Aunt Huibrie’s pudding keeps on giving


Aunt Huibrie’s pudding keeps on giving

The generous providers of a haven for the sad, the downtrodden and the mentally challenged were rewarded with a gift that keeps on giving: a pudding that became a stalwart, writes EMILIA SMUTS.


SOME three weeks ago, I read an opinion piece about poverty in our country and what can be done to tackle the problem.

Something about it rankled with me, and later I realised what it was: the repetition of “we must … we must … we must". It kept bothering me, like a little piece of meat between one's teeth. And as one does, I kept  trying to remove it.

‘What the hell’ is not an answer

I'm no political philosopher or politician and have no clue how  “we" — whoever that may be — are ever going to make headway with this impossible task. Because almost daily, more and more people with faces pale from hunger arrive at my garden gate to ask for food.

And then, in the middle of the night, with the clarity with which one sometimes sees things on the ceiling, I managed to remove the meat from between my teeth: that journalist was whistling in a wind that has been blowing for years. The poor will always be with us and puritanical finger-wagging about what we should or shouldn't do isn't going to change that.

Because there is no solution. Society is not going to come up with a five-year plan that will make poverty disappear from the planet like measles. And so I continued chewing on my piece of meat in the middle of the night, while the priest next to me sawed a particularly thick log in his plantation.

Because “what the hell" is no answer to the person with the pale face at your garden gate. And finally I told myself: the country's problems are not mine. But the face at the garden gate is. And every day I will try to look at it with a soft heart and kind eyes.

The haven in Kloof Nek Road

Then I also remembered two role models who followed this approach, but whom I unfortunately knew for too short a time. Two people for whom putting their shoulder to the wheel was second nature: Hans and Frances Smuts, my parents-in-law.

I clearly remember my first impression of my father-in-law. He was like a dove — peaceful, warm, round, quiet. He was a graphic artist at Naspers all his life. My mother-in-law was an extremely intelligent woman, passionate about Afrikaans, and loved people. My in-laws raised five children. They didn't have a lot of money but they were extremely wealthy in other ways.

Because they lived on Kloof Nek Road, the always busy street that runs from the centre of Cape Town to the intersection of Table Mountain and Lion's Head.

Hans pitied the hungry faces and buttered countless sandwiches for beggars and other homeless souls. And their house was a haven for all those who were sad, downcast and mentally challenged. Frances made as many cups of tea as the sandwiches that Hans buttered, and so they provided a place to chat and a home for the homeless for an hour or so.

At a time when there were many unmarried women — a socially awkward place to be in those days — in Gardens and Tamboerskloof, the house in Kloof Nek Road was a haven for them. The priest and his siblings called them “die tannies".

Aunt Huibrie’s gift

One of them was Aunt Huibrie, a woman who found love late in her life, married and was then abandoned. In the 1970s, when there was still a lot of puritanical finger-wagging about such things (but not so much about poverty), it was a lonely place to be. With my in-laws she found comfort and acceptance, finally found peace in her heart and later even found a second love.

And because the generous giver always gets something back, Aunt Huibrie gave them a pudding in return, which is still in her handwriting in my mother-in-law's cookbook and which became a stalwart in the Smuts household.

It's a no-frills one-pot brown pudding that's sure to warm the cockles of your winter heart, whether you're making it for a social gathering or to comfort yourself. Aunt Huibrie's pudding, slightly adapted, yields eight generous portions.

Sift the dry ingredients together:  

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 heaped teaspoons baking soda

Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl:

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 can (410 g) fruit cocktail or other canned fruit with sauce

Mix the wet and the dry ingredients; Aunt Huibrie did that in the bowl in which the pudding would bake. Spread the batter evenly on top and bake at 180°C for 40-45 minutes. Greased large cupcake pans, three-quarters filled  with the batter, produce beautiful individual puddings.

Make the sauce while the pudding is baking:

  • 75 g butter or margarine
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ can Ideal milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Cook for 5 minutes and pour over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven. If you baked the puddings in the cupcake moulds, lift them out, pack them next to each other in a shallow pan and pour the sauce over them.


Queen of Sheba cake

My mother-in-law had a fairly wide repertoire of tarts, which she served with tea on Sunday afternoons. She stuck to tried and tested recipes and favourites of her family and guests.

For her, my gift is this simple but very elegant and tasty cake by Julia Child called Reine de Saba, or Queen of Sheba cake: bittersweet, only 4cm high and slightly moist in the middle. It yields eight servings.

  • 115 g dark, semi-sweet good quality chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rum or strong black coffee
  • 115 g soft butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons plus cup sugar (160 g altogether)
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • a pinch each of salt and cream of tartar
  • ½ cup (50 g) ground almonds
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup cake flour (65 g)

Grease a cake pan of 20-21 cm in diameter. Then sift some flour into the pan while rotating it, forming a very thin layer on the bottom and sides. Get rid of the excess flour by giving the pan a light tap. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of baking paper. Set the oven to 160°C. Get the ingredients ready. The Queen doesn't like to be kept waiting.

Carefully melt the chocolate with the rum or coffee until smooth and glossy and set aside. 

Beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the salt and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Keep aside.

Cream the butter cubes until fluffy, add the sugar, beat for another minute and then beat in the egg yolks. Now mix in the melted chocolate, ground almond and almond extract.

Fold a quarter of the beaten egg white into the egg yolk mixture to make it lighter. Then, with a light, nimble hand, fold the rest of the egg white and flour into the butter mixture in thirds.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, spread it evenly on top and bake on the middle oven shelf for 16–20 minutes. The centre of the cake may still wiggle slightly, but a skewer inserted about 3 cm from the edge  should come out squeaky clean. Leave to rest in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the cake.

The first prize would be to enjoy the cake as it is, without any icing, but you can also sift a little icing sugar over it or cover it with this chocolate glaze:

  • 90 g dark chocolate
  • 30 g butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream

Carefully melt everything together until smooth. Spread the glaze over the cake.  

And while I'm taking up the sword against the Puritans: apparently it was Mae West who first said “too much of a good thing can be wonderful".

That is why Aunt Huibrie's pudding and the Queen of Sheba cake can be decorated with a scoop of ice cream or sorbet.


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