Skip to content

What Is Plum Pudding: The Classic English Dessert Explained

What Is Plum Pudding?

Plum pudding, also known as Christmas pudding, is a traditional English dessert served at Christmas dinner.

It is a rich and dense fruit cake made with a simple batter and a mixture of dried fruit soaked in alcohol, such as raisins, sultanas, currants, diced apple, prunes, and dried apricots.

Originally a savory dish in medieval times, it transformed into a sweet treat during the Victorian era.

The pudding is shaped into a ball, wrapped tightly in a pudding cloth, and steamed.

It is traditionally set alight with flaming brandy and served with brandy butter.

Nowadays, it is typically steamed in a ceramic basin and aged for at least 4 weeks to allow the flavors to mature.

Vegetarian suet or butter is often used instead of suet, and the pudding can be customized with different types of dried fruits.

Overall, plum pudding is a delicious and decadent dessert enjoyed during the festive season.

Quick Tips and Facts:

1. Plum pudding, also known as Christmas pudding, was initially made with no plums or the fruit itself. The name “plum” in this context referred to any dried fruit.

2. The origins of plum pudding can be traced back to the 14th century, where it was first mentioned in English cookbooks as a fasting dish. It later evolved into a festive dessert.

3. Traditional plum pudding recipes require a long period of aging. The ideal aging time is said to be at least one month before it is eaten, to allow the flavors to develop and mature.

4. Hidden within some traditional plum puddings, you might find a small trinket or coin. This tradition harks back to ancient times when finding the hidden object in your portion was considered good luck and sometimes meant you would be the next to get married.

5. The tradition of setting the plum pudding on fire before serving, also known as “flambé,” is called “wassailing the pudding.” The flames symbolize the warmth of good wishes and are meant to bring prosperity in the coming year.

The Evolution Of Plum Pudding: From Savory To Sweet

Plum pudding, a classic English dessert served at Christmas dinner, has a fascinating history dating back to medieval times. In its early days, plum pudding was a savory dish, steamed to perfection. However, during the Victorian era, this culinary delight underwent a transformation into a sweet mixture of suet, sweet spices, and dried fruit soaked in alcohol.

The Victorian era saw a shift in taste preferences, with people developing a penchant for more indulgent and decadent flavors. This led to the evolution of plum pudding from its humble savory beginnings to the sweet treat we know today. The suet, which was widely used in traditional recipes, provided a rich and luscious texture to the pudding. However, in more modern versions, vegetarian suet or butter is often used as a substitute.

Dried fruit, such as raisins, sultanas, currants, prunes, dried apricots, and apple, plays a central role in the flavor profile of plum pudding. These fruits are soaked in alcohol, typically brandy or rum, to infuse them with a delightful boozy essence. The combination of these fruits, along with the aromatic spices, creates a harmonious blend of flavors that tantalize the taste buds. Breadcrumbs are added to the mixture, not only as a filler but also to lighten the texture of the pudding. The addition of baking powder further enhances the light and fluffy consistency, providing a delightful contrast to the rich and moist fruit.

  • Plum pudding has a fascinating history dating back to medieval times
  • The Victorian era transformed the dish into a sweet treat
  • Suet provides a rich and luscious texture, but can be substituted with vegetarian suet or butter
  • Dried fruit is soaked in alcohol to infuse it with a boozy essence
  • Aromatic spices and breadcrumbs enhance the flavor and texture
  • Baking powder creates a light and fluffy consistency.

“Plum pudding, a classic English dessert, has a fascinating history dating back to medieval times.”

Traditional Ingredients Of Plum Pudding: Dried Fruit, Alcohol, And Fat

The key to a traditional plum pudding lies in its carefully selected ingredients. Dried fruit forms the backbone of this delectable dessert. Raisins, sultanas, currants, prunes, dried apricots, and apple are commonly used to add a burst of natural sweetness. These fruits are soaked in brandy or rum, allowing them to plump up and absorb the flavors of the alcohol.

