Figgy pudding will be the star of your Christmas dinner! Just like Mrs. Crachit from A Christmas Carol, you can enjoy each bite of this moist, flavorful dish. It's easy to put together; just make it in advance, and you'll have an unforgettable Christmas dessert.
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What is figgy pudding?
You might have heard of this dessert from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, or the song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." It is a dense, moist cake full of dried fruit. Traditionally, it's steamed in a pot of boiling water, not baked in the oven, and is aged in a cool, dry place for a few weeks before serving.
What is it made of?
This dessert is basically a dense cake packed with dried fruit. Here are its important components.
- Dried fruit. Use figs and any other kind of dried fruit you like. Raisins, currants, and sultanas (golden raisins) are good choices.
- Nuts. Feel free to use any kind of nut you want, as long as it is chopped in small pieces. Walnuts or almonds are most popular.
- Alcohol. The dried fruit is soaked in brandy; it adds flavor and helps keeps it from spoiling while it ages.
- Cake batter. The batter is quite simple to mix up. The batter contains breadcrumbs to lighten the texture.
What does it taste like?
It has a rich, almost caramelized flavor from the long steaming and aging time. It is dense and moist, and packed with sweet dried fruit. It tastes even better when served with brandy butter, a sweet mixture of icing sugar, butter, orange zest, and brandy.
Why do they call it figgy pudding?
It is so named because it contains figs. In the UK, steamed cakes like this are called puddings. In addition, the term "pudding" also can refer to dessert in general.
Is figgy pudding the same as plum pudding?
These two desserts are very similar, but they are not identical. The key difference is that figgy pudding contains figs.
Can I skip the alcohol?
It's best to use alcohol; otherwise, it will not keep as long or stay as fresh. If you must skip the alcohol, freeze it after its 4 week aging time to keep it preserved. The alcohol also adds flavor to make it taste traditional.
Can you make it in advance?
Yes, you must make it at least 4 weeks in advance. The most popular time is on Stir Up Sunday, which is the last Sunday before Advent. If you eat it right away, it will not taste good. It needs at least a month of aging time in a cool, dark place to develop the rich flavors that make it so delicious.
Does figgy pudding need to be refrigerated?
No, it does not need to be refrigerated. It will keep for a year in a cool, dark, dry place if it is tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and foil. The alcohol and the high sugar content from the dried fruit will keep it preserved.
Yes, you can freeze it. Make sure it has aged for at least 4 weeks in a cool, dry place before freezing.
To freeze, remove it from the basin and wrap it tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 year, then defrost at room temperature. Warm and serve with brandy butter.
How do you flame a figgy pudding?
This step is optional, but definitely makes for an awe-inspiring centerpiece at Christmas dinner! Here's how to do it. Get step-by-step photos here.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of brandy into a metal soup ladle so it will conduct the heat.
- Hold the ladle of brandy over three lit tealights until it begins to steam and swirl in the ladle . The heat from the burning candles will warm the brandy.
- Carefully tip the ladle towards one of the flames to catch the brandy on fire.
- Pour the flaming brandy over the warmed pudding and enjoy the blue flames. Be sure to have the lights off so you can see the flames.
- Once the flames have burned out, serve and enjoy.
How to Make
Gather the dried fruit and brandy. You'll need mission figs, raisins, golden raisins, and currants.
Toss the dried fruit and brandy together until well mixed, then let stand for at least 1 hour (preferably overnight).
Cut a piece of foil and parchment large enough to cover a large ceramic basin. Fold a 1-inch pleat in the center of the foil and parchment.
Butter a large basin and place a circle of parchment in the bottom.
Gather the ingredients for the cake batter. You'll need butter, brown sugar, molasses, eggs, flour, orange zest, mixed spice, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, breadcrumbs, and chopped walnuts.
Beat the butter until pale, about 2 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
Pour in the molasses, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add a spoonful of flour with each egg to prevent the batter from curdling.
Sprinkle on the flour, spices, baking powder, orange zest, and breadcrumbs.
Fold everything together until well blended.
Dump in the chopped walnuts and the soaked fruit mixture along with any liquid, then mix until evenly combined.
Pack the mixture into the buttered basin.
Cover with the parchment and foil, tying it tightly with string under the lip of the basin to secure.
Tie a string handle onto the rim so you can easily remove it from the pot of boiling water later.
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place a metal jam jar lid in a large Dutch oven.
Place the wrapped basin inside of the pot, sitting it on top of the jam jar lid. Pour boiling water halfway up the side of the basin and return the pot to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 4-5 hours.
Check it every hour or so and add more water to keep the level halfway up the basin.
The pudding is done when it is a rich, dark brown. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean.
