Southern Food
Tipsy Hedgehog

The other day I wanted my mom’s recipe for a dessert we call Tipsy.  I wanted it right then and there at 11:47 Tuesday morning.  I did not want to wait until I next made the five-mile journey to her house.  I did not want to wait until she was home to dictate it to me over the phone.  I had to have it then.  At 11:47 Tuesday morning.

My mother would tell me to stick in my ear if I even thought about being that demanding with her so I Googled it.

Well, I was delighted with what I learned on ye old World Wide Web!  There are fazillions of recipes for Tipsy ranging from Tipsy Cake, Tipsy Parson, Tipsy Pudding, Tipsy Trifle, Tipsy Squire and even something called Tipsy Hedgehog!

In general, Tipsy desserts have three things in common:  sherry, custard and cake.  Check, check, check!  I love all three of those things!

I had a pretty good sense that this was an old recipe because I remembered that part of the cooking instructions called for scalding the milk (which hasn’t been necessary since the advent of pasteurization) but I had no idea the rich heritage.  Tipsy is an English dessert (which you probably could have figured out based on the main ingredients) and dates back to the 1700s.  As with most dishes of the like, Tipsy began as a means of using up leftover ingredients such as stale cake and perishable goods like cream.  Tipsy got its name when it went from being a simple custard trifle to having sherry or whiskey added.

Most of the Tipsy desserts are in the form of a trifle (though I’m a bit curious about the hedgehog).  Mom’s has neither, but some recipes include fresh fruit and/or nuts.  I’ve only ever had my mom’s and since it’s absolutely perfect, I think I’ll just keep making it the way she does.

Tipsy (by Carol Richburg)

3 cups whole milk

3 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sherry (or more as needed)

1 package Lady Fingers (or sponge cake pieces)

Pour milk in a double-boiler and heat until simmering.

Whip egg yolks until creamy and light yellow.  Temper the eggs with the hot milk then add eggs to the double-boiler.  Add salt.  Cook mixture in double-boiler, stirring constantly.  Gradually add sugar to mixture and continue to simmer (not boil) until mixture coats the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes).  Add vanilla.

Brush lady fingers or sponge cake pieces with sherry.  Assemble trifle by layering cake pieces and custard in a trifle dish or glass bowl.  Pour any remaining custard over the dessert (you want the cake to be really saturated with the custard).

Refrigerate overnight (or a minimum of 4-6 hours).  Serve with whipped cream.

*I updated the cooking instructions a bit.  Old English recipes can be a bit hard to follow and scalding the milk is unnecessary.

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a contributing writer for the Food & Drink section and is currently working on her first cookbook. Mandy is an award winning recipe writer and judges regional cook-offs and other culinary contests.

“I'm just a gal that likes food. Of course I like to eat, but what I've discovered about myself over the years is that there are more ways for me to enjoy food than just eating it. I like to shop for it, read about it, cook it, entertain with it and write about it. And when it's really good, sometimes I'm tempted to throw it on the floor and roll in it."