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Christmas Pudding

article by Ben Lincoln


In 2013, my friend Lucinvampire and I were discussing differences between Britain and the US, and I ended up learning about a tasty British dessert[1]. It seems like a very distant relation of the "fruitcake", but is soft, and tastes like regular fruit instead of candied fruit.

I'd never seen one here in the US, but was able to find numerous recipes and videos from the UK detailing how to make one. I modified an existing Christmas pudding recipe to be both vegetarian[2] (or, optionally, vegan) and gluten-free, and present the result so that other Americans can discover it for themselves. I recommend that everyone try this at least once, even with the extended baking/cooking time.



Total Preparation Time

About 20 minutes, followed by 4-24 hours of waiting, followed by about 30 minutes, followed by about 7 hours of waiting, plus 1 more hour for the final steaming (13-33 hours total).


  1. Place the grated zest and juice, brandy, chopped apple, dried fruit, and blackcurrant preserves into the second mixing bowl. Mix well, cover with a clean towel and allow to marinate overnight in a refrigerator. If overnight is not an option, at least 4 hours is recommended. Do not proceed to the next step until the marination is complete.
  2. Butter/grease/apply non-stick spray to the stainless-steel mixing bowl (or pudding basin).
  3. Combine the coffeecake mix, mixed spice, cinnamon, brown sugar, and nuts in a mixing bowl and mix them well. I recommend using a mixing machine - just leave it running after the mix is complete, because you'll be adding in more stuff.
  4. If you are making the regular (vegetarian/gluten-free version), you have two options at this time:
    • Coarsely grate the butter while it's still frozen, then add that to the dry ingredients. This most closely approximates the original shredded suet in the British recipe.
    • Melt the butter into a liquid form, then add it to the dry ingredients. This ensures a more consistent mix.
  5. Add the two eggs, then mix well.
  6. If you are making the vegan version:
    • Melt the Earth Balance and pour it into the blender. Add the banana and the silken tofu, then blend at low speed until smooth. Pour the result into the dry ingredients, then mix well.
  7. Add the marinated fruit to the rest of the ingredients, then mix well.
  8. If you wish to fully embrace the British tradition, then at this time each family member should take turns stirring the mix, making wishes, and optionally adding one or more silver coins, which are said to bring luck to the person who finds them. If you add the coins, be sure to warn those who eat the finished product, so that they can find them with their fork before they find them with their teeth.
  9. Pour the entire mix into the stainless steel bowl (or pudding basin). Then cover the bowl with aluminum foil.
  10. British bakers who are familiar with their type of double boilers should prepare that double boiler now to steam the pudding basin.
  11. Non-British bakers should place the wrapped stainless steel bowl in the tamale steamer, then add enough water that it reaches about 8cm (3 inches) from the top of the wrapped stainless steel bowl, and finally close the lid of the steamer.
  12. Steam the pudding for 7 hours. The amount of water I recommend in the tamale steamer should prevent it from boiling dry, but it is critical to check the water level frequently to ensure that it does not boil dry.
  13. After 7 hours, remove the wrapped bowl from the steamer and place it in the refrigerator until 1 hour before it is to be eaten.
  14. 1 hour before eating, place the wrapped bowl back in the tamale steamer, and steam for 1 hour using the same water level as previously.
  15. To serve: remove the foil from the bowl. Place a plate on top of the bowl, then flip the bowl and place upside-down so that the pudding ends up on the plate, facing upwards like a tiny volcano.
  16. If you wish to fully embrace the British tradition, you may perform one or both of the following rituals:
    1. Place a sprig of holly in the top of the pudding before placing it on the table.
    2. Prepare a saucepan of flaming brandy, and pour that flaming brandy over the pudding, further adding to the volcano imagery.


Christmas Pudding
[ It took three tries to get the classic appearance ]
It took three tries to get the classic appearance
[ The less-shapely version 1.0, with flaming brandy ]
The less-shapely version 1.0, with flaming brandy


1. In the UK, the term "pudding" is used to refer to what Americans would term "dessert".
2. Traditional Christmas pudding is made using suet, AKA "beef fat".
3. American-style recipes are volumetric, whereas British recipes use mass instead. The main difference is that American-style recipes require an assortment of measuring cups, but British recipes only require a scale and a mixing bowl. The bowl is placed on the scale and the "tare" button is pressed to "zero" the scale. Whatever amount (by weight) of an ingredient is added, the scale is "zeroed" again, and the process is repeated for each ingredient. Cleanup is much simpler because no measuring cups are used.
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