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~Bird's Custard Powder. Because You Make it Special~

IMG_0623Custard powder.  These are two words not typically on the tip of the average American foodie's tongue.  That's understandable, because, unless an American cook has some form of culinary ties to the United Kingdom or Australia (via cookbooks, travel or personal friendship), it's not an ingredient that has made its way into our food lover's vocabulary.  Given its popularity "across the pond", I find that hard to understand, because, for me it's a "nifty", time-saving pantry staple.

I learned about custard powder back in the early 1990's.  This was not an ingredient I ever found in my grandmother's or mother's pantry.  As with many recipes I post, I found out about it because my husband was doing business with an Australian company.  I got to be friends with a few of the corporate wives, and, via correspondence done the old-fashioned way, trading recipes and cookbooks via snail-mail across the ocean, I got my "custard powder" education.  

IMG_0588No one likes traditionally-prepared egg custard, custard sauce or pastry cream more than me, and, nothing compares to egg- and vanilla-laced crème anglaise prepared in that manner, but, for those times when I get a craving for a single cup of custard or just need a small amount of custard sauce to drizzle over a quick dessert, I reach for the "Bird's".  In minutes, rather than hours, it is a very tasty alternative.  For others, custard powder is their only choice.  Read on:  

IMG_0608Custard prepared with a powdered mix is generally-speaking less fattening than traditionally-made egg and cream custard, especially if it's prepared with skim milk and a sugar substitute. There's more.  For people who suffer from certain food allergies, and, for those with dietary restrictions (for health or religious reasons), custard powder is a tasty, must-use substitution.

IMG_0586A bit about Bird's custard powder. "Bird's" is the brand name for the original custard powder.  It was formulated by Alfred Bird back in 1837 because his wife was allergic to eggs (the key ingredient in traditionally-prepared egg custard). What it is not is: dried, powdered custard.  What it is, is: a mixture of cornstarch, salt and flavorings (predominately vanilla) which thicken to form a custard-like sauce when mixed with sugar and milk and heated.  There is just enough coloring added (food-safe annatto) to give the custard the appearance of being full of eggs. By adjusting the amount of milk, the consistency of the custard can be adjusted to make a sauce, a spoon dessert, a pastry cream or pie filling. It's so popular in the UK that the general use of the word "custard" more-often-than-not implies "Bird's".

IMG_0628By 1843, Bird's custard powder had become so popular, he formed the company Alfred Bird and Sons, LTD, and began mass-marketing it along with the newly invented baking powder too.  Mr. Bird also had a good eye for advertising, because his company was one of the first users of colorful advertising campaigns, and, in 1929, the "three bird logo" became his trademark. During the World War I years, Bird's custard was supplied to the British armed forces, then, came the World War II era and rationing.  It goes without saying his custard powder became a must-have pantry staple. In more recent history the company was sold to Premier Foods in 2004.

In the UK the word "custard" is synonymous with "Bird's".

IMG_0613When I prepare Bird's custard for just myself and Joe (2, 1/2 cup servings as pictured above), my favorite measurements are: 1 firmly-packed tablespoon custard powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.  Complete with a light sprinkling of freshly-ground nutmeg, it's quick and easy to make (done in less than 5 minutes), creamy and delicious, smooth and satisfying.  Enjoy it warm, at room temperature or chilled -- your choice.

It couldn't be simpler to prepare Bird's custard:

IMG_0595For those interested in the nutritional label:

IMG_0604And the trademark information too:

IMG_0598Bird's Custard Powder.  Bacause You Make it Special:  Recipe yields information about and instructions for preparing custard powder.

Special Equipment List:  appropriately-sized measuring container;  appropriately-sized saucepan; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07c51e9c970d 6a0120a8551282970b0148c677d1ed970cCook's Note: To take a closer look at products we American foodies do cook and bake with, click into Category 15 and read my posts ~ Baking Basic: Baking powder & Baking Soda ~ and ~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)


Yes, World Market stores in the U.S. carry Bird's. Just bought a container today in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas. Does anyone know what the proper ratio of powder to milk would be to produce a substantial pastry cream? Say, like the filling of a Boston cream pie??

Donna -- I don't see why it would not. You just have to makee enough of it to fill the pie shell.

Will this make a nice custard pie?

You can buy this in most grocery stores in Canada by the puddings

You use this to make Nanaimo Bars they are the best. Look for the recipe on pinterest.

Martha -- I can't be sure, but, all of my culinary instincts tell me the answer is: no, it would not hold up as a cake filling. I could be wrong -- if you try it and it works, let me know!

Does the recipe on the Bird’s custard powder container make custard good enough for a cake filling, or do I need to change the powder/milk ratio?

I remember Bird's custard from my childhood, 74 years ago, and haven't had any in about 35 years.
Is the Bird's custard I bought in January, 2022 the same as what I had in 1954?
I just made some but the label left out the instructions for how long to stir it (I found the answer on your website; it also didn't mention adding pure vanilla to the mixture (I remembered that from when my mom made)and I noticed that ingredient on your website but after I cooked some up. Just tasted mine now and it is as I remembered it. Mmmmmmm!! Thank you.

Just a quick note about your response to Gene - yes, you cut the milk in half, but you also cut the powder in half (from 2 tablespoons to 1). As you suggest, though, to make a thicker custard use less milk.

More importantly, you have to cook the custard long enough to thicken. Not unlike making gravy from powder, you need to let it come to a slow boil while stirring to avoid lumps. (I've never tried the microwave instructions, so I don't know how well they work.)

Hope that helps!

if you want a stock you can buy 3Kg bags via Amazon. Was worth while when I worked and lived in Boston.

I ordered mine from the English Tea Store online. Just made a flapper pie for my husband using it. Use less milk than the recipe calls for. It will thicken up in the refrigerator.

Ann & Wayne -- It is indeed wonderful stuff! Happy New Year!!!

I am of English descent and Bird's has always been a staple in our household. Wonderful stuff!!!

Gene -- If you notice in my recipe instructions, I cut the milk in half (I use 1 cup instead of a pint). I hope this helps. ~ Melanie.

I made my first custard dish. (1 pint size)
I followed the directions exactly...
I poured three small cup size containers and put them in the fridge for overnight.
In the morning I was disappointed because the custard was not set. It was very runny. What did I do wrong?

I expected it to be the consistency of at least a thick pudding. Please advise.

Sangita -- It is a great product to keep on-hand in the pantry. In a pinch, it really comes in handy.

Most Indian grocery stores carry it, being eggless. Was quite a fave, and for quick trifles!

Mary-Margaret -- Thanks for sharing. Looks like World Market is where we go to buy it here in the US. All the best. ~ Melanie

Have used it since I had a penpal from the UK (8th grade?) Used to buy it all the time from a cute English shop in Dubuque Ia...alas, she retired! So World Market, or online is where I get it now!

Penny -- That's good to know -- Thanks for telling us!

I found it at World Market.

Anna -- Since I live in small town Central, PA (and my selection of ingredients is somewhat limited), I purchase it on Amazon. It is quite inexpensive. Great to hear from you! ~ Mel.

How can we buy a container of the Birds custard powder? I would like to try it.

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