Figgy pudding, anyone?
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Christmas pudding with holly garnish, missing a slice on white plate
Credit: esp_imaging/Getty Images

For many folks here in the states, Christmas pudding is simply a thing of Christmas carols and tales. However this dessert is a staple in households across the UK, and no British Christmas would be complete without it. 

Don't get it confused with American pudding, English Christmas pudding is more cake than custard. This traditional dessert has a long history, dating all the way back to medieval times. Keep reading to learn all about this festive dessert, plus learn how to make it yourself — it won't be long until it's your tradition too!

History of English Christmas Pudding

The dessert we've come to know as Christmas pudding (also known as plum pudding and figgy pudding) has roots dating back to English medieval times. It's earliest forms were more savory than sweet, having been made with a mixture of meat and root vegetables. Eventually dried or candied fruits were added, giving it the name plum pudding, since "plum" was used as a generic term for dried fruit. 

Around the mid-1600s the dish became a customary Christmas dessert, but was later banned when Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power. They considered Christmas merriment including Yule logs and caroling, to be idolatry. 

Fifty years later, King George I, dubbed the "pudding king," came to power. It was rumored that he requested plum pudding at his first English Christmas banquet. 

The tradition was solidified during the Victorian era. It became custom for families to prepare Christmas pudding on the last Sunday before Advent, also known as "Stir-Up Sunday," named after the Book of Common Prayer's liturgy prayer that begins "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…" On this day family members would take turns stirring up the pudding, before steaming it and setting it aside to mature until Christmas day. 

The tradition of serving Christmas pudding on Christmas day continues to this day in much of the UK. Some families even practice the tradition of hiding a coin in the pudding, which is said to bring good luck to the person who finds it. 

What Is Christmas Pudding Made From?

Christmas pudding is generally made from a combination of dried fruit, candied fruit peel, and citrus zests in a dense, sticky sponge cake. It can be flavored with cinnamon, brandy, rum, or other spices for moisture and taste.

When Do You Serve Christmas Pudding? 

Traditional Christmas pudding is the original make-ahead dessert. It is meant to be made on the last Sunday before Advent, or five weeks before Christmas.

The pudding should be stored in a cool, dry place until Christmas day. All you need to do is reheat it before serving. Not only does this save you time on Christmas day, but it also gives the flavors time to mature. 

How to Make Christmas Pudding

Use this Plum Pudding II recipe as a base for your Christmas pudding. Recipe creator Claude suggests serving it with custard, whipped cream, or ice cream

Ingredients: 

  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 12 dates, pitted and chopped
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • ¼ cup candied mixed fruit peel, chopped
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

Instructions: 

  1. Liberally grease a pudding mold (like this one from the British-owned brand, Mason Cash).
  2. Combine sugar, butter, milk, dates, raisins, currants, mixed fruit peel, and orange zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. 
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. 
  4. Sift in the flour, cinnamon and salt. Gently mix until blended. Pour the mixture into the prepared pudding mold. 
  5. Cover with two layers of greased wax paper. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan filled with simmering water. Steam for two hours. 
  6. Remove the pudding from the steamer and allow it to cool completely in the mold. Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas day. Microwave or re-steam to reheat.                          

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