Clair Murphy's Spiced Milk Custard Cake

Ever wonder what you'd need to fuel a day of cutting reeds in a cold river? Or, for that matter, to help you survive the imminent holidays?

We asked Clair Murphy of Rushmore Baskets, the weaver behind 'Alice's Kitchen Basket' to give us a recipe, something she likes to take with her out to the River Isle in Somerset, UK, to cut rush for a season of weaving. She furnished us with her version of a Greek 'galatopita', a milk and semolina custard cake she infuses with warm spices like star anise and cardamom and a layer of bitter orange marmalade. 

A perfect recipe for the festive season.

Spiced Milk Custard Cake

"I love this pudding which can also be served as a cake. Someone often brings a cake when we go rush cutting — it's extremely welcome to have something sweet and 'fueling' when you've been in a cold river for hours!  Served with hot tea from a thermos, this cake goes down very well and sets you up for another session of swinging that sickle underwater. It's my version of Galatopita — a baked semolina from Greece."


750 ml (3 cups) of whole milk
100 grams (1 cup) of granulated sugar 
3 whole star anises
10 cardamom pods, whole
half a cinnamon stick
45 grams (~3 1/4 tablespoons) of butter
90 grams (~1/2 cup) of semolina
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 
4 tablespoons of orange marmalade


Gently heat the milk, sugar, star anise, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick in a pan until the sugar has melted.  Stir as it heats to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Put the pan aside for a few hours to allow the spices to steep in the milk mixture.

When you're ready to make the pudding

Set the oven to 400F

Butter a baking dish. A 9 x 6" rectangle of 9" round work well. Line it with a dusting of semolina

Fish out the spices from the milk mixture. Break up some of the now squashy cardamom pods and scrape the seeds back into the milk.

Heat the milk mixture and add the butter.  Once the butter has melted, pour in the semolina, stirring continuously.

Continue to stir as the milk comes to the boil, then lower the heat and let the semolina thicken up, which it will do quite quickly.

Let the mixture cool down a bit before adding the beaten eggs so that they don't cook, then stir them in really well. 

Add the vanilla extract.

Next spoon half the mixture to fill the bottom of the prepared dish, then cover this with a good layer of marmalade.  Spoon over the rest of the mixture and spread it out to the edges of the dish.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is browning on top.

Once completely cool, the cake cuts well into squares and is very good served warm with cream or vanilla ice cream, or as it comes out in the field. Keeps brilliantly in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to five days.