Betty’s Vanilla Custard Slices

Who’s Betty I can hear you ask!  She’s my lovely Nanna who taught me to make these when I was about 12.  It’s what every twelve year old should be learning.  Shop bought vanilla slices come nowhere near comparing.

These use homemade rough puff pastry and up until earlier this year I always used shop bought ready made stuff thinking that making my own would be some kind of ordeal.  I’ll let you in on a secret – rough puff pastry is a cinch to make and super rewarding too.  If you aren’t convinced or are short of time get yours from the shop – it does the trick just as well.

Rough Puff Pastry
250g Strong White Flour
Pinch of Salt
250g Butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
5-6 tbsp cold water

Vanilla Custard
800ml Whole Milk
3 Eggs
3 tbsp Cornflour
1tbsp Vanilla Bean Paste
60g Caster Sugar

400g Icing Sugar
60ml Water

To make the rough puff pastry add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and give it a quick pulse to mix.
Cut the cold butter into 1/2cm slices and add to the food processor bowl.

Using the pulse function whizz until the butter is broken up but still in visible lumps.  Tip the mixture out into a large mixing bowl.

Make a well in the centre and add the juice of half a lemon and then enough super cold water to make a dough.  Use the blade of a table knife to mix the dough rather than your hands as you don’t want to melt the butter.

Once the dough is into a ball wrap in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge for an hour so that the butter hardens up again.

After an hour take the dough out of the fridge, lightly flour your work surface and then roll out the dough into a rectangle shape.

Fold into three like an envelope (see pictures below).

Turn the dough 90 degrees to the right so that the folds are now left and right. Roll again to a large rectangle and fold into three again.  Turn and then repeat this step twice more, turning before each re-rolling and folding.

Each time the pastry gets smoother and more refined.  Wrap again in clingfilm and allow it to chill for another hour in the fridge.

See? – It wasn’t difficult was it?

After the pastry is nicely cold again roll out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle about 5mm thick.  Using a pizza cutter cut into approx 6cm wide slices.

Place well spaced onto a greased or lined baking tray and bake in the oven at 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 10-12 minutes until golden and fully cooked.

Place on a rack to cool.

Now its time to make the custard.  Add all the ingredients to a pan with the exception of the sugar and give them a good stir with your whisk.  I like to use vanilla bean paste because I think it gives the best flavour with the gazillion seeds it has in, but vanilla extract is okay too.

Keep stirring over a medium heat and as the custard comes up to boiling point it will start to thicken.  Allow to bubble for a few minutes until it gets really thick, keeping stirring to avoid lumps.  Add in the sugar and give it another good stir.

If you do end up with lumpy custard you can
1. Whisk it like mad to get rid of the lumps
2. Whizz it up in the food processor which will sort it out
3. Pass it through a seive (if you have the patience of a Saint)
4. Hope no-one notices!

Pour the super-thick custard into a bowl and allow to cool.

Prepare your puff pastry slices by pressing down the tops with a fork so you have a nice base for the custard to sit on.  Tip off and discard the worst of the crumbs.

Pair up your pastry slices into two’s, a top and a bottom.

Place spoonfuls of cooled custard along the pastry bottoms.  Repeat with a second layer, slightly smaller than the first.  The trick is to keep the custard from oozing out.

Place the pastry tops onto the custard, being very gentle. If necessary use a knife to encourage any custard spillage back into the slice.

Mix up a thick icing using the icing sugar and water and ice the tops.

Bob them into the fridge for ten minutes just to encourage your custard to set in the right position!

My twelve year old instructions say to ‘use a saw knife to cut’, of course this would be a serrated knife.  Cut gently and carefully again avoiding a custard ooze situation!

Slice into whatever size you prefer but get ready to eat the lot – these are delicious and best eaten the same day!

Betty’s Vanilla Custard Slices
Ruth Clemens Baker

Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire

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32 Responses to Betty’s Vanilla Custard Slices

  1. Ruth says:

    Received a lovely email last night….

    Beautiful post, Ruth. You've convinced me to make my own rough puff. The photos are great too, and really help with the pastry method. Is the cornflour in the custard there to stabilize it? Would you ever use cream rather than milk in the custard? Thanks for the inspiration!

    Please keep up the good work!

    (Real custard slice lover!)

  2. Ruth says:

    Yep, the cornflour stabilises the custard and also helps with a really thick set. Pro's will make it without but I wanted to give everyone the 12 year olds, fail safe, version!

    And yes, as a special treat the custard can be made with single or double cream which will make it extra special!

  3. balleindianfood says:

    looks lovely 😀


  4. shewhisks says:

    I lurrrrve vanilla custard slices and I will have to add this to my baking list for sure! Looks so yummy! Is the bake-off still showing on BBC2?

