Sunday, November 27, 2022

My Family Recipe for Christmas Plum Pudding


It's the countdown to Christmas, and I really hope that Christmas still brings lots of excitement and love to many families on Christmas Day. We all love Christmas in our family. We generally try to keep it simple with the catering, when the traditional favourites make yet another appearance, such as my Mum's Plum Pudding with homemade Vanilla Custard for dessert, and the traditional Christmas Cake. 

Someone might make a trifle, and Mr. HRK and his Dad and our son Matthew, always used to make a delicious fruit salad, which the men all described as "secret men's business". What actually went into it was a closely guarded secret, they thought, but of course we all knew. It was a time full of fun and laughter. The leadup for some families can be stressful and lonely though as the cost of everything related to Christmas is increasing and everyone worries about how much they still have to do, particularly if they are working. It's reassuring to know that many charities support and help those in need on Christmas Day.

This Plum Pudding was steamed in my smaller and very old pudding steamer

My very old pudding steamer, needing some twine to hold the lid in place. It's a treasured relic.

It fits nicely on the stovetop in this large blue pot.

Traditional homemade Plum Pudding is always such a delicious Christmas dessert in our home. I've made a big start on the Christmas preparations this past week, and once the Plum Puddings and the Christmas Cake are made I always breathe a sigh of relief. Phew, all done. They are the big ticket items which can be made at least a month in advance. I'm bringing my family's traditional Plum Pudding recipe to you, and it has never failed me. Every year I learn a little something and improve on the "technique" and I have incorporated all of those little tips into this post. It probably sounds presumptuous, but I think that this is the only Plum Pudding recipe you will ever need. The Imperial ingredient measurements from Mum's original recipe are included, lbs and ounces, although now superceded by Metric here in Australia, Imperial measurements will still be familiar for my friends in the United States. For anybody reading this in Australia, the U.K. and Europe, I have converted the ingredients to Metric, and rounded them off to the nearest. 

I noticed this year when I was buying the ingredients for my Christmas cake and Plum Pudding that the cost of dried fruit and nuts seems to have escalated. However, making our own Christmas cake and Plum Pudding must still be more economical than buying the equivalent, and taste a whole lot better, and as far as I am concerned after the main and very filling Christmas lunch, Plum pudding and custard or ice cream is all that is needed for dessert. I am still continuing that tradition as long as I can. Every family has their own traditions at Christmas though and that is important.

Now for my Family's recipe for Christmas Plum Pudding. I allocate the whole day to cooking my Plum Puddings, as the largest one takes 4 hours to simmer and I don't generally start actually cooking it until about 10.00 am in the morning, as I am really fussy about having all the ingredients ready before I begin, and the pudding tins well greased with butter, and everything in place.

Fruit soaking in brandy

The dried fruit macerates in brandy for a few days or even a week before the cooking begins. 

This recipe makes a large quantity, enough for two puddings, and we save the smaller second one for the following year or to have with friends, and store the large one in the refrigerator for Christmas. We used to always save the second one for New Year's Day lunch, which in our Scottish household was considered to be almost as important as the Christmas lunch. I use one large 2 1/2 litre pudding steamer which I fill to 3/4 full, and then for the smaller 2nd pudding, I use my old and trusted 1 1/2 litre basin. However, you can use whatever steamers you have on hand, or halve the recipe and just make one pudding.


1 1/2 lb sultanas/24 oz/680 g
2 oz mixed peel/65 g
1/2 lb raisins/8 oz/230 g
1/4 lb currants/4 oz/115 g
2 oz. Glace cherries/65 g
2 oz blanched Almonds/65 g. slivered or whole
1/2 lb/8 oz/230 g butter
3-6 tablespoons Brandy or Sherry (some extra for flambe if you wish) A cheap brandy is fine to use.
1/2 lb./8 oz/230 g Brown sugar
4 eggs
1 grated carrot
6 oz flour/170 g
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 level teaspoon bi-carbonate soda
6 oz. soft breadcrumbs/170 g (this isn't too many breadcrumbs)
N.B. Packets of Mixed dried fruit can be used to the equivalent weight of fruit listed above.


