Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Ultimate Custard Square Hunt - Fake Denheath Custard Squares?

Since the last time I took custard squares to work I've been regularly asked when they'll next make an appearance - and I could only hold off for so long. I also have had an email languishing in my inbox for months, sent to me by the lovely Nessie, who spied a recipe on the Foodlovers forum a while back for a custard square claiming to be almost identical to the delicious Denheath ones. I have to say that I was extremely dubious of this recipe - I didn't think it could taste particularly good at all, let alone good enough to rival Denheath for the custard square crown. The filling is so ridiculously simple it's almost embarrassing (except there's no point in being embarrassed about being able to whip up something tasty in a short period of time) - instant pudding (!) cream and milk.

I am all for shortcuts and kitchen hacks but sometimes you look at something and it just doesn't seem right - this was one of those recipes for me. However, I knew I would find plenty of willing taste-testers at work and I figured it couldn't taste bad - at worst it would taste like instant pudding and pastry, right?

As ever, I used the Edmonds Butter Puff pastry - so yummy - and the three sheets I had in my freezer was spot on for the amount of filling this creates. I would have liked them to be a bit taller but the filling is very soft and was hard enough to keep the custard with the pastry as it was. Stabbing the pastry all over with a fork was the most tedious part of the whole recipe, but is important to stop it from puffing up - it lets the hot air out as the pastry cooks.

When I said the filling was simple, I meant it; 600ml milk, 600ml cream, and four (70g) packets of Greggs vanilla instant pudding (the recipe called for three Cottees 100g packs, as it was from someone in Australia; I weighed the contents of the Greggs packets and it actually added up to about 295g, which I figured was close enough - a lucky escape for Mr Cake, whose supermarket mathematics apparently weren't quite up to scratch on Sunday!). When I mixed it up I tried a little bit, and couldn't get away from it tasting like instant pudding (though it was very thick and creamy - the texture was great). I added a teaspoonful of vanilla paste, though, and that improved it quite a lot.

Putting it together was easy - slop the 'custard' onto the bottom sheet of pastry, then spread as evenly as you can and press the rest of the pastry on top.

I made the traditionally basic icing, with lemon juice to cut through the sugary sweetness. Last night when I made and tasted it I thought it was overwhelmingly lemony but actually it wasn't even noticeable as part of the custard/pastry/icing package, so I've added a bit of zest to the recipe so that the citrus does something.

I am a fan of the coconut topping - I know many people aren't and you can easily leave this out. You can also use vanilla essence and water for the icing - or passionfruit syrup or pulp and water - or anything else you feel like!


Cutting it into serving-sized slices is where things can get hairy. We had a bit of a giggle at work - I very meanly only cut a few slices, then sat down to eat my lunch, planning to come back to it (I thought it would take longer for my colleagues to get through the cut custard squares than it would take me to eat my meal - I was wrong!). A colleague came along to get his bit and had to cut his own. Hilarity ensued.  So be warned; custard squares may be tasty but they are very messy to cut! A serrated knife helps - but we didn't have one at work - and my other trick is turning the pieces on edge, so the cutting motion is down the pastry rather than across, if that makes sense. 

We had planned to do a grand taste test with a Denheath custard square, too; I had bought a box of six from Moore Wilson's a while back, frozen, and though we'd eaten three of them I'd been intentionally holding off for the comparison. Unfortunately they had a nasty freezer-burnt taste to them, which completely spoiled them - very sad! I am confident mine still don't measure up to [non-freezer burnt] Denheath custard squares - and I have learnt my lesson about keeping yummy things for too long! I'm not sure if having them in a sealed plastic container (as opposed to their original cardboard box) would have helped - the best-before date is next year, so there must be a trick to storing them more effectively - but I think in future I'll just go with the eat-it-soon methodology for optimal storage. ;-)

The filling is very tasty and creamy - and incredibly rich - and everyone at work raved about it. I don't think it's very similar to the Denheath's squares at all - theirs have a whole other level of creamy-awesome - but it does fill a pretty neat niche for an easy and impressive custard square; you could probably put it together in a little over half an hour at a pinch.  A recipe which will stay in my artillery for its simplicity!

Easy Custard Squares (makes 18-24)
3 sheets butter puff pastry
600ml milk
600ml cream
4 x 70g packets vanilla instant pudding
100g butter, melted
2 cups icing sugar
lemon juice (or vanilla essence)

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Cut one of the pastry sheets in half and place all of them on lined baking trays and prick all over with a fork. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden. Press down with a clean teatowel to ensure they are flat. Cool.

Place the milk, cream and instant pudding mix in a large bowl and beat for 6-8 minutes or until thick and creamy. Scoop the filling mixture onto one of the large and one of the small pastry sheets, and spread out evenly with a spatula. Top with the remaining pastry and use a spatula to even out the filling around the edges.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the icing sugar, and then add lemon juice and water if needed to get to a good spreading consistency. Spread over the pastry tops and sprinkle with coconut. Chill for an hour then use a serrated knife to saw through the pastry to cut into squares. Keep chilled; eat within 48 hours.


  1. If you are looking for something that apparently tastes like the delicious Denheath's custard squares, there was a big discussion about them on the trade me forums awhile back. I think there may be the recipe for some filling that tastes like the Denheath one...supposedly. From memory I think it has cream cheese in it. I had planned on making it myself but still haven't got around to it. Your ones still look lovely though!

  2. Thanks Megan - I might have to try that one (in a little while, when the workmates start begging again!).

  3. Yay glad it wasn't a dud recipe! Gutted it wasn't quite up to scratch. This Denheaths recipe is proving pretty elusive! You think any tweaks to this recipe would work? Is the taste similar even if not as creamy? I really think I have to try a Denheaths custard square soon!!! :)

  4. It tasted fabulous! I don't think the custard has the vicosity to match the Denheath's one - I might try the one from the TradeMe forum that Megan mentioned next. :-)

  5. Hi Rosa! How's the custard slice hunt going? Was thinking about this recipe today and did some more trawling around forums...what do you think about using using sour cream in the custard? Do you think it would work? :)

  6. Hi love this recipe but even quicker I use Sao crackers instead of pastry then add layer of custard then other top of Sao crackers and ice yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm xxxx

  7. I thought I would give this a try, but decided to go for half a recipe in case I didn't like it. I wish I had gone for 1/4 of the recipe because I didn't get beyond making the filling. (I usually set the custard for my custard squares—made with milk, eggs, sugar, custard powder and home-made vanilla essence—separate from the pastry and put them together only when I want to serve up.) This was revoltingly sweet and I wondered what on earth Gregg's put in their instant desserts that made my teeth so dry! I'm afraid the lot was flushed down the sink with some hot water. I knew there was no point asking my husband to try it.

    1. Oh dear, sorry to hear that! It was definitely pretty sweet when I made it, but that was a few years ago and I wonder if the instant dessert has changed since? Regardless, I'm very sorry for your waste - nothing worse than a dessert that doesn't live up to expectations!

  8. I made these today. Amazing thank you!!

    1. So glad that they worked out well for you! :-D

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