Recipes: Relive your Suffolk schooldays with chocolate crunch, arctic roll and other favourite school dinner desserts

Arctic roll is an old-school favourite

Arctic roll is an old-school favourite - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis’ recipes for school desserts

Chocolate crunch ready to serve

Chocolate crunch ready to serve - Credit: Archant

I often wonder how many fussy eaters can trace their loathing of a particular foodstuff or dish back to their school days, says food writer Charlotte Smith-Jarvis.

Thankfully I’m not of the generation of semolina and tapioca puds which would have probably put me off dessert for ever and ever. But I do have strong memories of being forcefed wet, disintegrating fishfingers at the school dinner table.

Although I love a proper fishfinger buttie now, there was a time when the mere idea of a Captain Birdseye’s cod fillet fish finger was enough to turn my stomach.

Something I do look back on through rose tinted goggles, however, is school dinner desserts.

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Chocolate crunch (or concrete) so hard it’d break your teeth if you didn’t smother it in lukewarm custard (chocolate, of course), slabs of sponge cake smothered in ‘white icing’ and fairy sprinkles, and the legendary arctic roll which always seemed a bit mysterious and special.

Times don’t always change. My own children regularly come home from school begging me to make crunch or whatever else the school kitchen has conjured up.

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Take a trip down memory lane and try out a few for yourselves.

Chocolate crunch

Chocolate crunch - Credit: Archant

Chocolate crunch

Surely ‘the’ most popular school days pudding of all time. It’s really like a giant bourbon biscuit without the creamy frosting inside. To get the consistency right you have to use granulated sugar. Be warned it is very very addictive! Serve with my luxurious Belgian chocolate custard or sweet and sherbetty fresh strawberry custard. Give it a go for Sunday pud this weekend. What I like is the fact it’s very cheap to make and only has four ingredients – children can make it in a flash.


200g plain flour, 200g granulated sugar (plus extra for sprinkling), 1tsp coffee essence, 50g good cocoa powder, 130g unsalted butter, 2tbsps water


• Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a 20cmsq tin.

• In a bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, sugar and coffee essence.

Step by step chocolate crunch

Step by step chocolate crunch - Credit: Archant

• Melt the butter and add it to the dry ingredients with the water. Press together until it’s like moist breadcrumbs.

• Press into your tin and bake for 20 minutes.

• When it comes out of the oven sprinkle over some more sugar.

• Serve hot or cold with loads of custard.

Fresh strawberry custard

This is quite unlike the powdered stuff you would have got at school. It doesn’t have that pappy texture and you can really taste the strawberries coming through. It’s well worth the effort. For the full nostalgic effect add some pink food colouring. And any leftovers can be frozen in lolly moulds for your own homemade Mini Milks.


Strawberry custard

Strawberry custard - Credit: Archant

430ml milk, 4 large egg yolks (freeze the whites to make meringues), 90g caster sugar, 3tbsp cornflour, 275g fresh hulled strawberries


• Combine the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl.

• Boil the strawberries in the milk then strain a little of the hot milk onto the eggs and whisk to warm it through.

• Strain in the rest of the milk and keep whisking to combine.

• Sieve the strawberries into the mix, getting rid of the seeds in the sieve.

• Wash out your saucepan (important to get rid of any milk proteins that could burn) and add the custard. Heat gently, stirring all the time until it becomes thick and spoon coating.

A delicious cornflake tart

A delicious cornflake tart - Credit: Archant

Cornflake tart

I have to admit this isn’t something that appeared on the menu when I was at school but friends of mine remember it well. It’s another cheap to make nursery pud that makes the best of things you might well have knocking around – that last bit of jam in the jar, a few handfuls of cereal. It is surprisingly good.


For the pastry - 100g unsalted butter, 200g flour

For the filling - 120g golden syrup, 50g unsalted butter, 85g cornflakes, 30g dark brown sugar, pinch salt, a few tablespoons your favourite jam

Cornflake tart

Cornflake tart - Credit: Archant


• Make the pastry first. Rub the butter into the flour until you have breadcrumbs. Add chilled water tablespoon by tablespoon until you can bring the mix together into a dough.

• Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

• Now roll it out on a lightly floured surface and use it to line an 18cm loose-bottomed tart tin – you want the pastry to overhang by at least 1cm. Use an offcut to press the pastry right into the edges. Roll over the top of the tin with a rolling pin to cut away the excess neatly, then pinch all around the top of the pastry to lift it slightly above the tin to allow for shrinkage.

• Place a piece of scrunched up greaseproof paper in the centre and fill with baking beans. Bake at 200C for 15 minutes.

• While the base is cooking make the filling. Melt together the butter, syrup and sugar with a pinch of salt but don’t allow it to boil.

• Take off the heat and add the cornflakes.

Arctic roll - first steps

Arctic roll - first steps - Credit: Archant

• When the base is ready take out the paper and baking beans and spread a few spoonfuls of jam on the bottom.

• Spoon over the cornflake topping and then return to the oven for five minutes.

Blackberry ripple arctic roll

Oh the simple joy of a big cylinder of ice cream wrapped in sponge. This pud looks harder than it actually is. I made my own ice cream because I have an ice cream machine at home, but you can skip this part if you like and use ready made vanilla ice cream, adding the blackberry syrup later.

For the ice cream - 3 egg yolks, 75g caster sugar, 1.5tsp vanilla extract, 1tbsp cornflour, 300ml double cream, 300ml milk, 150g blackberries, 2tbsps sugar

For the sponge - 4 large eggs, 125g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling), 125g self-raising flour, sieved, Blackberry jam

Arctic roll - end steps

Arctic roll - end steps - Credit: Archant


• Start by making the ice cream. Whisk together the 75g of sugar, egg yolks, vanilla and cornflour.

• Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil then add a little of the milk to the eggs to warm them through.

• Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk until it’s all incorporated.

• Allow the mix to chill completely while you make the blackberry swirl.

• For this, simply place the 2tbsp of sugar in a pan with the berries and simmer until they disintegrate. Sieve out the seeds then return the smooth mix to the pan and simmer until it’s a little thickened and jammy. Set aside.

• Once the milk mix is cool beat in the cream then place in your ice cream machine and churn or put in a tub in the freezer, beating with a whisk or fork every hour for four hours.

• Once the ice cream has churned, pour in the blackberry sauce and swirl gently to marble.

• Now place clingfilm on a flat surface and spoon half the ice cream on top in a sausage shape. It should be about 8cm to 10cm in diameter. Roll up quickly and seal then return to the freezer. A couple of hours later take it out and squeeze and press it into a defined sausage shape then return to the freezer once more.

• To make the sponge pre-heat the oven to 190C. Line a Swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper. Whisk together the eggs and sugar for about five minutes using an electric whisk until very fluffy and light in colour. It should gain in volume.

• Sieve over the flour in batches and fold in then spread into your tray evenly.

• Bake for 12 minutes.

• While it’s baking place a piece of greaseproof paper just larger than the tin on a worksurface and sprinkle with caster sugar.

• Tip the cooked sponge straight away onto the prepared surface and peel away the backing paper. Cut off the edges to neaten and then cut fine slits across the width of the cake every 5cm, going in about a third of the way. This will help prevent breaking later on.

• Take the edge of the paper and use it to roll up the cake loosely. Allow to cool.

• To assemble unroll the cake and spread with the jam. Unwrap your frozen sausage of ice cream and place in the centre, bringing the edges of the cake around the ice cream to seal.

• Turn over and slice off the edges to neaten then wrap in clingfilm and freeze until ready to serve.

Belgian chocolate custard

I could (and have) eat this straight out of the bowl with nothing else. It is dreamily creamy and so rich in chocolatey flavour.


3 large egg yolks, 100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), 1tsp vanilla extract, 1tbsp cornflour, 300ml double cream, 300ml milk, 100g light muscovado sugar


• In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, sugar and cornflour. Break in the chocolate.

• Place the cream and milk in a pan and bring to the boil.

• Pour a little of the milk over the eggs and whisk quickly to warm through then add the rest of the milk and cream mix little by little.

• The chocolate will melt into it.

• Wash out your pan and pour the mixture back, cooking on a gentle heat while stirring all the time until thick and spoon coating.

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