Food52's Warm Custard Spoon Bread

James Ransom

In my family, we have a Christmas morning tradition of feasting on French toast casserole, bacon, and generous pours of maple syrup. Sometimes there are a few grapefruits tucked into plates, but it is mostly a sweet, decadent affair.

After making LocalSavour's Warm Custard Spoon Bread from the new Food52 Cookbook, I may make a case for changing up the main course. This spoon bread won the "Best Holiday Breakfast" contest, and with very good reason--this bread is magic. Somehow, the process of whisking together a loose cornbread batter, pouring it into a hot pan, and topping it off with a generous pour of heavy cream, yields a three layer masterpiece made of custard, cake, and cornbread. Surely there must be some baking science behind it, but I'm content to leave that to the experts. Magic spoon bread is just fine by me.

Why I picked this recipe: The words "spoon bread," "magic," and "breakfast" were just too enticing to pass up.

What worked: Sweet, savory, and creamy, this spoon bread offers just about anything you'd want in a holiday breakfast treat.

What didn't: Next time I'll melt the pan-greasing butter directly in the oven to save time and to brown the butter a little bit. Be sure to eat this dish soon after baking. The flavor remains after it grows cold, but the glorious three-tiered texture fades.

Suggested tweaks: Commenters (and the photographer) suggest baking the spoon bread in cast iron.

Reprinted with permission from The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 by Amanda Hesser and Merill Stubbs, copyright 2012. Published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 75 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

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  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Place an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish in the oven on the middle rack to warm.

  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In another, large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, the vinegar, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and slowly stir until the batter is smooth and free of lumps.

  3. Remove the heated baking dish from the oven and add the remaining 2 teaspoons butter, using a brush to coat the base and sides of the dish. Slowly scrape the batter into the dish and place it on the oven rack. Slowly pour the cream over the batter; do not stir. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top layer is golden brown and a knife comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.