Plum Pudding

This dessert is not pudding in the American sense of the word, but in the British sense—meaning dessert. The bright orange zest, warm spices, and dried fruit in this rich, moist, dense steamed cake bring all of the holiday feels to the table. The hard sauce that accompanies it is basically brandy butter. When you dollop it on top, it slowly melts into the warm cake, infusing the pudding with the richness of the butter, the sweetness of the sugar, and the warmth from the brandy. Serve this with a cup of tea or a glass of brandy or sherry.

Plum Pudding
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley
Active Time:
30 mins
Stand Time:
3 days
Total Time:
3 days 9 hrs


For the pudding:

  • 2 cups water

  • 2 cups (about 9 1/2 ounces) dried currants

  • 1 ½ cups (about 7 ounces) stemmed and chopped dried figs

  • 1 cup (about 4 3/4 ounces) raisins

  • 1 cup (about 2 3/8 ounces) fresh breadcrumbs

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • ¾ cup (about 3 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 cup expeller-pressed vegetable shortening, shredded beef suet, or vegetable suet, plus more for greasing bowl

  • 4 large eggs

  • cup (5 1/3 ounces) brandy

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (from 1 orange)

  • Boiling water 

For the hard sauce:

  • 3 cups (about 12 ounces) powdered sugar, plus more for garnish

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) brandy


Make the pudding:

  1. Place water, currants, figs, and raisins in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Boil, stirring occasionally, until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.

  2. Pulse breadcrumbs, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a food processor until well combined and finely ground, about 15 pulses. Add shortening; pulse until mixture begins to clump, 10 to 14 pulses. Set aside.

  3. Whisk eggs in a large bowl until foamy. Whisk in brandy. Stir in breadcrumb mixture, ginger, orange zest, and cooled currant mixture until well combined.

  4. Place a wire rack in bottom of a large stockpot. Grease a 2- to 2 1/2-quart glass or ceramic bowl with shortening. Spoon pudding mixture into bowl. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place bowl on wire rack in stockpot (if desired, form a sling with a piece of aluminum foil to gently lower the bowl into stockpot). Carefully pour enough boiling water into stockpot to reach halfway up the sides of the bowl. Place an inverted plate on the foil-covered bowl, and cover stockpot with lid. Place covered stockpot over medium-high heat, and return water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and gently boil until pudding is slightly puffed and firm, about 3 1/2 hours, refilling stockpot with boiling water as needed to maintain original water level.

  5. Remove from heat. Carefully remove bowl from stockpot, uncover bowl, and let cool until bowl is warm to the touch, about 2 hours.

  6. Gently shake bowl back and forth to loosen pudding from bowl. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on a large plate. Invert pudding onto prepared plate. Wrap pudding tightly with foil, and place in a large ziplock plastic bag. Seal bag, and let stand at room temperature for 3 days. (After the 3 days, the pudding can be refrigerated up to 2 months).

  7. Unwrap pudding, return pudding to bowl, cover with foil, and repeat procedure in Step 4, gently boiling over medium-low until a thermometer inserted in center of pudding registers 160°F, about 2 hours. Remove from heat. Uncover bowl, and invert pudding onto a platter. (Alternatively, preheat oven to 300°F. Unwrap pudding and transfer to a large sheet of aluminum foil that has been lightly coated with cooking spray; wrap tightly in foil. Place on a baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven until a thermometer inserted in center of pudding registers 160°F, about 1 hour. Unwrap pudding, and invert onto a platter.)

Prepare the hard sauce:

  1. Beat powdered sugar, butter, orange zest, and salt with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beginning on low speed and gradually increasing mixer speed to medium, until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With mixer running on medium-low speed, gradually drizzle in brandy, beating until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Hard sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring sauce to room temperature before using.

  2. Lightly dust pudding with powdered sugar; slice and serve with hard sauce.

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