How Huguenot is your Torte?


As I was digging around this week researching for my upcoming “Ghosts of Charleston Restaurants Past” project, I found myself digging through the City of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual, compiled and edited by the Historic Charleston Foundation.

Any would be tour guide wishing to be licensed by the City of Charleston is required to learn this book inside and out, and the resulting 2 part exam can frequently exceed four hours in duration. Having passed the exam twice in the past 20 years I can honestly say it’s an exhausting beast of a text. Of the sizable tome’s 492 pages, an incredulous 1 PAGE covers the length and breadth of Lowcountry cuisine (page 238.) Huh.

You get where I’m going, right? In a city with such a profound agricultural and culinary largesse, why is it our cuisine amounts to a page? The page consists of a brief introduction to Lowcountry Cuisine and 7 entries of usual suspects: She-Crab, Frogmore, Hoppin’ John, S&G, Okra Soup, Perlau and Huguenot Tort. Of these 7, it was the latter that caught my attention.

Huguenot Tort

But here’s the rub- what we know of as Huguenot Torte is not, despite the say so of the Tour Guide Manual, Huguenot or even Carolinian in origin.

Its original name? Ozark Puddin’. Here’s a brief synopsis of what we know:

  • The earliest printed recipe we have for Huguenot Torte is the 1950 Charleston Receipts, by an Evelyn Anderson Florance (previously  Huguenin.)
  • In the 1980’s, my friend John Martin Taylor tracked her down. When asked, she indicated she’d first had it on a vacation to Galveston, TX in the 1930’s, but that she understood the recipe to have originated in Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri. She brought the recipe back and reproduced it in the Huguenot Tavern where she worked making desserts.
  • In the 1940’s, this was a favorite of President Harry S. Truman’s, and his wife Bess’s recipe was included in the Congressional Club Cookbook under the title “Ozark Pudding.”
  • The recipe seems to support this, as it included both pecans and apples. Neither of these are native to the area and while pecans will grow, apples by and large will not.

Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself, it does bring to light either a glaring inaccuracy, or at the very least a glaring need for a greater section of Lowcountry cuisine and food history in the Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual.

Huguenot Tavern

Huguenot Tavern BackBess Truman’s Ozark Pudding Recipe

1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped peeled apples
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
whipped cream (with a touch of rum, if desired) or vanilla ice cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch pie pan.

Beat the egg and the sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Blend well. Fold in the apples, nuts and vanilla.

Pour into the prepared pie pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven; the pudding will fall, but it’s supposed to.

Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: