Traditional Steamed Christmas Pudding with Stout
My Traditional Steamed Christmas Pudding with Stout recipe is rich, alcoholic and fruity too. It keeps for ages and makes a great edible Christmas gift. A couple of small twists like adding dried cranberries and stout make this simple recipe mind blowingly delicious. So don’t miss stir-up Sunday, get your apron on and try this classic Christmas Pudding recipe – you’ll never buy one again!
Filled with rich Christmas spices and steamed, you will not only be treated to a gorgeous traditional pudding with your Christmas Dinner but your house will smell amazing too!
I first knew I wanted to make Christmas pudding when I found the Christmas pudding recipe by Mary Berry. My recipe is now a mix of recipes and trials from starting off with a Delia Christmas pudding and mixing it with tips from Jamie Oliver and exploring new ways of adding more of the iconic Christmas flavours.
My pudding recipe is filled with cranberries, cherries and all the other good things that go into Christmas puddings including a lot of brandy and dark stout beer. The brandy has a brilliantly strong taste which works with the fruit beautifully.
The finished pudding is dark brown and glossy. I love making it almost as much as I enjoy eating it! The fruit soaking and steaming takes a while but it’s so easy. This recipe make two small puddings so I have one for Christmas day and one in the pantry for another time.
This recipe is family approved. We love it with a lot of homemade custard. Delicious!
What is a traditional English pudding?
A traditional English pudding is a steamed dessert made with dried fruit. It uses brandy and is often set alight before being served. Or it’s served with a sprig of holly.
It also often now served with a range of creamy options including brandy cream or brandy butter, ice cream, single cream or double cream. In essence, if you have cream you are sorted for your traditional Christmas pudding.
What is Stir Up Sunday?
Stir Up Sunday is the traditional day when Christmas puddings are made. It is always the last Sunday before Advent which depending on how the weeks fall each year, is usually either the last or second to last Sunday in November.
Many families have a tradition where all members of the family stir the pudding and make a wish. It is a really lovely day and activity whether you have children or not.
Feeding and Maturing Christmas Pudding
One of the reasons that the pudding is usually made so far in advance of Christmas itself, is to give the pudding time to mature and develop it’s flavours. This is much the same as with many traditional Christmas Cakes.
Being prepared so far in advance also gives us the opportunity to “feed” the pudding with extra alcohol. You can use your favourite spirit but brandy, whiskey and sherry are the most common. The alcohol both provides a lovely flavour and keeps the puddings lovely and moist as they mature.
To feed the pudding, you should uncover them once a week, make some holes in the top of the pudding using a small skewer and then pour over around 1 tbsp of spirits. Repeat this once a week until Christmas.
Don’t be tempted to go overboard with the amount or frequency or you could end up ruining the pudding. And make sure to wrap the pudding back up and place in an airtight container after each feed.
How to Serve Christmas Pudding
One of the most fun ways to present the Christmas Pudding is to bring it to the table covered in flaming brandy!
Why set fire to a Christmas pudding?
The traditional reason why we set fire to a Christmas pudding is that it is said that the flaming brandy represents the Passion of Christ. Plus in early traditional Christmas puddings there were about 13 ingredients said to represent Christ and his 12 disciples.
Now it adds a beautiful spectacle to the Christmas table and I believe the burning brandy adds a hot slightly caramelised sugary sweetness to the outside of the pudding. It’s a lovely thing to do but be careful as fire and alcohol can be a dangerous mix especially if you are already a little tipsy.
Decorating Christmas Pudding with Holly
If you prefer a less eyebrow-risking way to present your pudding, a fresh sprig of holly with its dark green leaves and bright red berries, is quite spectacular too.
If you don’t have any growing nearby, any good florist will sell some over the holiday season and it is usually available in supermarkets too.
What to Serve With Christmas Pudding?
But my top tip is to serve it with custard. I love Christmas pudding with custard – especially vanilla custard! (Sometimes homemade but mostly store bought).
It also works well with thick cream or even ice cream. My family have all the different creams we can over Christmas. Baileys cream, brandy cream and so many more. I swear the supermarkets keep bringing out new versions. And they’re all delicious.
How Many People Does This Christmas Pudding Serve?
My recipe makes two smaller puddings which easily serve 6 to 8 people each.
We all know that whilst everyone still wants a steaming hot portion of Christmas Pudding after their Christmas Lunch, even the greediest of people tend to be rather on the full side. So it is very common to hear everyone ask for “just a little piece”. Which means that a large pudding is often too much, even for a fairly large crowd or family.
By making two smaller puddings, you still end up with more than enough to make the time spent “worth it” but without ending up with any waste. The second pudding can be reheated at anytime and is especially delicious served the following Easter.
What Ingredients are traditionally found in a Christmas pudding?
