

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4. Victoria sponge

No sandwich is quite as delicious as the Victoria sponge. This quintessentially British dessert holds a very special place in the heart of the nation and will almost always be found at summer fêtes and afternoon tea parties throughout the country. In fact, it was one of Queen Victoria’s favorite cakes to enjoy on the occasion, hence its regal name. The light and fluffy cake is also one of the easiest British desserts to make, which makes it great for beginners. The basic ingredients include butter, caster sugar, eggs, and self-raising flour. The two halves of the cake are then fused together with a layer of buttercream and strawberry (or raspberry) jam. A sprinkling of icing sugar and some strawberries create the perfect finishing touch. However, there are countless recipe variations that cater to all preferences, making the iconic Victoria sponge an all-around crowd-pleaser.

victoria sponge

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5. Lemon drizzle cake

Lemon drizzle cake is another popular British dessert and a staple of English afternoon tea. Similar to the Victoria sponge, the cake is made by mixing flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk, and baking powder. However, to achieve a more refreshing and zingy citrus flavor, lemon juice and finely grated lemon zest are added to the mixture before baking. Fresh lemon juice is then added to icing sugar and drizzled – hence the name – over the cake to give it a tangy topping. For an extra lemony kick, you can also sprinkle some fresh lemon zest on top before enjoying it with a hot cup of tea. Easy to make and delicious to eat, it’s no wonder lemon drizzle cake remains one of Britain’s favorite desserts.

Lemon drizzle cake

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6. Spotted dick

No list of Britain’s best desserts would be complete without mentioning spotted dick. The amusingly named dish, which has sparked many sniggers from cheeky kids (and big kids), is a traditional steamed pudding served with lashings of creamy vanilla custard. If you’re curious about the name, the term ‘spotted’ refers to the dried fruits, which are usually raisins or currants, scattered throughout the pudding. The word ‘dick’, meanwhile, is an old-fashioned term for ‘dough’. Funnily enough, this name has been such a source of double entendres, that restaurant staff in the Houses of Parliament reportedly renamed it ‘Spotted Richard’ (referring to the nickname of someone called Richard) to “spare the blushes of MPs”. Whatever you call it, though, it has remained one of Britain’s favorite desserts since the mid-19th century, to such an extent that you can even buy it in cans at supermarkets in the UK.

Spotted dick

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7. Apple crumble

Many European countries are fond of apple pie, but when it comes to Britain, it’s all about the crumble. Although these come in many different forms and include various seasonal fruit, apple is the most traditional ingredient for making the humble crumble. After all, apples are the most diverse fruit in the UK, where more than 2,500 varieties are grown. And the Brits love nothing more than showing them off with a delicious homemade dessert. That said, most people consider Bramley apples to be the best for cooking, as they strike a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity.

The popular dessert consists of warm layers of stewed apple and spices topped with a crumbly topping made of butter, flour, and brown sugar which is rolled together to create breadcrumbs. It is traditionally served warm with custard or vanilla ice cream after a meal. Popular substitutes for apples include pears, rhubarb, and a mixture of summer berries.

apple crumble

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8. Banoffee pie

Those with a sweet tooth will likely go bananas for this sugary British dessert. The classic banoffee pie consists of a combination of bananas, cream, and thick caramel sauce spread across a crumbled buttery biscuit base. Depending on how sweet you want it, you can also throw dark chocolate into the mix. Adding a teaspoon of salt into the caramel, on the other hand, will help tone down the sweetness. The fun part of the recipe, though, involves using a rolling pin to crush a freezer bag full of biscuits to create the crumbly base. Making the thick caramel sauce filling, however, requires boiling an unopened can of condensed milk for several hours. While this makes it longer to prepare than most other British desserts, it’s certainly worth the wait when you finally get to delve into all that gooey banana goodness.

banoffee pie

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9. Rice pudding

This good, old-fashioned British dessert often evokes nostalgia among Brits who remember tucking into bowls of it as a kid. Rice pudding simply consists of rice which is mixed with water and milk and flavored with ingredients such as vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. To create a thick and creamy texture, it is gently cooked in a saucepan over medium heat and then left to cool down. Once the pudding is nice and thick, vanilla extract is added for extra flavor. After cooling it further in the fridge, you can then stir in a little more milk to loosen it up before serving it with raisins, a sprinkling of cinnamon, or sugar for extra sweetness. Easy to make and filling to eat, this classic British dessert is a winner in our book.

rice pudding

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10. Treacle tart

Treacle tart is another deliciously sweet British dessert. It consists of a shortcrust pastry with a thick filling made of golden syrup, breadcrumbs, and lemon juice. Although the exact origin of this popular dish is unknown, some historians believe that peasants invented it as a way to use up their leftover bread. The rich and sugary tart is almost always served warm with a generous dollop of custard, a dash of cream, or a scoop of ice cream. And like most British desserts, there are several recipe variations, some of which replace breadcrumbs with ground almonds. Others, meanwhile, suggest adding cream or eggs into the filling to make it softer. However you choose to make it, though, the classic dish makes for a delicious way to round off dinner or indulge in a cheeky afternoon snack with a hot cup of tea.

treacle tart

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