The Christmas Pudding Experiment

Flame On


Somewhere along the way I became obsessed, well temporarily so, with the concept of an English Pudding. The term seems to encompass so many things that the American version does not. When we from the states think of pudding as the cups of custard that Bill Cosby used to push on us. The British version seems to include anything from a sweet sponge style cake to a savory bread soaked in meat juices.

So for Christmas this year I decided to make a traditional English Christmas Pudding which came out like a spongy sweet fruit cake with booze and an incredibly fresh citrus flavor. For anyone that likes the process of creating and uses cooking to do so this is a great recipe, not overly complex but needing a bit of time and nurturing. IMPORTANT: If you are going to make this recipe you will need to let it rest for 3-4 weeks before Christmas so make sure that you leave yourself enough time.



  • 1/3 lb golden raisins
  • 1/3 lb raisins
  • 1/3 lb currants
  • 1 oz mixed candied peel – finely chopped
  • 1 small apple – peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • ½ large orange – zest and juice
  • ½ lemon – zest and juice
  • 4 Tbsp brandy – plus a little extra for soaking at the end
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 oz shredded suet
  • 4oz dark brown sugar
  • 4 oz white bread crumbs
  • 1 oz almonds – roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs



Place dried fruit, candied peel, apple, orange and lemon juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl and let marinate overnight. The next day add flour, mixed spice and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.


Stir to mix.


Add suet, sugar, lemon and orange zest, bread crumbs and nuts.

Mixe Well

Stir to combine. You notice I switched over to a stand mixer as this is starting to get very thick.

Dried Fruits

Add in the marinated fruit.


Stir until combined.


Beat eggs lightly.

Added to the Mix

Add egg to the mixture.


Stir one last time until combined.

For Steaming

Set a steamer up and start boiling water. I used the “pasta pot” I own which has a sieve insert. I just filled the pot lower than the sieve and monitored the water levels throughout cooking. Any steaming situation you can setup where the pudding bowl is not going to sit directly on the bottom of the pot or in the water will work.


Grease a 2 quart pudding bowl – see notes about pudding bowls.

Pat Down

Place pudding in greased bowl. Smooth out the top surface.

Parchment Paper

Cover surface with parchment paper.


Fold excess parchment paper in over the top of the pudding clearing the surface of the bowl.


Cover top with aluminum foil.

Loop Around

Using butcher or kitchen twine tie the foil onto the top of the bowl.

Important Handle

You want to loop it around a couple of times and tie off a handle. This will make it easier to lift in and out of the steamer without hurting yourself.

Steaming Hot

Steam for 7 hours. Make sure to keep an eye on the water level. I found that keeping the heat at medium low and filling every hour or so gave me the desired effect. You may need to play around with times and eat level.

Initial Cooked

After 7 hours remove from the heat and unwrap. Notice the rich dark color. Pour another couple of Tbsp’s brandy on top.

Fold Again

Rewrap first with parchment paper.


Then aluminum. Retie and put somewhere cool and out of the way. I ended up just leaving on top of my liquor cabinet but in a cupboard would work well.


Christmas day you are going to resteam for 1 hour to reheat. After 1 hour turn out onto a plate. A silver platter would be even better but we went with what we had. Make sure the plate or platter has a lip to it if you are going to set aflame.


pour about 1/4 cup brandy on top of the pudding.

Flame On

Light on fire and serve.


Pudding Bowl

I obsessed a little bit over what pudding bowl I should get. The important facts here are that the bowl be 2 quarts and have a  lip so you can tie off your handle and that it be heat resistant. Remember you are going to put this in a steamer for 7 hours.

Keep in mind that you want to start this process 3-4 weeks before Christmas. The Sunday after Thanksgiving can work if you can stomach cooking some more. You are going to want to leave the pudding at room temperature so it can develop. It will firm up a bit and the flavors will mature. I must admit that I was a little concerned with leaving it out for so long on its own but after having read a ton on the subject and speaking with people who grew up with Christmas pudding I decided it was safe, probably from the booze.

I picked up the suet from the butcher. It is beef fat. I cleaned it as best I could (removing anything stringy) then ran it through a food processor so it would be smooth. I’m sure you can just use lard.

I bought my mixed peel here. It is very important that you use a good quality. One of the major complaints about fruitcake seems to be the mixed peel not tasting good. There is a difference in the brands that you get.

This recipe was liberated from Elaine Lemm.

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