Irish Cook

Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter

Christmas Pudding with Brandy ButterServes 10–12

The original figgy pudding, created sometime in the 1400s, was a dish of dried figs, dates, raisins, and spices boiled in almond milk. Also called plum pudding— despite the fact it contains no plums whatsoever—this steamed or boiled pudding was first recorded as Christmas Pudding in 1858 in a novel by British author, Anthony Trollope. The name is probably derived from the substitution of raisins for dried plums as an ingredient in pies during medieval times. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, dishes made with raisins retained the term: plum, and in the Victorian era, Christmas plum puddings became a well-loved dessert.

Curiously, plum pudding was a latecomer to Ireland, but it caught on quickly and today it is one of the best loved Christmas desserts. Not to be confused with fruitcake, it is actually more like a dense spice cake. Serve this pudding with brandy butter, the quintessential topping for Christmas puddings.


1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
1 cup currants
1/4 cup chopped dried fruit, such as cranberries, raisins, and figs
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup candied cherries, halved
1/4 cup candied mixed peel
1/3 cup brandy or dark rum
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup/60 g chopped stem ginger
1 apple, peeled, cored, and grated
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white breadcrumbs
1 tsp. mixed spice, or pumpkin pie spice

1. Combine the fruits, candied cherries, and mixed peel a large glass jar or bowl. Add the brandy or rum, orange zest, and juice, and then cover; let stand at room temperature overnight.

2. Butter a 6-cup pudding mold or deep, heatproof bowl and place a round of wax paper on the bottom. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the soaked fruits, ginger, apple, flour, breadcrumbs, mixed spice, and cinnamon.

3. Spoon the batter into the prepared mold and smooth the top. Cover with a double piece of buttered wax paper and a double piece of aluminum foil. Fold together and make a pleat in the center (to allow for the pudding to expand). Tie the paper and foil in place with kitchen twine.

4. Place the mold in a large saucepan or Dutch oven fitted with a rack, or put a folded kitchen towel on the bottom of the pot to prevent direct contact with the bottom of the pot. Add enough hot water to the pot to come halfway up the sides of the mold or dish. Cover and steam on medium-low heat for 2–2 1/2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (Check the water level once or twice during cooking and add more water when necessary.)

5. Carefully remove the pudding mold from the pot. Remove the foil and parchment, and run a metal spatula around the sides to loosen. Place a serving plate over the mold and invert. Slice and serve warm with brandy butter or sauce. (If not serving immediately, let the pudding cool, covered, in the mold. When completely cool, unmold, wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Refrigerate the pudding for up to one week or freeze).

6. To serve, put the pudding back into its mold, cover with waxed paper or foil, and steam for one hour, as above, or until heated through. Thaw frozen pudding before reheating as above.

Brandy Butter

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. brandy

1. In a small bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Add the brandy and beat until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl or crock, cover, and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Return to room temperature before serving.