Macerating the fruit:
Prepare fruits, by slicing the cherries in half and chopping some of the raisins if you wish and place in a large mixing bowl. Add 3 tablespoons brandy (or sherry), I prefer brandy, to the fruit and stir so that all of the fruit is covered and glistening. Cover the bowl and allow to stand overnight or for a few days, depending on your time frame. I then add a little more brandy over a few days if the fruit seems to have soaked it all up. The more brandy the better I say, when it comes to the Christmas pudding.

Good preparation is important before preparing your Plum Pudding batter.  I allocate the whole day to make my Plum Puddings, as you need to be on task to watch that the basins keep simmering and the water doesn't go dry in the large cooking pots.

Leave the butter and eggs out overnight to bring them to room temperature. See my Cooks notes re the breadcrumbs. The bread needs to be left out overnight as well.


 Cream shortening  (butter) and sugar to a cream. Add eggs one at a time, beat well with each addition. Add this mixture to the marinated fruit in the large mixing bowl, add the grated carrot and mix well.

To the mixture add the sifted flour, spice, and bi-carbonate of soda which have been sifted together into a bowl, until all the fruit is well coated in batter. Then add the fresh breadcrumbs. Mix it well together. This is a good workout for your arm for the day. 

Grease your pudding steamers, and cut a circle of baking paper to fit around the base of the steamer.  This will ensure that the pudding lifts out of the steamer well, without sticking to the base.  This brings such a sense of achievement to me when the aromatic warm pudding turns out beautifully in one glorious rounded mould onto the serving plate.

 3/4 fill the pudding steamers with the mixture. Seal the lids. (I use two pudding steamers for this quantity, a 2 1/2 litre pot, and a 1 1/2 litre pot because that's what I have on hand.)

 If using a calico pudding cloth to cook the pudding in, flour the inside of the cloth well, fill with the mixture allowing space for expansion during cooking, and tie securely.

Place the pudding steamers in 2 large pots of boiling water with the water level about half way up the sides of the basins. Cook for 4 hours in a large pot on gentle simmer being careful not to let the water run dry. I cook the large pudding in my largest pot on the gas burner in our BBQ area, and the smaller steamer in my largest Baccarat cast iron pot on the stovetop. I cook the smaller pudding for 2 hours, not 4.
(See my ps at the end of my post for how to cook a plum pudding in a Pressure Cooker, which only takes 1 hour 15 minutes in my Phillips all in one Pressure Cooker.)

 Cool the puddings and keep in a cupboard or the refrigerator depending on how hot the weather is, and then gently simmer again in the large pot for 2 hours on the day of reheating (Christmas Day).I keep my puddings in the refrigerator.

We serve our pudding with a Delicious Vanilla Custard. Custard powder will work just as well though. I'll be posting my recipe for our homemade Vanilla Custard shortly.

We love to flambe our plum pudding with brandy before serving when everything is going well. Turn your lights off, pour about 1/4-1/2 cup of brandy over the pudding and set it alight. It looks magnificent and everyone loves the theatrics of it. It's very difficult to get a photo of this, one year I will though.

Cook's notes:

1. Trivets :- Because it takes 4 hours to cook the larger pudding, it's a good idea to place a trivet in the bottom of the large pot you are simmering it in. Mr. HRK bought a new one for me this week from the gardening section in Bunnings, which works well. My old one has disappeared, who knows where. There is a risk that the pudding might burn if it sits on the bottom of the cooking pot. That did happen to me one year. The trivet also stops the pudding steamer from moving around the pot when it is cooking.

2. I buy the cheapest sliced white bread available from the supermarket for the breadcrumbs. I place about 8 slices of bread out on my kitchen bench the night before so that they dry out slightly which makes it easier to make the breadcrumbs. Alternatively, they can be dried in the oven. This makes it much easier to make the breadcrumbs in the food processor, and is much cheaper than buying the breadcrumbs in a packet. 

3. Use the food processor to grate the carrots and make the breadcrumbs, it makes life a lot easier.

4. I used the butter wrapper for one of the round steamer liners. It was already greased and was the perfect size to cut out a circle from to fit the base of the pot. Waste not, want not.

