Golden syrup

The Italians make a biscuit called “brutti ma buoni”  – ugly but good. This describes the golden syrup dumpling perfectly.

In spite this blog’s name I’m not much of a sweet tooth. But a recent wintry weekend and a visit home from the uni student demanded a warm and substantial dessert. So golden syrup dumplings it was. They’re affectionately called GSDs in our house.

Golden syrup dumplings are an enriched dough baked in a sweet caramel sauce. Don’t try to make them dainty, because GSDs aren’t about aesthetics. They’re in the class of food designed for filling and warming, cheaply and simply, with ingredients you had on hand. Stick-to-your-ribs satisfaction.

Golden syrup is a type of treacle, a by-product of the sugar refining process.  Australians have used it since at least the 1840s. Golden syrup was originally imported, but as the Australian sugar industry developed, so did golden syrup manufacturing. It was made in Melbourne at the Colonial Sugar Refinery’s Yarraville factory (still owned by CSR) and at the iconic Melbourne biscuit maker Swallow and Ariell’s Port Melbourne factory.

Promoted as a substitute for sugar or even eggs when they were scarce, golden syrup featured in recipes for puddings, tarts and sponges. Of course, arguably the most famous use of golden syrup in Australian cookery is the Anzac biscuit.

Golden syrup tins were nearly as versatile as the ingredient. They were used during the wars for sending comfort ingredients to troops, and in the aftermath of World War 2 for sending fat to resource-starved Britain.

This 1936 instruction for making a cake tin with golden syrup and petrol tins sounds a bit complicated. Not sure about the effect of the petrol tin on the cakes.

My grandmother had her own ingenious recycling solution – she made them into stilts for us kids by punching holes in the tins and looping some bailing twine through as handles.

Becasue we only make GSDs once every year or two, the first step in the process is always remembering where the best recipe is. Our family pudding-making expert had clearly found the Cookery the Australian Way version unsatisfactory before and didn’t want to make the same mistake again:

IMG_0883 (1)

So the Weekly Times new pioneer cookbook it was. The recipes were sent in by readers, and the golden syrup dumplings one is a pretty straight match for those I’ve found in Weekly Times editions from the 30s and 40s. Thank you, Mrs Edna Moores of Murrumbeena, for setting us right.

There are different schools of thought on whether you boil GSDs on the stove top or bake in the oven. The family pudding-maker is of the baking school, so he veers from Mrs Moores at that point.

Transcribing the recipe, I was suprised to see that there is only 1 tablespoon of golden syrup – the sugar does most of the work. A bit late to realise that, given I’ve made golden syrup the whole basis of this post. A little bit goes a long way, I guess.

Don’t let that put you off. They’re ugly but very, very good.

Golden syrup dumplings


  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsn butter
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsn milk


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsn butter
  • 1 tbsn golden syrup

Sift the flour and salt and rub in the butter. Mix with the beaten egg and milk to make a reasonably dry dough.

Take small pieces of dough, about the size of a walnut, and roll in balls. Combine the syrup ingredients and heat until boiling. Add the dumplings, cover and cook gently for 15 minutes. [We heat the sauce ingredients and place in a baking dish with the dumplings, then bake, covered, in the oven till … golden.]

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.



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