A Solstice Pudding

star rating (2) rate this recipe »
Recipe photo

A Solstice Pudding

star rating (2) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

The ancestor of plum pudding was initially served in the dim, pre-Christian Celtic past of Britain as the climax of a feast at the winter solstice, that point in December when the sun is at its lowest arc in the sky. It was served flaming to entice the sun to return, with a sprig of holly in the center to ward off witches and misfortune.

Like mincemeat, plum pudding was originally much more savory, flavored with meat and thickened with suet. It was also more like a pudding, hence its name. But sometime at the beginning of the 18th century, it became the firm cake we know today. Until a century ago, it was boiled in a pudding bag and was thus round or football-shaped.

Sometime towards the latter part of the 19th century, pudding bags were replaced by tin pudding molds which is what we still use today. These are much simpler affairs to use, and the resulting pudding is more elegantly shaped although not any tastier. Like mincemeat, it is good luck for everyone to give the pudding a stir clockwise, or toward the sun.

It's best to make the pudding ahead of time so the flavors have time to blend and mellow. But don't despair if the inspiration to make it comes the day before you want to serve it. It will still be rich and festive and will certainly help you light up the dark season of the year.

1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (hopefully from a loaf of homemade bread!)
1 cup firmly packed grated suet
1 cup currants, soaked overnight in tea
2 cups golden raisins (also soaked in tea)
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped candied peel
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and ginger
1 cup milk
3 eggs
juice and grated peel (zest) from 1 lemon
1/4 cup brandy or rum

Lightly grease a two-quart pudding mold or a large coffee can. In a large bowl, mix the flour, bread crumbs, suet, fruit, carrots, candied peel, salt, sugar and spices together thoroughly.

In a smaller bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, lemon juice and zest until light.

Mix the liquids into the dry ingredients. (The easiest way to do this is with your hands.)

Put the combined ingredients lightly into the mold, making sure it is only two-thirds full. Cover tightly. (aluminum foil and a large rubber band will do as a lid.)

You'll need a kettle or pot that is large enough to cover with a lid with the pudding mold in it. You will also need something to keep the mold off the bottom of the kettle; a vegetable steamer or even a crinkled-up piece of aluminum foil will do.

When you're ready to steam the pudding, place the mold in the kettle and pour boiling water around it until it comes about two-thirds of the way up the side of the mold.

Cover the kettle and, when the water has come back to a boil, turn the heat as low as you can and steam for 5 hours, adding water when necessary.

When the pudding is done, remove the lid and sprinkle with the rum or brandy. Let it cool a bit to allow the pudding to set before removing it from the mold. When it is thoroughly cool, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in a cool place.

To reheat for serving, place the pudding back into the mold and steam it for about 2 hours. Turn it out onto a serving dish with a lip.

Heat 1/4 cup of brandy in a small saucepan on the stove until it is close to a boil. Pour it over the pudding, carefully(!) ignite it with a match and carry the flaming pudding to the table. (It has the most impact with the lights off, but watch your step as you carry it to the table.)

Serve with the following sauce:

    Hard Sauce
    8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter at room temperature
    1/2 cup packed brown (or 1 1/2 cups confectioners') sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 or 3 tablespoons brandy or rum (or to taste)
With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and brandy or rum. To adjust the consistency, add either sugar or liquid. Cover and chill before serving.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 2, December, 1991 issue.


  • star rating 01/07/2011
  • mebren1121 from KAF Community
  • I only gave this 2 stars because the pudding was awful, but the hard sauce was delicious. I'm the one who found mold growing on the pudding when I took it out on Christmas Day to steam it. I cut the mold off and steamed what was left of it, just so I could try it. WELL.....with so much candied lemon peel in this recipe, it tasted like a sour lemon drop. I won't make this again because I refuse to take the chance of the mold problem again. But I certainly WILL make the hard sauce because that was delicious!
  • 12/26/2010
  • mebren1121 from KAF Community
  • How far in advance can you make this pudding? My husband's relatives in Ireland have been making Plum Puddings every Christmas for over 100 years. They always make them in October or November and they are fine on Christmas. I actually made this on the Monday before Thanksgiving, so I could give one to my sister, brother and have one for myself. Instead of making one large pudding, I made 4 smaller ones. I made it exactly the way the recipe was written and stored the puddings in a cool area. In fact, I stored them in the same cool place I use to store fruitcakes. On Christmas morning, I made the hard sauce and put it into the refrigerator. Later in the day, I took the pudding from it's cool storage area and there was MOLD growing on it! I had been looking forward to eating this since the day I made it, but I instead threw it into the garbage. I was very disappointed because the puddings smelled wonderful when I made them! I'm planning to make more on Dec. 27th so I can have some on New Year's Day. I'll review the recipe after I taste it, but I do need to know how far in advance I can make this for next Christmas. Thanks!
    I am sorry to hear of your difficulty. This pudding can be made well in advance and laid down for many months. The difficulty you describe could be related to either storing the pudding before it was fully cooled, or the pudding being cross contaminated in the storage area. If you need more help troubleshooting this, please give us a call on the Bakers Hotline: 800-827-6836 Frank @ KAF.