  5. Ruth says:

    Yes the Bake Off is still showing on BBC2 Tuesdays at 8pm, third episode is on tonight!

  6. photo-zapper says:

    Dear Ruth
    I hope you do release a book of recipes. Everything – from your food to you clothes and colour-sense has a very unique style, and I can imagine the most beautifully designed little books, containing excuisite cakes. Congratulations on doing so well in the competition, and finding new self-confidence: many of us who were sold up the river by feminism in the 80s have MAs and PhDs, but long for the simple poignant aspects of existence, like family, growing things and baking. x

  7. Anonymous says:

    yes you must pull together a cookery book, you just have time for Christmas. I would buy it and I bet most of the people who watched the series would too.


  8. Anonymous says:

    Ruth I thought you were amazing, I did route for you to win, but I guess Paul had the last say (so it appeared to me). Anyways, I watched each episode of the bake off, downloaded through the BBC iPlayer. I live in Saudi (I am British) and I can not tell you how it lightened my day just watching it all. Ruth you are a "normal" wife and mother who has an amazing gift to bake. You are very watchable and it's because of your background that you will draw so many people to look at what you are up to, I certainly will. Thankyou again Ruth. Lizzy..wife/mother to two kiddies (aged 45)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ruth

    Just finished watching the last of the episodes also on BBC iPlayer. Too bad you didn't win but you've managed to find something that works here.

    I have a question please.. what could I use instead of vanilla paste for this recipe? Or how can I make it from scratch please? I'm in Egypt and I can't get vanilla paste.

    Good luck and keep these lovely recipes coming!

  10. Ruth says:

    Heidi – instead of vanilla bean paste you can use the seeds scraped from a vanilla pod xx

  11. Anonymous says:


  12. Anonymous says:

    amazing job,,, really wanted you to win in the great british bake off,,you were amazing

    good luck great website. xx

  13. Anonymous says:

    can you use plain flour for the pastry?

  14. Anonymous says:

    what happens if the dough is too sticky? is that too much butter?

  15. Ruth says:

    shouldn't be too much butter as there is a lot in it but probably if it is too warm – chill it hard in the fridge. Also if using stork or marg it won't chill hard for you at all xx

  16. Homeschool on the Croft says:

    Oh my goodness, this looks utterly amazing! I've never made my own puff pastry, but you're kind of convincing me to go for it! Off to make oatcakes right now, but this recipe is definitely on my 'to-do' list!

  17. Beedoon says:

    Ruth, this recipe has changed my life! I HATE shop bought puff pastry! The quality in Aus is very poor! This pastry is amazing!!!!!

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  19. Ali says:

    Hiya, This may be a ridiculous question but… Are the eggs in the custard supposed to be just yolks, or whole eggs?
    p.s. The photos look lush by the way!

    • I use whole eggs, the way my Nanna taught me but it is only the yolks that make the custard to set. If you have another use for the whites go ahead and just add the yolks x

  20. Tammy says:

    I was seriously starting to think I was crazy. As a 12 year old girl myself, I took a month long trip to England with my grandparents to visit my cousins there. Well I fell in love with what they simply called vanillas. During my teenage years when I would visit my grandmother back home here in America, she would always have a batch waiting for me. She passed away several years ago. Since everytime I would meet someone from the UK or even when there was a British Bakery that opened across town, I would ask about vanillas and even explain exactlly what they were and I always got blank stares. I am so happy I found this!!! I’m having a party on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Olympics and these are going to be front and center!

  21. Mary says:

    My 96 year old, English, mother-in-law lives with us. Today she asked if I had any “vanillas”. I had never heard of them and could not find them in any of my cookbooks. After much online hunting, I found your blog, and lo and behold! Vanillas! (verified as such by my husband). We will be trying your recipe soon. Thank you for posting it.

  22. Ann says:

    Thanks for the recipe, I made them yesterday for a fundraiser and they were gorgeous!
    I’ve had requests to make some more today!
    I didn’t have any corn flour so I used custard powder,with a little less vanilla.
    …. We always used to call them “vanillas” too!

  23. danielle says:

    They look yummy. Can they be frozen by any chance?

    • I wouldn’t freeze them whole but you could freeze the strips cooked of pastry and the filling separately, the filling will need rebeating after defrosting just to give it the right consistency x

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  26. These are my absolute favourite! Thank you so much for posting, im going to have to try these very soon.

    If interested take a look at my new blog


  27. sandra carr says:

    Thanks for this scrummy and easy to follow recipe. It took abit of patience but turned out great and enjoyed by all my family 🙂

  28. Conor says:

    hey Ruth these were delicious. ive just made them but i made the custard before cooking the pastry cause then you dont have to wait as long, but omg they are delicious and the rough puff pastry was so easy and rewarding to make

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