Perhaps it's time to do away with some of the traditional aspects of Christmas such as the grand turkey and the expensive gifts to make it much more economical for families. We have never eaten turkey at Christmas, just the thought of it in our Aussie Summer leaves me exhausted, and I don't think it's such a big thing in Australia in general as it is overseas. In Australia we seem to be preferring fresh seafood, however if that is just too expensive this year, we will be happy with a Roast chicken, some ham, perhaps some pork and a couple of cold salads. Breaking news this morning though is that Lobsters from Western Australia will be economical to buy this year as the Chinese still aren't importing them all.  Oh and I can't forget that the creamy and cheesy Potato Bake is always a favourite on our Christmas lunch table. Some families splurge and go out to a restaurant for Christmas lunch, although that seems to get more expensive each year. However, I can understand for a couple without any family around that dining out is an appealing option.

If you have always wanted to make a Plum Pudding but have just been a bit nervous about it, I urge you to just bite the bullet and do it. You have still got plenty of time to make one, and I know you will be thrilled with the results. Just follow all of my tips and tricks and I'm sure it will turn out beautifully. If you don't have a steamer to cook it in, perhaps a friend will, likewise with the very large cooking pot that is used to steam it in.  If you would like anymore information about what's involved please feel free to email me. there is an email box on the right hand column of this post. 

Enjoy the festive season and try to stay stress free.

Warmest wishes, 

PS (possible in a digital world)
 It's still surprising to me how many people who are great cooks have never made a plum pudding, and I think it's partly because the old method of making one involves a lot of time. An initial four hours of simmering in a pudding steamer and then simmering it for another two hours of the day of eating it. Following a query by a reader about whether or not it could be cooked in a pressure cooker, I have added this ps to my post and given instructions on how to cook it in a Pressure Cooker, which is more suited now for busy people with little time. 
I have a Phillips all in one pressure cooker. I've consulted with my amazing cooking friend Julie, who has the same pressure cooker as mine, and she is a lot more adventurous with it than I am, and after that chat, I am happy to confirm that yes absolutely, you can cook a steamed Christmas Plum Pudding in a Pressure Cooker. In my Pressure Cooker it will only take about 1 hour 15 minutes on manual pressure. Briefly, add two cups of water to the bowl, add a trivet so the steamer isn't sitting on the bottom of your stainless steel pressure cooker bowl, cover the batter with baking paper, then the lid of the steamer. Cook on manual pressure for about 1 hour 15 minutes, quick release, and your pudding is ready. However it's important to check the instruction manual for your particular type of pressure cooker for exact times and settings.
Happy cooking!


  1. That looks super yum with all the fruits. I have never made one and not sure I am going to make one because of the long hour of cooking..

    1. Thanks Angie, I only do this once a year, so I don't mind allocating the time to it. It's a special part of our Christmas lunch each year. The whole process could be over by lunch time, for a very early riser:)

  2. I've never made a plum pudding. Yours looks so delicious. I loved reading about your Christmas traditions.

    1. That's really nice of you Jeff, thanks so much. It's lovely to have those memories. Happy festive season.

  3. i'm making plum pudding vodka atm which has half a kilo of dried fruit in it! luckily i could find the fruit i was after as it can get scarce this time of year! your pudding looks amazing pauline.

    1. How interesting Sherry, a vodka plum pudding. Alcohol essential for preservation. I would love a taste. Just pleased mine is made. Thanks for your continued interest :)

  4. yes it will be a super simple christmas for us, just a roast chook in sandwiches on our back deck, just me and Mr P!

  5. I don't think I have ever seen a pudding steamer here. Luckily for us we can get dried fruit and nuts at decent prices. But everything has gone up considerably. We are having a traditional Christmas lunch with a non traditional dessert which I am making. And for the family we will do something simple :)

    1. Tandy, I bought my large pudding steamer at one of our privately owned hardware shops where we live, which also has a lot of homewares, it's a great store. Hope you find one someday. Makes it all very easy. Thanks for dropping by.

  6. I love that you use twine to hold the lid in place on that steamer - talk about a family heirloom! I have never actually made homemade plum pudding, but I keep saying every year that I should make one. Thanks so much for sharing your family's recipe with us!!

  7. Thanks David, my home has a few family heirlooms in the kitchen. Some things never date, they just wear out:)

  8. Hi from the other David! I really must try this - -I love plum puddings but have a fear of making them. Well, that and I need a pudding bowl! Your recipe looks quite straightforward - maybe this year will be the one in which I finally make one!


    1. David, in your climate, you could easily make a pudding in a calico cloth. Once you've made one, there's no going back. I hope this is the year for you. Thanks for dropping by to ready all about my pudding.


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