English plum pudding is a traditional Christmas dessert made with dried fruit and served with hard sauce.  It’s an impressive sweet treat the whole family will love.  Best of all, it’s easy to make ahead and enjoy on Christmas Day.

Prep Time: 40 minutes
plum pudding in the pudding basin
Christmas, Dessert, Steamed Puddings

Easy English Plum Pudding

Plum pudding is a traditional English dessert served at Christmas dinner.  You probably have read about it in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.  This delicious cake is packed with dried fruit, and is so moist and flavorful.  Plus, it’s made about 4 weeks before Christmas–so there’s no stress about making it on Christmas Day.

plum pudding in the pudding basin

What is in a plum pudding?

Most plum puddings contain quite a few ingredients–but most of them you probably already have in your fridge or pantry.

  • Raisins
  • Currants
  • Golden raisins (sultanas)
  • Prunes
  • Dried apricots
  • Golden Delicious apple (this adds a fresh fruit component for extra flavor)
  • Orange juice
  • Brandy (this helps preserve the pudding and adds additional flavor)
  • Unsalted butter (traditionally, suet was used instead of butter)
  • Brown sugar
  • Molasses (adds additional richness and color)
  • Orange zest
  • Eggs
  • All-purpose flour
  • Breadcrumbs (they were originally used as a filler, but they also lighten the texture of the pudding)
  • Baking powder (many traditional recipes didn’t include baking powder)
  • Mixed spice (make this British spice blend in a minute!)
  • Blanched almonds

plum pudding in the pudding basin

Why is it called a plum pudding?

Long ago, any dried fruit mixture was called “plum.”  Nowadays, many people like to actually add dried plums (prunes) to their plum pudding to justify the name.

How to Prepare a Plum Pudding for Steaming

Cut a large sheet of foil and parchment paper.  Brush the parchment with butter.

preparing the parchment paper for covering the plum pudding

Fold an inch-wide pleat in the center of the sheet of parchment.  This will allow the paper to expand as the pudding rises.

folding the parchment paper for covering the plum pudding

Lay the parchment buttered side down over the pudding, and place the foil on top.  Tightly tie a strong piece of string around the cover to secure, then trim off the excess foil and paper and roll it up to create a watertight seal.  Make a string handle for easy removal.

the plum pudding ready for steaming

How do you make traditional plum pudding?

Gather all the delicious ingredients.

ingredients for plum pudding

Peel and dice the apple, then mix it with all the dried fruit, orange juice, and brandy.  Cover and let stand for at least 1 hour to allow the fruit to absorb the liquid.

soaking the dried fruit for plum pudding

Meanwhile, beat the butter with a handheld electric mixer until smooth and lightened in color.

beaten butter for plum pudding batter

Add the sugar and beat until somewhat fluffy.

making plum pudding batter

Add the molasses and orange zest, then beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add a spoonful of the flour with each egg to prevent the batter from curdling.

making plum pudding batter

Gently fold in the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, and breadcrumbs until evenly mixed.  We don’t want to see streaks of flour! 😊

making plum pudding batter

Stir in the soaked fruit, along with any liquid that’s in the bowl. Make sure the fruit is evenly distributed in the batter.

plum pudding batter

Grease the pudding basin with butter and place a circle of parchment paper in the bottom.

pudding basin ready for plum pudding

Pack the batter into the prepared pudding basin and cover with greased parchment paper and foil.  (See above for step-by-step photos on preparing a pudding for steaming.)

plum pudding batter in the pudding basin

Place a metal jam jar lid in the bottom of a large Dutch oven to act as a trivet.  Place the pudding basin on top of the lid and fill the pot with enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the pudding basin.  Cover and bring the pot to a boil, then reduce for a simmer and cook for 8 hours, topping up the pot with more boiling water as needed.  The pudding should be a rich, dark brown, and a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the middle.

checking to see if the plum pudding is cooked

Remove the pudding’s cover and let it cool completely.  Re-cover the pudding with parchment, foil, and string as you did before (although don’t grease the parchment).  Store in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks to allow the pudding to mature.  When you’re ready to serve the pudding, steam it for 1 1/2-2 hours to reheat it.

plum pudding covered with aluminum foil and parchment paper

Pro Tips for Making Plum Pudding

  • Be sure to soak the fruit before you use it.  This step adds additional flavor the pudding.
  • Change up the dried fruits as you desire.  For example, swap out the prunes and apricots for dates, figs, or dried cranberries.  Just make sure the total weight of all the fruits adds up to 1 lb 1 oz or 500g.
  • Cover the pudding tightly with parchment and aluminum foil to create a watertight seal.  You don’t want the water from the pot to get inside the pudding!
  • Steam the pudding for 8 hours.  This time is crucial to caramelize the sugars in the pudding, making the pudding a darker brown and giving it a richer flavor.
  • Make sure the pudding ages for at least 4 weeks before serving.  It needs the time for the flavors to mature.  (As long as it’s stored in a cool, dark place, it shouldn’t go moldy or spoil.  The alcohol and the sugar from the dried fruit can preserve the pudding for well over a year.)
  • If you want to freeze your plum pudding, let it age before freezing it.  The cold air of the freezer halts the maturing process.

Craving more traditional British Christmas desserts?  These ones are definitely worth making!

baked Christmas cake in the pan decorating a Christmas cake mincemeat tarts with a sieve of icing sugar

Did you make this plum pudding recipe?  I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it!

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plum pudding in the pudding basin

Easy English Plum Pudding


  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Boiled
  • Cuisine: British

Description

English plum pudding is a traditional Christmas dessert made with dried fruit and served with hard sauce.  It’s an impressive sweet treat the whole family will love.  Best of all, it’s easy to make ahead and enjoy on Christmas Day.


Ingredients

For the Fruit

  • 1 cup raisins (150g)
  • 3/4 cup currants (100g)
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins (100g)
  • 1/2 cup prunes, chopped (75g)
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped (75g)
  • 1 1/4 cup Golden Delicious apple, peeled and diced (about 1 large apple; 150g)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (59 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons brandy (45 ml)

For the Cake Batter

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (115g)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed (150g)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (75g)
  • 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs (40g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped (40g)

Instructions

Preparing the Fruit Mixture (15 minutes + 1 hour soaking)

  1. Chop the prunes and apricots into smaller pieces and place in a large bowl.  Peel, core, and dice the apple.  Zest and juice a large navel orange.
  2. Stir together the raisins, currants, golden raisins, prunes, apricots, apple, orange juice, and brandy until well mixed.  Cover and let stand for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  The fruit will soak up the liquid and become moist and juicy.

Preparing the Pudding Basin & Cover (5 minutes)

  1. While the fruit is soaking, prepare the pudding basin.  Generously grease a 1.5-liter (6 1/3 cup) pudding basin with butter, and line the base with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. Cut a sheet of parchment paper and a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to cover the top of the basin with a couple inches to spare all the way around.  Lightly butter the parchment, then make a one inch pleat in the center of the paper.  This will allow the paper to expand as the pudding rises.

Making the Cake Batter (15 minutes)

  1. Beat the butter in a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer until lightened in color, about 2 minutes.  Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy.
  2. Mix in the molasses and orange zest, then add the eggs one at a time, putting a tablespoon of the flour with each egg.  Beat until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Fold in the flour, breadcrumbs, baking powder, and mixed spice until smooth and free from streaks and lumps of unincorporated ingredients.
  4. Stir in the almonds and the bowl of soaked fruit, along with any liquid that might be in the bowl.  Mix thoroughly until the fruit is evenly distributed, then pack the batter into the prepared pudding basin.

Steaming the Pudding (5 minutes + 4 hours cooking)

  1. Bring a large kettle of water to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, lay the parchment paper greased side down over the pudding basin, then lay the foil on top.  Press the covering under the lip of the pudding bowl, then tie it securely just under the lip with strong kitchen twine.
  3. Trim off the excess so there’s two inches of foil all the way around, then roll up the foil to seal the edges.  Tie an extra piece of twine across the top to make a handle.
  4. Place a sturdy jam jar lid or heatproof saucer in the bottom of a large Dutch oven.  Stand the pudding basin on top of the lid and pour the boiling water around the basin.  The water level should come halfway up the sides of the basin.
  5. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 4 hours.  Add more boiling water as needed.  The pudding is done when it’s a rich dark brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cover from the pudding and let it cool completely in the basin.  Cover it with a fresh piece of parchment and foil and store it in a cool place for at least 4 weeks before serving.
  7. Reheat the pudding by steaming it again for 1 1/2-2 hours.  If desired, flame the pudding with additional brandy, garnish with a sprig of holly, and serve with brandy butter.

Keywords: easy, recipe, traditional

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