Jam Roly-Poly: Jolly Dessert That’s Good With Custard

Jam roly-poly served with custard
Jammy! Thanks to BBC Food for the poly image.

Okay, British desserts range from trifle through to the hilarious spotted dick. Ahem. Jam and sponge appears to be a common theme here.

A jam roly-poly is another such example. A sponge-based type of deal that layers on some jam (unsurprisingly) and is something of an after school treat. Huzzah!

What’s a Jam Roly-Poly?

It’s a British pudding consisting of suet and jam. It’s kind of like a Swiss roll, but with jam. And it’s British, gosh darn it!

The recipe goes by the name of jam roly-poly, of course, but other titles include:

  • Roly poly pudding.
  • Shirt-sleeve pudding.
  • Dead man’s arm.
  • Dead man’s leg.

As such, we suggest you call it a dead man’s body part if you decide to freak some of your guests out with this during a dinner party. Why not?

Anyway, it’s a popular dessert. So you’d serve it after a main meal.

Or, you know, you can just have it as a snack at some point. With or without custard. That’s up to you.

What’s the History of the Jam-Roly Poly?

This GREAT British thingy likely came into being during the 19th century.

Sources suggest is was invented by Eliza Acton (1799-1859) in 1845, in a recipe consisting of rolled suet pudding with marmalade, mincemeat, or jam.

The recipe then featured in a cookbook by the legendary journalist, writer, and chef Isabella Beeton (1836-1865).

Here she is pictured in 1860 in an enormous crinoline, no doubt contemplating the nature of jam roly-polies.

Isabellla Beeton in a crinoline

Anyway, in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) the dish appears 15 years after Acton’s effort.

But this time the instruction was to add jam into the pudding. On pain of death (maybe)!

The recipe would soon become something of a national darling, joining such classic desserts like sticky toffee pudding and mince pies.

By 1908, writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter deemed the dessert excellent enough to appear in The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or, The Roly-Poly Pudding.

The Roly-Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter

Further into the 20th century, the dessert was clearly deeply embedded into the British public’s conscience.

And so it began adorning postcards and marketing materials in the form of knee thumping hilarity such as this.

Jam roly-poly marketing postcard

These days it’s a famous recipe, but arguably doesn’t get the same level of adoration and press attention as other English desserts.

Still, head into any supermarket here and you’ll be drowning in the things.

A national icon? Certainly one of them! And another example of comfort food done proper, our kid.

How Do You Make Jam-Roly Poly?

If you’re absolutely gagging to make this recipe, then you’ll need the following ingredients:

200g/7oz self-raising flour
100g/3½oz shredded suet
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
150ml/5fl oz semi-skimmed milk or water
6–7 tablespoons of jam

The jam is important! We recommend going for the jam of your choice. Strawberry, raspberry… whatever floats your boat.

You’ll also need an oven to bake the thing in. And you can add some custard on the side if that’s your type of thing. Pukka!

Dispense with some gibberish!

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