Christmas pudding for the pudding-illiterate

My mom’s holding a British-themed Christmas party and I’m interested in putting together a traditional (ish?) Christmas pudding, ideally with a custard sauce. I’d like to find one of the kinds where you soak it in brandy for a few weeks, since it’s early enough to do so.

However, I’m having trouble finding a workable recipe. I don’t know what a “pudding bowl” should look like, for one – what sort of options would I have as an American? Secondly, the recipes seem to all be “instead of doing it the traditional way, here’s the quick way”, but I’d just as soon know how to take the traditional route.

Does anyone have experiencing making Christmas puddings?

You mean one with cubes of suet? Christmas puddings are rather disgusting. Are you sure you will want to eat it when you are done?

A fruit cake is the kind that you soak in brandy for weeks and weeks. They have a lot of these in America. No one really likes them. They aren’t called puddings.

A plum pudding is more British, I think. I used to make one each Christmas. It’s served with a brandy sauce which is nice and creamy and the best part. This was maybe thirty years ago. I’m trying to remember if we set fire to the brandy sauce or if my family just wanted to set fire to it. Anyway, “I’ll never have that recipe again.” Different family.

ETA: Never make a figgy pudding using canned figs.

Christmas pudding recipe
A classic Christmas after-dinner treat, this Christmas pudding will be enjoyed by all the family. Reheating to serve is easy: just bring a pot of water to the boil and simmer the pudding in it for one hour. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or plain yoghurt.

200g nuts, including almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit
3/4 cup finely grated carrot
3/4 cup brown or muscovado sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped prunes
1/2 cup finely diced dried figs
1/2 cup flour
125 grams butter, grated
1/2 cup Guinness or dark beer
4 eggs
2 tbsp treacle or golden syrup, warmed
grated rind each one lemon and orange
1/2 tsp each mixed spice and cardamom or ginger


  1. Chop nuts and mix with breadcrumbs, dried fruit, grated carrot, sugar, prunes, figs, flour and butter in a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the mixture.
  2. Beat Guinness, eggs, treacle, citrus rinds and spices and pour into the well. Mix together thoroughly.
  3. Place mixture in a greased and floured oven roasting bag, then shape into a ball. Wrap this in scalded calico and tie with string to make the package watertight.
  4. Boil a large pot of water and place an old saucer in the pot so that the pudding doesn’t come into contact with the bottom of the pot. The water should cover the pudding. Bring to the boil.
  5. Simmer for three hours, adding boiling water as the level of water lowers in the pot.
  6. Lift pudding out and hang to dry. Once the pudding has cooled and is firm, place in the fridge.

Note - for the above I would normally serve with hot custard, I assume you have a recipe for custard from scratch? If not should be able to buy in a carton from the store…

Can also try this link for Chirstmas Pudding - but I have never tried before

If you google images for “pudding basin” you should find plenty of examples, but essentially you’re looking for a round, heat-proof bowl – about as deep as it is wide, for the classic shape, but that’s not critical. You can do without a bowl entirely, as in the recipe bengangmo posted, which is the older method – done right, you end up with a spherical pud, which looks pretty impressive.

The classic description of a Christmas pud:

ummmm, not in the US … though you can get hard sauce in a jar here. The closest we have to custard is vanilla pudding, and most mixes are mixed into cold milk and refrigerated to firm up [you can fake a custard sauce by making it with 25% more milk than the recipe calls for but it is pretty much as easy to make it from scratch]

Not custard. You should have brandy sauce with your Xmas pud.

Oh, I should have mentioned - suet recipes won’t work; vegetarians in the house.

Sorry for the confusion on the brandy. The resident expert is my mom, who lived in the UK for about 5 years, and she’s the one who insisted that the pudding had to be soaked in brandy for weeks.

bengangmo, thanks for the recipe! That’s what I’m looking for. My concern is for the “oven roasting bag” and “scalded calico”… I’m not sure what these are, or should look like.

Yes, I was planning on making the custard from scratch. I know a British import store where I could get some canned stuff, or the powdered mix, but custard isn’t really that hard to make.

Well, if you’re going to use custard, at least use proper custard. The canned or packet mix stuff isn’t custard, whatever it says on the label. Real custard is made from eggs. Custard powder isn’t.

The vegetarians in your household are okay with eggs, right? They aren’t vegan?

What’s wrong with vegetarian suet? Apart from the blasphemy, of course. And you don’t serve Christmas pudding with custard or brandy sauce. You serve it with cream. You serve mince pies with brandy butter. If you’re me, you nick some brandy butter and put it on your pudding and then get into trouble with your mum. That recipe looks fine, by the way, except I’ve never heard of putting stout and golden syrup in. Just use treacle, it covers both bases.

I make a Christmas pudding every year fluiddruid and I’d really like to see you succeed. Made properly Christmas puddings are delicious - they are Christmas. Vegetarian puddings are no problem - either use vegetarian suet or unsalted butter. Here’s a good recipe by St. Delia of Norwich which I have used many times:

Btw puddings reheat in the microwave really well - no need for all that boiling on Christmas day. If you’re going for the British theme don’t forget the Christmas crackers and mince pies :slight_smile:

Can also reheat the pudding in a slow cooker. Just put in the pudding, add enough water so the cooker is half full, and cook on “high” for four hours. It frees up space on the hob (range) , and you won’t have a kitchen full of steam.

Yes, eggs are fine. I had planned to make real custard unless I failed miserably at a dry run. Brandy may be more traditional, but I am not passing up an occasion for custard, the elixir of Heaven.

It’s pretty unlikely that I will find suet, let alone vegetarian suet, in the US. Well, in Des Moines, anyway. I might have some luck at that British import shop but I tend to doubt it.

Opinions seem to differ on this point, but some people DO mention custard and brandy sauces. Anyway, I like custard.

Thanks! I like the recipe but I’m not sure if it will work for me. For one, there’s the suet, as that’s a problem right there. I know it’s traditional but it’s not a very good option for me. I’m also unsure of where I’d get “candied peel”, or the “steamer set”. Yikes. Barley wine I might manage with some difficulty… is “ground mixed spice” anything in particular? Cloves? Nutmeg? Cinnamon? Allspice?

Maybe I’d be better off fibbing and just making a fruitcake with custard sauce…

You speak the truth; my kitchen was a sauna for 6 hours over the weekend:D

I managed to miss the edit window but meant to add this -

Fluiddruid you can use unsalted butter rather than suet. Vegetarian suet is easy to get over here but I’ve also used butter with equally good results. I’m not sure where you’d source mixed spice or candied peel- if you have time I could send you some. As far as the alcohol goes, Guinness or any other kind of stout plus a slug of brandy is really all that’s required. I don’t use a steamer I stick it in a pan on a trivet made of scrunched up tin foil and boil the hell out of it (with the lid on).

While I understand the longing for custard, don’t underrate the spectator value of bringing a flaming Christmas pud into the darkened dining room, while singing “So bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding…”

For the candied peel, you just make it yourself, of course. :slight_smile:

The “steamer set” is a pot with a colander-like insert, as shown here.

You just need a nice bottle of Bass. And of course, you then have five other bottles of Bass that you need to use up somehow… :wink:

Do both! Fruitcake w/ custard to satisfy your custard craving, brandy on the pud for the spectacle!

Then it isn’t a proper pudding, right?