English Plum Pudding aka Christmas Pudding is one of those super delicious, super impressive and super easy desserts. To Americans, the name can be fairly confusing because its not a pudding, its a cake…and there are no plums in it. You see, in England, pudding is a generic word for all sorts of dessert, and this particular dessert has undoubtedly been made many ways over the decades. Did it contain plums? Maybe. Or more likely plum refers to the raisins.
The first time I tasted plum pudding, I thought “where have you been my whole life?” I was already full of Christmas food and I was just going to have a sliver…you know… for the experience. Next thing I know, I’ve eaten an entire piece. No regrets.
So let me tell you why this cake is so freakin’ fantastic.
- First off, its incredibly moist, like crazy moist.
- Second, the flavor is intense and complex. Each bite is an experience.
- Third, its special. In England, Christmas Pudding is widely available. However, in the United States, it’s near impossible to find this dessert. It won’t be at your local bakery or on a restaurant menu. Homemade is really the only option.
- Fourth, you set it on fire before you eat it. How fun is that?
And yet, for some of you, I know that this dessert is a hard sell. After all, let’s be honest. This is a fruit cake. There, I said it. And I’m going to say some more. It is better after it ages. And it has raisins in it…lots of raisins. And for many people I know, that’s a deal killer right there. When did the raisin fall out of favor anyway? But I digress. I’m asking you to set all that aside and put a little faith in me and Christmas and give this unique dessert a try.
I am posting this 14 days before the big day, but if you want to make your own plum pudding, hurry up. Unfortunately, it may already be too late, if you can believe that. Here’s why. Plum pudding, like all fruit cakes, improves over time. I’ve heard stories of cakes made one year for consumption in the next. So if you want plum pudding for Christmas, you should make it yesterday, but no later than one week before Christmas so head to the store.
Adapted from a recipe by the fabulous and sainted Julia Child
- 3 cups packed coarse fresh breadcrumbs from white bread (aka 1/2 lb. loaf, crusts on). I use Pepperidge Farm.
- 1 cup dark raisins
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup currants
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon mace
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 lb (2 sticks) melted unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large eggs
- a few drops of almond extract
- 1/2 cup bitter orange marmalade
- 1/2 cup bourbon or dark rum
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
THE BIG FINALE
- 1/2 to 1 cup rum (or brandy) to flambé
SPECIALTY EQUIPMENT: 8-cup capacity Steamed Pudding Mold & small rack that fits into a tall stockpot. If you don’t have a steamed pudding mold, you can use a small bowl, but a pudding mold is inexpensive and pretty easy to find at a kitchen store or online. You will also need a small rack to keep the mold off the bottom of the pot. I struggled with this for years until I finally found a small rack like this one in an Asian Supermarket. Whatever you devise, your goal is to keep the metal of the pudding mold (or bowl) from making contact with the very hot metal stockpot bottom. Instead, you want the water to surround the bottom of the mold while it steams.
Tear bread into pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to form rough crumbs. Empty the crumbs into very large bowl.
SIDE NOTE: Obviously this cake was made long before the invention of the food processor and you could chop all this by hand, but processing is soooo much easier.