Have a sweet birthday, Uncle Harry!

Houdini’s recipe for bread-and-butter custard in Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries: A Collection of the Favorite Foods of Famous Players, 1916. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center. Note: bread-and-butter custard is not the same thing as custard bread pudding.

It’s undeniable that Houdini’s wife Bess would whip up his favorite meal for his birthday dinner. But what did Houdini like to eat?

Since Houdini was born in Budapest to a Jewish family, the food he found most dear throughout his life reflected his Hungarian and Jewish heritage—dishes his mother would have made at home. Bess once said that her husband’s favorite foods included Hungarian paprika chicken, spätzle, and custard bread pudding with bing cherries.

To celebrate the famed magician’s birthday, here is a recipe for custard bread pudding. But please don’t try to fit 143 candles on it!


Custard bread pudding with bing cherries

10 slices of day-old brioche bread, crusts removed
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
softened butter for the baking dish
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons clover honey
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 pound bing cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, lightly toasted

  1. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes. Combine the milk and vanilla and toss with the bread in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer. 2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange the pitted cherries in the dish. 4. Remove the soaked bread from the refrigerator and beat with a whisk or an immersion blender until it becomes a mush.
  3. Beat in the egg yolks, almond flour, cinnamon, and honey. 6. In a clean, dry bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, begin beating the egg whites on low speed. Gradually add the sugar, turn up the speed to high and whip until the egg whites form a soft meringue (about 1 minute). Be careful not to over beat, as you do not want the mixture to dry out. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the bread mixture.
  4. Scrape into the baking dish over the bing cherries. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top. 8. Bake 40 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.
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