Posted by: Erica Retrochef | October 10, 2011

Apricot Tapioca Cream

After squareburgers and “tropical” bacon, I was feeling a bit tired of meat. Tasty, sure, but definitely savory dishes. Time for something sweet!


1 egg yolk
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Minute Tapioca
1 egg white
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups cooked apricot purée

Mix egg yolk with a small amount of the milk in saucepan. Add remaining milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, and Minute Tapioca. Place over medium heat. Cook until mixture comes to a full boil, stirring constantly — this takes 5 to 8 minutes. (Do not overcook … mixture thickens as it cools.) Remove from heat.

Beat egg white until foamy throughout; add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating with rotary egg beater until mixture will stand in soft peaks. Add hot tapioca mixture, stirring constantly. Add vanilla. Cool, stirring after 15 to 20 minutes. Chill. Turn into parfait glasses, alternating tapioca cream with apricot purée. Garnish with whipped cream. An elegant dessert for 6 people! So lavishly luscious — so full of homemade goodness — no one would ever dream it’s so quick and easy to fix. And thrifty, too.

Even though recipes like this promise to be “quick and easy to fix,” it’s tough to improve on the convenience of instant Jello. Regardless, I’ve actually been interested in trying to make pudding from scratch for a while. Not just so I can get my retro on — also so I can see how it tastes in comparison, since so many homemade foods are such a big improvement on prepackaged, boxed counterparts. Vanilla pudding with apricot layers sounds like as good a place as any to start trying.

And weirdly enough, I even already had tapioca starch in my house (not Minute Tapioca, but you can apparently substitute with no problems). These ingredients didn’t even require a trip to the store.

Stirring constantly is one of those funny instructions that you never worry about until it’s too late.

Beginning to cook: “Stirring for five to eight minutes will be easy!”

Seven minutes later: “MY ARMS!

By the end of the cooking process, it already was starting to feel a little thicker than milk ought to, which was encouraging.

I hit the first snag when beating the egg white. This came as a surprise, since I’ve never had much trouble (aside from tired arms) from egg whites. These were supposed to be staying in soft peaks, but instead kept slumping back into a shiny blob no matter how long they were beaten.

The tapioca, on the other hand, was thickening nicely as it sat in the pot. So, I just moved on and added it to the less-than-peaky egg whites. Maybe that will be fine…


Unfortunately, after three hours in the fridge, it wasn’t fine. It lost all the thickness brought by the tapioca-milk mixture, and I assumed the eggs were to blame.

So, another attempt — this time using my stand mixer to REALLY show those egg whites who’s boss. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

While it chilled, I puréed some apricots. We’ve done similar things before (for example, it’s a nice hamentaschen filling, or super-easy homemade baby food) — just boil dried apricots for a while with a little bit of cinnamon, toss in the food processor, and you’re done.

Thankfully, the second egg whites seemed to make an improvement, and I finally seemed to have an appropriately pudding-like texture in my pudding. Into the fridge, leaving it overnight to get as solid as possible.


Once again, it de-puddingified. Well, this batch was a little bit better, since there was a half-inch thick layer of pudding-like goo on top, but my excitement was quickly quashed when I picked up the bowl and noticed the vast majority of “pudding” was simply sloshing around underneath.

I can’t try this again at the moment because I’m out of eggs, but further pudding testing is absolutely required. I very much want to figure out what the hell is wrong with this, because it COULDN’T have been this hard to make pudding from scratch. I’ve made cakes, hollandaise sauce, jellied boullion, and a pudding defeats me? Oh, it’s on.

Original frustration-inducing late 1940’s tapioca advertisement is from Look Homeward, Harlot’s Flickr stream.



  1. Tapioca 1. You 0.
    I can’t believe you attempt egg whites by hand. That’s badass.

    • Actually, it’s Tapioca 2.

      She is indeed badass for whipping egg whites by hand. However, it’s actually pretty difficult to whip just a single egg white with a stand mixer (or with any electric mixer, actually). Too much of the albumen ends up at the bottom, just out of reach of the whisk.

  2. Oh, weird. That totally should have worked.
    I looked up the Minute Tapioca – and it contains soy lecithin, which is an emulsifier, but that shouldn’t have been enough to make this separate; tapioca is typically really hearty, and the amount of lecithin is probably minimal. My guess is the eggs — next time you’ll have to whip the heck out them, really get them into stiff peaks, and after you’ve mixed about a quarter of them in with the tapioca, just barely fold in the rest, and tiptoe around so nothing drastic happens.

    Normally, pudding isn’t this hard… but then, I’ve only made pots de creme pudding, which isn’t quite the same thing…

    Stumped with you.
    But, carry on! Looking forward to your total victory over pudding!

    • After these attempts, we discovered that we actually had some Minute Tapioca in the back of a cupboard. The box says the tapioca flakes inside are already parboiled, which I suspect is more of a factor than the lecithin might be. If my theory is right, using fresh tapioca flour would work, but it would require extra cooking.

  3. I clicked on the tapioca substitution link you included. (Thanks for that resource – way cool!) In the larger section that talks about cassava and fish eyes and flour and starch, yes, it does say you can substitute.

    BUT. Higher up in the document (by potato flour) it says when substituting instant tapioca **use half as much**. Maybe you weren’t using enough tapioca flour and it wasn’t the fault of the eggs after all?

    Ellen’s Kitchen ( went into a bit of detail about the differences between Minute Tapioca and tapioca flour – how they’re processes and why she was unsuccessful with the substitution…

    No, I’m not a tapioca savant. It was just interesting to me and I’m procrastinating here at the computer… 🙂

  4. It does sound really tasty, if it had set properly.

    I’ve made something much easier, for years – easy home-made chocolate pudding, with cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch, and milk. Much better than from-the-box.

  5. Bah! Fail!

    It’s okay. Sometime not all mid-century recipes actually work. Sometimes you just have to substitute your butt off with modern ingredients as far as you can and then call it a day.

    I would suggest doubling the amount of tapioca flour as suggested by Tracy OR just throw in some cornstarch.

    I use A LOT of cornstarch. It’s my best friend.

  6. Well, Kudos to you for those tries, Erica. I’m sure I would have thrown in the towel. I’ve dug out a few of my vintage Minute Tapioca recipe books and the only constant difference seems to be in the amounts and directions. Let me know if you want more details.

    Thank you so much for sharing your frustration. I no longer make home made pudding on the stove because I just can’t seem to regulate the heat on an electric stove. I wish I could:) I’ve never attempted home made pudding with anything else except cornstarch. Good Luck!!!

  7. I would agree with RetroRuth- cornstarch (or cornflour as we call it in the UK) is my secret saviour!

    I love the idea of this blog, I’m an avid collector of vintage recipe books from the 20th century, and love to try them out.

  8. […] my recent tapioca pudding debacle, in which I failed not once but twice to get appropriate pudding texture, I decided to regroup and […]

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