British Christmas Pudding Recipe

When it comes to the difference between the United Kingdom and the United States, the way we talk about food rings a bell. "Chips," of course, are what Americans call "fries," while "biscuits" — go figure! — are actually cookies. Likewise, when we speak of pudding in the U.S., we're referring to a sweet custard, but as recipe developer Jennine Rye explains, "In the U.K. pudding can pretty much be used interchangeably with 'dessert.'"

Rye tells us that British Christmas pudding is similar to fruitcake, yet is steamed or boiled rather than being baked since. "Oh how us Brits love to boil food," she quips. She admits that Christmas pudding is "definitely a bit of an acquired taste [as] it's very rich and complex," but goes on to say that "it's such an ingrained part of Christmas Day here, the reigning monarch...actually gifts all their employees with a Christmas pudding every Christmas." She says there's been a Christmas pudding on her family's table every year as long as she can remember, and tells us, "you know that it will soon be Christmas when the Christmas puddings get made!" If you want a little taste of tradition on your table this year, give this British Christmas pudding recipe a whirl.

Gather the ingredients to make British Christmas pudding

The ingredient list for this pudding does, in fact, resemble what you'd need for a fruitcake. The pudding calls for dried mixed fruit, candied citrus peel, and a cooking apple. (Rye used a Bramley, a type of apple popular in the U.K., but these are hard to find in the U.S. so a Granny Smith will probably have to do instead.) You'll also need orange juice and brandy, along with brown sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, white breadcrumbs, orange zest, and pecans.

There are two more ingredients besides the apple that  you may not easily be able to come by. One of these is suet, which may not be as easy to find in the U.S. "You could definitely use lard or shortening instead, or even butter," Rye notes. Mixed spice is also primarily a British thing, though it is very similar to pumpkin pie spice, so you could sub that instead.

Finally, Christmas pudding is typically served with brandy butter, and for this you'll be using more brandy, plus butter, plus confectioner's sugar. You'll need still more brandy to flambe the finished dish.

Mix the pudding batter

Begin by mixing the orange juice with three tablespoons of brandy, then use this liquid to soak the mixed fruit, citrus peel, and chopped apple. Let the fruit sit for about an hour or so until it has soaked up all of the brandy and juice.

In the meantime, mix the brown sugar with the suet (or suet substitute), then beat in the eggs. Rye offers the following tip: "If the mixture looks as though it is curdling, add a tablespoon of the flour." Now, sift the flour (with or without that tablespoon) together with the baking powder and mixed spice, then fold the dry ingredients into the sugar and suet mix. Add the breadcrumbs, orange zest, and pecans along with the fruit that's been soaking, and stir it all up.

This Christmas pudding cooks in a basin

If making boiled puddings is a regular occurrence for you, then you most likely have a pudding basin — this recipe calls for a 6-cup one. If you not only have no pudding basin, but aren't entirely sure you'd recognize one if it dropped on your head, Cook's Info says you can always use a Pyrex bowl or even a scrubbed-out metal coffee can as a substitute. 

Whatever basin or mold you choose to use, generously butter the inside and then fill the mold with the pudding batter. You should also level off the top of the batter, with Rye explaining that this step is necessary so your pudding "doesn't end up with a wonky base." Now cut a circle of paper big enough to cover the batter. You should also fold a pleat into the circle so the pudding will have some room to grow. Top the batter with the paper circle.

The pudding takes all day to cook

Cover the paper-topped pudding with two layers of aluminum foil. Tie the foil securely in place with butcher's twine, then make a handle out of another piece of twine by running it across the top and tying both ends to the twine circling the basin.

You'll need a large saucepan to cook the pudding, one big enough to fit the pudding basin with room to spare. Put a trivet in the bottom of the saucepan. If you're trivet-less, Rye says you can use a slightly smaller pot lid to serve this purpose. "This is what your Christmas pudding will stand on when it cooks," she explains.

Put the pudding basin on the trivet, then fill the saucepan with boiling water until the water reaches to the middle of the basin. Cover the saucepan with a lid, if you have one that will fit, or use more aluminum foil as a lid if you don't. Simmer the pudding for eight hours. As per Rye: "Don't forget to regularly check the level of the water [as] it will likely need to be topped up several times."