In earlier times, suet was the traditional fat used in plum pudding. Suet, the hard fat found around the kidneys of animals, adds a rich and silky texture to the pudding. However, finding suet can be challenging, especially in some regions like the United States. As a result, unsalted butter is often used as a substitute. Although this alters the flavor slightly, it still provides a lush and buttery finish to the pudding.

Additional ingredients include sugar, molasses, orange zest, and eggs to add sweetness and moisture. Flour and breadcrumbs serve as the binding agents, ensuring the pudding holds its shape during the steaming process. A hint of mixed spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, adds warmth and depth to the overall taste experience.


  • Dried fruit is the main ingredient in plum pudding.
  • Suet is traditionally used as the fat, but unsalted butter can be used as a substitute.
  • Additional ingredients include sugar, molasses, orange zest, and eggs.
  • Flour and breadcrumbs are used as binding agents.
  • Mixed spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves add flavor.

The Process Of Making Plum Pudding: Soaking, Mixing, And Steaming

Making plum pudding requires a meticulous process, ensuring each ingredient is skillfully integrated to achieve the perfect balance of flavors. The first step is soaking the dried fruit in a mixture of orange juice and brandy, allowing them to absorb the luscious liquid for at least an hour. This infusion process adds complexity and depth to the fruits, elevating their natural flavors.

In a separate bowl, butter is beaten until creamy and then sugar, molasses, orange zest, and eggs are added. This mixture creates a lavish base, providing a velvety texture and intense richness. Gradually, the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, and breadcrumbs are gently folded in, ensuring a well-incorporated batter.

Once the batter is prepared, the soaked fruit is added and mixed thoroughly. This ensures that every bite of the pudding is packed with the succulent fruity goodness. The batter is then packed tightly into a greased pudding basin, which helps in shaping and containing the pudding during the steaming process.

The pudding basin is covered with greased parchment paper and foil, creating an airtight seal. This prevents any moisture from escaping during the steaming process, resulting in a moist and succulent pudding. The basin is placed in a Dutch oven or large pot filled with boiling water and simmered for 4-6 hours, allowing the flavors to meld together and develop their full potential.

Maturing And Storing Plum Pudding: Allowing The Flavors To Develop

The true magic of plum pudding lies in its maturing process. After the initial cooking, the pudding is cooled and then covered before being stored in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. This extended period allows the flavors to mature and intensify, creating a more complex and nuanced taste experience.

During this maturing process, the alcohol-soaked fruit continues to absorb the flavors, resulting in a harmonious amalgamation of tastes. The rich and boozy essence infuses every nook and cranny of the pudding, ensuring each slice is bursting with flavor. This aging process is a testament to the patience and dedication of the pudding maker, as they eagerly wait for the perfect moment to savor their creation.

  • Maturing process enhances flavors
  • Alcohol-soaked fruit absorbs flavors
  • Harmonious amalgamation of tastes
  • Rich and boozy essence
  • Pudding maker’s patience and dedication

Serving And Reheating Plum Pudding: Accompaniments And Storage Tips

Serving plum pudding is a joyous occasion and is often the grand finale of a Christmas dinner. Traditionally, the pudding would be set alight with flaming brandy, creating a spectacular display. However, in more modern times, it is typically steamed in a ceramic basin.

Accompaniments play a crucial role in elevating the flavors of plum pudding. Brandy butter, a luscious combination of butter, sugar, and brandy, is a popular choice. This velvety spread provides a silky and boozy essence, complementing the rich and dense fruit cake. Other options, such as hard sauce or custard, bring their own unique decadence to the table.

Leftover plum pudding should be stored carefully to maintain its deliciousness. Once the pudding has been served and cooled completely, it should be covered with parchment paper and foil. To ensure easy handling, it can be securely tied with a string handle. The pudding can be stored at room temperature for short durations or frozen for up to one year. When reheating, it is essential to thaw the pudding at room temperature before steaming it for 1 ½ to 2 hours, allowing it to regain its luscious texture and enticing aroma.

