The British Christmas Pudding (or ‘plum’ or ‘figgy’ pudding, as it’s sometimes commonly known) is a dense and delicious dessert made with dried fruit that is soaked in brandy then mixed with seasonal spices and other ingredients, then steamed and served with brandy cream sauce to make for an utterly delectable and truly timeless Christmas dessert. 

A dark brown Christmas pudding on a plate with brandy sauce

This traditional British pudding and Sweet Mince Pies and Brandy Snaps were ever present my home during Christmas time and it brings back such fond memories for me growing up during the holiday season. This was how Christmas looked, just like a postcard (picture above). A dense, fruity pudding that was covered with brandy, set alight, smothered with rich brandy sauce and a sprig of holly was the highlight of our Christmas.

A Christmas pudding soaked in brandy and ignited

Presentation

A fun thing to do is to pour a little brandy over the pudding and ignite it that results in a beautiful blue flame (picture above). If you do this, make sure nothing around it is flammable, including the serving plate.

Even though this is an alcohol-laden dessert, I grew-up in the days where it was ‘OK’ to have a little sherry at Christmas as a kid, so eating this was definitely no big deal.

The traditional of Christmas pudding

It is believed that it started its life as ‘pottage’, which is a soupy consistency of dried fruits, wine and spices. It is supposed to have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his Disciples (I couldn’t stick to this because I did not want to sacrifice flavor and texture).

You’ll notice that I referred to this as plum pudding or figgy pudding. It actually has no plums or figs like there were from its inception in the 14th century and that concoction was light years away from the recipe we know and love today. This could be that it is easier to find the usual currants and raisins versus the former.

Cutting a slice of Christmas pudding

Another tradition was to add a sixpence (an old English silver coin worth 6 Pennies) to the mix to bring luck to the person that finds it. As cool as it sounds I will not be continuing this tradition as I don’t really feel like metal seeping into my food.

Today, the pudding is made in the U.K. with suet which is a beef fat. Since suet isn’t sold in the U.S., I substitute butter (you can also use lard, but the butter definitely adds flavor).

Best alcohol to use

Brandy is traditional as is sherry and you can also use Cognac.

How to cook Christmas pudding

It is always steamed using a thick, ceramic bowl called a pudding basin, which gives it its distinctive shape. Once the dough is added to the bowl, it is tightly covered with parchment paper and foil tied with string, then steamed in a large pan for 7 hours. Yep, not a misprint… 7 hours!

Make ahead Christmas pudding

The pudding is best when made ahead, way ahead. You can make the mix up to a year ahead as it just gets better with age. I think it tastes just as good if made only days ahead.

I like to make and steam the pudding about a week or so before Christmas Day. When it is cooled, wrap in parchment paper and a layer of foil and refrigerate. The night before you’re serving leave on the counter at room temperature, still wrapped. Warm (while wrapped) in a 300°F/150°C oven for 30-45 minutes.

Pouring brandy cream sauce over a slice of Christmas pudding

How to serve British Christmas Pudding

Traditionally, a little brandy is poured over and ignited which results in a beautiful blue and orange glow (see picture). Sliced, served on on a plate with warm brandy cream sauce (or fresh cream). Come to think of it… a mug of Baileys Belgian Hot Chocolate would also complement it nicely!

Yield: 8

British Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce

A fruity Christmas pudding on a pewter plate garnished with holly

A sweet and dense pudding made with dried fruit, brandy and other ingredients that is steamed and served with brandy cream sauce.

Ingredients

  • For the fruit marinade:
  • 2 cups (280 grams) dark raisins
  • 1 cup (140 grams) golden raisins
  • 1¾ cups (173 grams) 1 red apple, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup (60 grams) candied orange peel
  • ½ cup (60 grams) candied lemon peel
  • ⅓ cup (48 grams) blanched/peeled almonds, chopped
  • 1 cup (236 ml) brandy
  • For the dry ingredients:
  • ¾ cup (100 grams) plain/all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup (75 grams) breadcrumbs
  • For the wet ingredients:
  • 5 tablespoons (66 grams) suet or softened butter
  • ⅓ cup (55 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 large whole egg & 1 egg yolk
  • For the brandy sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons (55 grams) butter
  • ⅓ cup (55 grams) plain/all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups ( 354 ml) milk, warm
  • 1 cup heavy/double cream
  • ¼ cup (55 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons brandy

Instructions

  1. For the fruit marinade:
    Add all ingredients to a bowl, stir to mix well, cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

  2. For the dry ingredients:
    Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, allspice and breadcrumbs to a separate bowl. Mix well, set aside.
  3. For the wet ingredients:
    To a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter with the brown sugar, egg, and egg yolk together until smooth.
    Stir in the fruit marinade (and any brandy that didn’t get soaked up by the fruit) until well mixed. Add half the dry ingredients, stir to mix well. Add the remaining half and stir until there is no visible flour. You can cover it tightly at this point and keep until you want to steam (to let the flavors blend). Or, you can steam right away, then wrap and keep until Christmas.
  4. Add parchment paper to a 1 liter/1 quart (6 inches/15 cm x 4 inches/10 cm) tall basin pudding dish.
    Pack the pudding mix into the bowl so it’s dense without gaps. Cover with parchment paper and 2 layers of foil. Tie tightly with string.
  5. Place a steam riser/trivet (or jam jar lid) onto the bottom of a tall pan with a lid. Place the bowl on top of the riser/trivet and fill with water until it reaches halfway up the bowl, place the lid on the pan. Bring the water to a light simmer/bubble and simmer for 7 hours. Check the water level every couple of hours.
  6. When done, remove from the steam bath and allow to cool in the bowl until you can handle. Remove the string, foil and parchment. Place a plate on top of the bowl and flip the pudding. Allow to completely cool and eat immediately or wrap well and refrigerate.
  7. To reheat:
    The night before you’re serving leave on the counter at room temperature, still wrapped. Place (wrapped) in a 300°F/150°C oven for 30-45 minutes. Or steamed the same way it was cooked for 45 minutes.
  8. For the brandy sauce:
    Add the butter to a saucepan over medium heat. When melting and bubbling, stir in the flour. Slowly add the milk while stirring until there are no lumps, stir in the cream and sugar. Cook until thicken. Stir in the brandy, serve warm.

Nutrition Information

Yield

8

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 866Total Fat 32gSaturated Fat 18gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 109mgSodium 262mgCarbohydrates 125gFiber 5gSugar 83gProtein 10g

This nutrition calculation is provided by Nutronix that is only a guideline and not intended for any particular diet.