christmas pudding

“Oh bring us a figgy pudding…” Have you ever wondered what that lyric was about? When I was younger, I imagined something akin to a snack pack pudding with figs in it, which really couldn’t be further from the truth.

Figgy pudding, also known as Christmas pudding, does have figs in it, but that’s where the similarities stop. This traditional British dessert has been served at Christmas dinners since the 1800s and is often served at Christmas for two reasons: firstly, the cake is seasoned with all sorts of warm, Christmas-y spices, and secondly, it’s filled with candied fruit — including figs — which were some of the only fruit available at the end of December. This cake was invented as a local treat out of necessity, but you can deck the halls with local sweets now, too!

The traditional topping for this cake is hard sauce, which is traditionally made with brandy, but can me made with any liqueur you like. The buttery sauce is truly decadent–so that’s why you only get it once a year!

Christmas Pudding with Hard Sauce

For the pudding:

1 cup light molasses (or 1/2 blackstrap molasses and 1/2 golden syrup)
3/4 cup melted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup milk, warmed
2 eggs 
1 1/2 ounces brandy
1 cup + 1 tablespoon. flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch nutmeg
8 ounces candied fruit (make your own, if you like) 
8 ounces dried fruit (use a combination of pineapple, plums and apricots)
1 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sugar

For the hard sauce:

1 stick softened butter
1 1/2 cup powdeed sugar
2 tablespoons brandy

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Combine the molasses, butter, milk, eggs and brandy in a large mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients (reserving the extra tablespoon of flour) to the wet ingredients in 3 additions, stirring just enough to combine between each addition.

Toss the candied fruits, dried fruits and raisins with the reserved flour. Gently fold into the batter.

Use a pudding mold or a bundt pan with a water-tight seal. Grease the inside with butter and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Pour the batter into the mold. Place in a large pot covered with water that comes up to halfway up the sides of the mold, and cover and steam for 2 hours. Replenish the water as needed.

When the pudding is cooked, allow it to cook for 5 minutes before turning it out. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with hard sauce.

Hard sauce is best made at the last minute, though it can be made ahead and refrigerated, as long as you remove it from the fridge a few hours in advance. Using a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar until incorporated. Add the brandy and beat again. Refrigerate until needed.

Image: James Peek