  • Properly cover the leftover pudding with parchment paper and foil.
  • Securely tie the pudding with a string handle for easy handling.
  • Store the pudding at room temperature for short durations or freeze it for up to one year.
  • Thaw the pudding at room temperature before reheating.
  • Steam the pudding for 1 ½ to 2 hours to bring back its luscious texture and enticing aroma.

Historical Origins Of Plum Pudding: A Culinary Tradition Dating Back To The Medieval Times

The origins of plum pudding can be traced back to medieval times, where it had a savory nature. The culinary tradition of creating standing ‘pyes’ or ‘cof fyns’ involved a tough flour paste containing meat or fish, fat, and dried fruit from Spain or the Levant. These savory delights were the precursors to the sweet plum pudding we enjoy today.

Over time, the sweetness of plum pudding developed as a replacement for the expensive honey and sugar commonly used in recipes. The availability and affordability of dried fruit made them an ideal substitute for achieving a delectably sweet taste profile. The term plum in plum pudding comes from the association between dried fruit and the word “plum” used in the past.

The British Christmas pudding, synonymous with plum pudding, has a long and cherished history. With records dating back to 1430 or even earlier, this culinary delight has stood the test of time and continues to be a beloved tradition during the festive season.

In conclusion, plum pudding is an iconic English dessert that has evolved from a savory dish to a sweet delicacy over the centuries. The careful selection and combination of dried fruit, alcohol, and fat create a rich and flavorsome treat. The process of soaking, mixing, and steaming ensures the pudding is infused with the essence of the ingredients. Maturing and storing the pudding allow the flavors to reach their full potential. Accompaniments and storage tips can enhance the serving and preserving experience. The historical origins of plum pudding provide insight into the long-standing culinary tradition that has brought joy to countless Christmas celebrations throughout history.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is called plum pudding?

Plum pudding, also known as Christmas pudding, is a beloved festive dessert consisting of a delicious blend of dried fruit, spices, and suet. This delightful treat has a rich history and continues to be a cherished part of holiday traditions in both the United States and Britain. While the name might be misleading, as it does not actually contain plums, plum pudding remains a beloved creation that warms hearts and satisfies sweet cravings during the Christmas season.

What is traditional plum pudding made of?

Traditional plum pudding is a delectable concoction prepared with a blend of rich ingredients. Crafted with a base cake batter, this delightful dessert derives its distinctiveness from an abundance of dried fruit steeped in brandy. The fruit amalgamation primarily comprises raisins, sultanas, and currants, while an additional enhancement of flavor and texture is accomplished by incorporating diced apple, dried apricots, and prunes. Combined, these ingredients create a tantalizing symphony of tastes that are synonymous with this beloved English delicacy.

Why is plum pudding called pudding?

The term “pudding” in plum pudding originates from its historical association with other dishes like plum pottage or porridge. Despite having a thicker consistency, the ingredients used in plum pudding were similar to those found in these older dishes. As a result, the name “plum pudding” was adopted to describe this new variation of pudding. This connection between ingredients and naming tradition preserved the familiarity with previous culinary practices while signaling the introduction of a distinct recipe.

Is plum pudding like fruit cake?

Plum pudding and fruit cake share some similarities, but they are not exactly the same. While both desserts use dried fruits as a sweetening agent, the term “plum” in plum cake or pudding no longer refers to the actual plum fruit. In fact, any dried fruit used to be described as “plums” in the past, leading to the interchangeable use of the terms. Therefore, both plum pudding and fruit cake can have a variety of dried fruits mixed in, making them deliciously rich and decadent treats. However, it’s important to note that the specific recipe and preparation methods can still vary, resulting in unique flavors and textures for each dessert.

Share this post on social!