Let it cool completely, then re-cover it with fresh parchment and foil and let it age for at least 4 weeks before serving. Steam it for 1 ½ hours before serving to warm it, then serve with brandy butter.
- Make it at least 4 weeks in advance. It will not taste good if you eat it right away.
- Soak the dried fruit for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. This softens the fruit and improves the flavor.
- Place a metal jam jar lid in the bottom of the pot before putting it in the pot for steaming. This raises it off of the bottom of the pot.
- Keep the water level halfway up the side of the basin. You'll need to top up the pot with boiling water throughout the steaming process.
- The pudding is done when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Pudding Basin: this is the 1.5 liter ceramic basin that I use.
- Kitchen Twine: this sturdy twine is perfect for tying the cover on the basin.
- Handheld Electric Mixer: whisk up your batter in a jiffy with this mixer.
- Silicone Spatulas: these are my all-time favorite spatulas for stirring and scraping.
- Mission Figs: these dark dried figs are the special fruit needed for this recipe.
Other British Christmas Recipes
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Learn how to make figgy pudding, the Christmas dessert from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, with this easy recipe. Figgy pudding is an elegant English dessert that is made with dried fruit and brandy. It’s a delicious treat you won’t want to miss!
For the Fruit Mixture
- 1 ¾ cups mission figs, diced (250g)
- ½ cup raisins (85g)
- ½ cup golden raisins (85g)
- ½ cup dried currants (85g)
- ½ cup brandy (120 ml)
For the Cake Batter
- ½ cup unsalted butter (115g)
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed (150g)
- 1 tablespoon molasses (15 ml)
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour (75g)
- ½ cup plain breadcrumbs (40g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped (50g)
Prepare the Fruit & Basin (30 min + 1 hr soaking)
- Soak the fruit. Dice the figs, then toss them with the raisins, golden raisins, currants, and brandy until well mixed. Cover the fruit mixture and let stand for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If you have the time, let the fruit stand overnight.
- Prepare the basin. Lightly butter a 1.5-liter pudding basin and line its bottom with a circle of parchment paper. If you don't have a basin, use a mixing bowl or other large bowl with a rim.
- Make the cover. Cut a piece of aluminum foil and parchment paper large enough to cover the basin. Place the parchment on top of the foil, then fold a 1-inch pleat in the center of the covering.
Making the Cake Batter (30 min)
- Cream the butter. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Add eggs. Beat in the molasses, then the eggs in one at a time, adding a couple spoonfuls of flour with each egg to prevent the mixture from curdling.
- Add dry ingredients. Fold the flour, breadcrumbs, baking powder, orange zest, and spices into the egg mixture until smooth and well blended. Make sure there are no lumps of flour or other ingredients.
- Add the fruit. Dump the chopped walnuts, the fruit mixture, and any remaining brandy into the cake batter. Gently stir the batter until everything is well mixed, then pack the batter into the prepared basin.
- Cover. Place the prepared cover parchment-side down on top of the basin. Tightly tie a string under the rim of the basin, then make a string handle so you can lift the pudding out of the pot. Roll up the edges of the foil and parchment to create a seal.
Steaming the Pudding (4 hrs)
- Make a steamer. Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Place a metal jam jar lid on the bottom of a 6-quart Dutch oven and put the covered pudding on top of the lid.
- Steam. Once the water has boiled, pour enough boiling water into the pot to go halfway up the basin. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid and bring the pot to a full boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 4 to 5 hours. Check every hour or so and top up the pot with fresh boiling water to keep the water level halfway up the basin.
- Check. It's cooked when it is a dark brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool and age. Let it cool uncovered until it's completely cool, about 6 to 8 hours. Re-cover it with fresh parchment and foil, as you did earlier, and store in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. This aging time allows the pudding to develop a richer flavor.
- Reheat. Just before serving, steam it again for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Turn it out onto the serving plate and peel off the parchment circle.
- Serve. Pour warm brandy over the warm pudding and ignite it with a long kitchen match for a dramatic presentation of blue flames. Once the flames die down, garnish with a holly sprig and serve with brandy butter.
- Make the pudding at least 1 month ahead. It will not taste good right away.
- Soak the dried fruit for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, before adding it to the batter.
- Check the pudding occasionally. You'll need to top up the pot with boiling water throughout the steaming process to keep the water level halfway up the basin.
- The pudding is done when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Leftovers can be frozen, as long as they are well wrapped in plastic wrap, foil, and sealed inside of a plastic bag, for up to 1 year.
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 4 hours
- Category: Pudding
- Method: Steamed
- Cuisine: English
Keywords: figgy pudding recipe, traditional