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Dec 4, 2012 06:10 AM

Plum Pudding a/ka/ Christmas Pudding or Suet Pudding

I'm spinning off this thread from a discussion we were having on the Vintage Pie thread because it's not about a pie but is well-deserving of its own.

By request, this is my Yankee New England mother-in-law's recipe for what she calls Christmas Pudding, but others might call Plum Pudding or ::gasp:: Suet Pudding. It came over from England with her great great grandmother. She recalls her mother and grandmother making this pudding (which tastes like a moist spice cake) in a coffee can steamed on top of the stove in simmering water for three hours.

What I admire about my MIL, is that respects tradition but is not afraid to use modern technology when it saves time/money. She steams her pudding in a crockpot in a special Bread & Cake pan, a metal container that sadly is NOT made any more. On ebay they call it "vintage." It fits the old-school 3 1/2 to 5 quart crockpots.

The good news is there are a bunch of bread and cake pans available for various prices on ebay, so if you like the idea of making steamed puddings without the hassle of having to pay attention to a large pot of water... here's your chance to buy one.

It looks like ebay has three of them: One new and two used. At $4.99, I say go for one of the used ones.
NOTE: Not sure if this fits in the shallower, wider crockpots. MY MIL said the additional rack that comes with the new one on ebay is NOT necessary for steaming. She doesn't use one.

Plum Pudding a/k/a Christmas Pudding or Suet Pudding
-Adding my MIL's comments to the recipe.


1 cup suet, chopped fine.*See NOTE
1 cup molasses
1 cup whole milk
1 (heaping) teaspoon baking soda
2 ½ cups all purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup raisins

*NOTE: My MIL says, "Get really good quality suet. Some suet is all gristle, all scraps. You can ask the butcher for good suet for cooking, tell him it is for a pudding so he doesn't give you suet for birds." She grinds the suet in an Oster food processor. "If you don’t chop it fine you get large lumps of suet and people wont eat it. You can’t tell people there is suet in there!" she said.


1. Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl and pour into a greased and floured mold, coffee can, or crockpot Bread and Cake pan.

2. Steam for three hours.

If using a coffee can on the stove: In a large pot, add hot water till it comes up about a third of the way up the can. Over low heat, steam for three hours. Add more water if it evaporates.

Crockpot with special pan:

Add one cup of boiling water to the crockpot. Add filled and covered pan and cook on high for three hours.

You can also make it in a crockpot in a coffee can. Cover the top with paper towels,

When the pudding has cooked, cool about 15 minute then "flop it over, it comes out just right out." After it is cooled, it can be wrapped in plastic wrap, and then wrapped again in aluminum foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

To serve, unlike revenge, this is best served warm!

Slice the pudding and put slice on a plate and heat in the microwave covered lightly with a paper towel, for about 30 to 40 seconds. "Less than a minute. You have to play around with your microwave."

Because this is so rich, most in our family eat just half a slice. My husband always goes for a full slice though. Traditional topping for the pudding is hard sauce, but many prefer whipped cream. "I think it's too rich with hard sauce, I like whipped cream better," concluded MIL. And I concur.

Hard Sauce:

½ cup (one stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon flour
3/4 cup boiling water

1. Cream butter and sugar and pour it into a sauce pan.
2. Add the egg, flour and boiling water and boil until slightly thickened.


Christmas Pudding and Whipped Cream (half slice)

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  1. Thanks Trish! We have steamed pudding for Christmas, too, though ours is made with persimmons.

    1. We always buy our Christmas Pudding - taking the view that life is too short to make one when there are perfectly acceptable (if not fabulous) ones available in the supermarket. On the one occasion that we've made our own in the last 40 years, it was this recipe:

      The bought one is always served with the brandy sauce included in the linked recipe. Xmas pudding is not Xmas pudding if it doesnt have brandy sauce with it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        We always buy ours too...from Harrod's in London. The stuff keeps FOREVER in the fridge/freezer, so as long as some relative gets over there during the year, we're all set. I'm dreading the year that I have to order it online! Christmas pudding is one of those things that I'm happy to eat precisely once every year! It's perfect for Christmas, but after that, I'm moving on!

        1. re: jbsiegel

          I'm laughing because you are making Christmas Pudding sound like dreaded fruitcake, which I hate. The homemade stuff is simple, tastes like spice cake. I look forward to it every year.

          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            No...I DO like it, just wouldn't want to eat it all year 'round. Kind of like candy corn and pumpkin pie.

      2. Thank you for posting this, now plum pudding is calling for me to make for Christmas.

        1. Thanks, I think I might just surprise my aunt this year!

          14 Replies
          1. re: coll

            TrishUntapped, I'm wondering if that recipe wasn't modified after her great great grandmother arrived in the US and found all the usual ingredients were not available - it's quite minimalist for a Christmas/plum pudding. I've used an old Tate and Lyle recipe for around 30 years, which along with butter instead of suet has loads more ingredients such as prunes (making it a plum pudding :)), currants, raisins, fresh breadcrumbs, glace cherries, cider and rum. I made it and Jane Grigson's Country Christmas cake (way more labour intensive!) on 25 November. I use a traditional English pudding basin and steaming the pudding is an event - 8 hours of topping up the steamer. On Christmas Day I put the basin in the crockpot, pour in boiling water and leave it until it's ready for its grand flaming entrance :-)

            1. re: Athena

              Wow you are committed Athena!

              It's possible my MIL's original recipe was modified. She told me the original recipe was written in very old script on a brittle piece of paper that literally turned to dust. So we don't have to original to compare ingredients. Also, this was a very poor family back in the day, farmers and such. Simple folk.

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                hahaha! I do all that partly because it connects me to my mother (sounds like that happened in your family as well) and partly because my son loves the pudding and cake - and he's a dab hand at flaming that pudding with vodka - just like in the Dickens quote below :-)

                1. re: Athena

                  My mother makes a steamed fig pudding and flames it with dark rum. She makes it in a tin pudding mold, the type with a design at the top and a hollow core (like this:, and the flames run around the rim. Our family name for this (passed down from her parents) is "blue devils."

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      My mother has a similar pudding basin, only we make one with persimmons and flame it with brandy.

                      1. re: Savour

                        I made your persimmon pudding recipe one year, which you posted here many many moons ago when we both lived in NYC - it is delicious! I'll see if I can find the link.

                        Here we go:

                    2. re: Athena

                      I love hearing about these pudding traditions!

                  1. re: Athena

                    I suddenly had a flashback to A Christmas Carol and Tiny Tim. Perhaps that's where my fascination really started?

                    Mrs Cratchit left the room alone -- too nervous to bear witnesses -- to take the pudding up and bring it in... Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper which smells like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered -- flushed, but smiling proudly -- with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quarter of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.[9]

                    1. re: coll

                      I'm so tempted to suggest flaming the pudding this year...

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                        We do it every year, we have some very potent booze and it's my Dad's role to flame the pudding. It makes him happy and the pudding in flames is spectacular. It definitely wraps up the event in a festive way.

                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                          Vodka works really well for flaming the pudding.

                          1. re: Athena

                            I feel like making the pudding just so I can ignite it now.

                            1. re: Athena

                              Brandy or whiskey fortified with a bit of Everclear works even better (just be careful!)