Make the brandy butter

You'll have a long, long time to wait for the pudding to be done cooking. At some point during the eight hours, you can get started on the brandy butter. This is fairly simple to do — just mix the softened butter with the confectioner's sugar, then add in two tablespoons of brandy. This makes a subtly sweet and boozy butter, which will pair wonderfully with your pudding. Stick the brandy butter in the fridge until you are ready to serve the pudding.

Let the pudding cool down, then set it on fire

When the pudding has finished cooking at long last, it will still need time to cool down. Use the string handle to remove the pudding basin from the saucepan, then let it sit and cool down. Once the pudding is completely cool, you can flip the basin over and un-mold it onto a plate. As Rye says, "It should easily slip out."

Once the pudding is out of the basin, it's time for the flambeing to begin. Heat the remaining brandy in a saucepan. Once it's warm, tip the pan to the side and hold a long match or lighter (the kind you'd use to light a barbecue grill) just over the liquid. Once the brandy is blazing, slowly pour it over the pudding and wait for the flames to burn themselves out. Once your pudding stops smoking, it's safe to slice and serve with chilled brandy butter.

Rye tells us that "Christmas pudding is normally part of a selection of Christmas desserts available to eat after the main Christmas dinner here in the UK," those other desserts typically including mince pies, trifle, boxed chocolates, and maybe a few cakes. She says it is typically paired with sherry, port, or a glass of wine. Rye does note that, if you don't want an alcoholic drink with your British Christmas pudding, then "a cup of tea wouldn't go amiss though either." Cheers to a traditional recipe!

British Christmas Pudding Recipe
5 from 30 ratings
British Christmas pudding is a traditional dessert in the U.K., and with this recipe, you can make the fruitcake-like dessert in your own home.
Prep Time
1.33
hours
Cook Time
8
hours
Servings
20
Servings
christmas pudding on plate
Total time: 9.33 hours
Ingredients
  • 2 ¾ cups dried mixed fruit
  • 2 tablespoons candied citrus peel
  • 1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 8 tablespoons brandy, divided
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon suet (can use lard or vegetable shortening)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (can use pumpkin pie spice)
  • 1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • ⅓ cup pecans
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
Directions
  1. Soak the mixed fruit, citrus peel, and chopped apple in the orange juice and 3 tablespoons of brandy until the liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour.
  2. Beat the brown sugar with the suet, then add in the eggs.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and mixed spice.
  4. Fold the flour mixture into the sugar and suet.
  5. Stir in the breadcrumbs, soaked fruits, orange zest, and pecans until well combined.
  6. Generously butter a 6-cup pudding basin and fill it with the cake batter.
  7. Cut a circle of paper large enough to sit on top of the batter and fold a small pleat into it so that the pudding has room to grow.
  8. Place the paper circle on top of the pudding batter, and cover the top of the basin with two layers of aluminum foil.
  9. Tie butcher's twine around the pudding basin to hold the aluminum foil in place.
  10. Make a handle for the pudding out of a second piece of twine that passes across the top of the pudding and is attached at both ends to the string encircling the basin.
  11. Place a trivet into a large saucepan (you can use a slightly smaller pot lid to serve this purpose).
  12. Set the pudding on the trivet, then pour boiling water into the saucepan until it reaches halfway up the side of the basin.
  13. Cover the saucepan with a lid (you can use aluminum foil), and simmer for 8 hours, topping up the water as needed.
  14. While the pudding is cooking, mix the butter and the confectioner's sugar, then stir in 2 tablespoons of brandy. Refrigerate the brandy butter.
  15. After the pudding has steamed for 8 hours, remove it from the saucepan using the string handle.
  16. Let the pudding cool completely before removing it from the basin by turning it upside down onto a plate.
  17. Heat the remaining brandy in a saucepan. When the brandy is warm, tip the pan slightly to the side and light the alcohol using a long match or lighter.
  18. Slowly pour the lit brandy over the Christmas pudding and let the fire burn out.
  19. Slice the Christmas pudding and serve with the chilled brandy butter.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 193
Total Fat 11.1 g
Saturated Fat 5.6 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 31.1 mg
Total Carbohydrates 18.6 g
Dietary Fiber 1.2 g
Total Sugars 7.9 g
Sodium 68.5 mg
Protein 2.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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