Slightly Sinful Jam Roly Poly

Jam roly poly in a bowl with custard

A flaky suet sponge rolled up with a layer of jam is a classic nursery pudding that’s stayed a favourite over the past 200 years. This slightly sinful combination of sweet and stodge is made all the more delicious with lashings of custard.

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 20 minutes chilling
Cooking time:
40–60 minutes

  • 1 1/2 x quantity suet pastry (see below)
  • plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting
  • 225–250g jam of choice
  • 3–4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
  • butter, for greasing
  • full-fat milk, for sealing
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing
  • caster sugar, for dusting
  • custard, to serve
Jam roly poly with custard. (Phaidon/Ben Mervis)


Make the pastry following the recipe below and leave to chill for 20 minutes before using.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, ensuring there are two shelves inside it.

Read: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work counter into a rectangle about 30 x 20cm (the longer side being a little shorter than the roasting pan). Using a palette knife, spread the jam evenly over the dough, leaving a 2cm gap around a longer edge and two shorter edges. If the jam is runny, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Lightly brush the three edges with the milk, then, starting with the longer edge that’s covered in jam nearest to you, firmly roll up the dough away from you like a Swiss roll. Apply pressure on the seal and the ends of the dough so that the jam stays inside.

Put a piece of aluminium foil about 40cm long onto the work counter, then heavily grease a piece of baking paper with butter and put it on top of the foil. Transfer the roll onto the paper. Brush the dough with the egg, generously sprinkle with the sugar and wrap gently in the paper, making a pleat along the top, then secure with the foil firmly at the ends.

Bring 1L water to the boil and reduce the oven temperature to 160°C. Put a 23 x 33cm roasting pan onto the lower shelf of the oven and the roly poly on the top shelf. Quickly and carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan and bake for 40–60 minutes. Remove the roly poly from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before unwrapping.

Read: Simple Jam Biscuits

Remove the roly poly from the foil and paper, divide it into even portions and serve with hot custard.

Suet pastry

This rich, flaky pastry can be used in many savoury British pies or puddings, and a handful of sweet ones too.

Makes: 400g

  • 200g self-raising flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g beef suet, shredded

Put the flour, salt and suet into a bowl and mix together. Slowly add about 150ml water and mix using a knife until the dough comes together into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work counter and knead briefly, until it is soft but not sticky to the touch. Cover with clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Once the dough has chilled, use as required.

The British Cookbook by Ben Mervis. (Phaidon/Ben Mervis)

In The British Cookbook, author and food historian Ben Mervis takes readers on a mouth-watering culinary tour across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, revealing a cuisine as diverse as the landscape from which it originates.

Part cookbook, part cultural history, this deeply researched collection of 550 authentic recipes encompasses home-cooked classics, lesser-known and regional recipes, dishes deeply steeped in British history and iconic dishes with roots outside of the United Kingdom.

The British Cookbook by Ben Mervis is available now from

Are you a fan of jam roly poly? Which is your favourite classic dessert? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Ellie Baxter

Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.

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