Blancmange and the Devil in Spring

Blancmange and the Devil in Spring

Isn’t this cover just the prettiest? I absolutely judge books by their covers. And with spring just around the corner, this seemed perfect.

I’m a fan of historical romances. I like to read them to recharge when my brain is too tired to process nonfiction. Like, who doesn’t love a happy ending? And I end up learning a lot of vocabulary words through these novels. I mean, I learn a lot of technical terms and jargon through nonfiction, but it doesn’t have the same richness and nuanced meaning as now obsolete words from eras past.

I’m also a fan of almond desserts. So imagine finding an almond dessert recipe in an historical romance novel that I picked up because it had the most beautiful cover… Can you guess what happens next?

The female protagonist of Devil in Spring was originally biased against blancmange early in the book, thinking it plain and boring, but it becomes her favorite dessert by the end. I’d never heard of blancmange prior to reading this book; the author was kind enough to include a recipe in the back. It sounded like an almond gelatin dessert I love, so of course I had to try it.

Turns out, blancmange is a pudding. A very unassuming pudding that’s not much to look at, and no one would choose it from a dessert table. I’m not a big fan of puddings myself, but between my love of almond desserts and the beauty of book cover…

The version below is my paraphrasing of the recipe in the book. I always rewrite recipe instructions for myself instead of copying word for word; I find it easier to understand and follow when attempting to make something myself. The book’s recipe wasn’t as clear as it should be, so I added some of my own notes after testing the recipe. There was no mention of when to add the extract; following my intuition, honed from decades of baking, I put it in the third step. The recipe in the book also included a syrup to drizzle over before serving, but I found the blancmange sweet enough on its own, though adding some berries or fruit might break up the uniform texture a bit.


2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp almond extract (vanilla may be substituted)

Bring 1 cup of milk to a simmer in a small saucepan.
In a separate bowl, whisk the cornstarch with a bit of the remaining milk.
Add the sugar, extract, and the rest of the milk; whisk until smooth.
Pour the mixture into the saucepan, and turn to medium-high.
Continually whisk until mixture thickens, about 20 seconds after boiling.
Remove from heat and pour into cups or molds.
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

The texture of blancmange is somewhere in between that of gelatin and actual pudding. While I love the flavor, the texture feels very strange to me, partly because I don’t like pudding. It’s not solid like a gelatin, but it’s also not as creamy and soft as a pudding. The author’s notes say cornstarch can be substituted with gelatin, so perhaps I shall try it again that way (though, that might make it not blancmange anymore).

Have you read Devil in Spring? Have you tried blancmange? What did you think (of either the book or the dessert)? Let me know if you try the recipe and how you liked it!

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