Please don’t be put off making a pudding by the long looking list of ingredients. By breaking them down into sections, it is easy to see that there is simply a mix of dried and candied fruits and spices which make the list look long! For the most part the recipe uses store cupboard ingredients.
Although this is my take on a Christmas pudding, it does bring out the old fashioned Christmas pudding flavours that are so well known. Adding a few little extra flavours like the dried cranberries (my favourite) updates a classic but doesn’t stray too far from the original.
Dried and Candied Fruit
My recipe uses a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, dried cranberries, glace cherries and mixed peel.
I usually use a packet of dried fruit mix in place of buying individual packets of raisins, sultanas, currants and mixed peel. Just make sure to use a total of 500g. This is usually a much cheaper way of buying the fruit and means that you don’t have a bunch of half open packets sitting around until next year.
Apple, Citrus and Alcohol
A dark stout beer isn’t traditional but the bitter notes and treacly taste elevate this pudding to be a taste sensation. You can use any dark stout, the most famous of which is Guinness. Brandy is a traditional ingredient which I’ve also used.
At first I was sceptical about adding a bramley apple to the recipe but it looked lovely and really helped to bulk out the pudding.
The fresh lemon and orange zests help to brighten the pudding flavours and add a counterbalance to the dark fruit cake flavours. I highly recommend that you don’t miss these out. A mix is best but you could use all lemon or all orange zest if you prefer.
All of the spices used in the pudding recipe are classic Christmas spices. Cloves, cinnamon, ginger, ginger, nutmeg can all be bought ready ground.
I have used a little mixed spice which is a common ready prepared spice mix in the UK. It is similar to pumpkin spice. You could use 2½ tsp mixed spice instead of the individual spices but my ratio mix is a little superior in my opinion.
As well as more usual ingredients like butter, self raising flour, chopped almonds and eggs, a classic Christmas Pudding also includes suet and fresh breadcrumbs.
The breadcrumbs soak up the liquids and add buk to the pudding. They also help to keep the pudding moist by holding onto all that soaked up liquid.
You can make your own fresh breadcrumbs by drying white bread in a very low temperature oven, allowing it to cool then blitzing in a food processor. Or you can now easily buy bags in the supermarkets. I do not recommend that you use the containers of orange coloured dried breadcrumbs – these are too fine.
Suet provides fat and richness. The texture is different to using all butter and I highly recommend using it. If you don’t like the idea of using meat fat in your baking, vegetarian suet is readily available.
It is also worth pointing that using dark muscovado sugar in the pudding is a must. The rich flavour is a big part of what makes Christmas pudding taste as it should. It is sometimes simply called dark brown sugar in the shops.
Is This Christmas Pudding Suitable For Vegetarians?
This recipe uses suet which is an animal product that isn’t vegetarian. The good news is that vegetarian suet is just as commonly available so you can simply use that instead.
It is also worth checking that the stout you are using is vegetarian. Older recipes used parts of a fish in the brewing process (not actually as gross as it sounds) but many stouts are now vegetarian suitable. Guiness is one classic recipe that has been changed and it is now certified vegan.
Can I make an alcohol free Christmas Pudding?
You can! Switch the brandy and stout for orange juice when soaking the fruit. Or you can use cold strongly brewed tea. Simply don’t feed the pudding and keep it well wrapped.
If you can find an alcohol free stout that would be even better as you will lose some of the richness of the pudding by subbing in orange juice or tea.
How to Make Traditional Steamed Christmas Pudding
Making Christmas pudding is a really special treat to make and it’s really easy I promise. It involves a long soak of the dried fruit with the brandy and stout as the first step. From there it’s simply a case of mixing together more ingredients like spices and bread crumbs.
Keep scrolling to find the full instructions, ingredient quantities and cooking times in the recipe card.
Soaking the Fruits
I loved soaking all the fruits. It smells amazing before you even start with anything else.
This first stage needs to be started the night before. The dried and candied fruits are simply mixed with stout, brandy and citrus zest then covered and left to stand. I recommend a minimum of 12 hours soaking time although you can actually do this up to several weeks in advance.
The fruits absorb most of the liquid to make little flavour bombs which will be studded throughout the pudding.
If you forget to soak the fruit you can try the cheats version. Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and simmer gently for at least an hour. Allow to cool thoroughly before moving on to make the batter.
Making the Pudding Batter
Once the fruit is ready, the remaining cake ingredients and spices are stirred into the soaked fruit.
The only ingredient that cannot simply be added and mixed in is the butter which is grated in. This is to make sure that it is even distributed throughout the batter.
Prepare the Christmas Pudding For Steaming
Click for a great BBC Good Food video on how to wrap and steam your pudding. It will do a much better job of showing you how best to prepare the pudding basins than I can with words!
Steaming The Christmas Pudding
The pudding is steamed for 6 hours in a pan over a low heat. The water needs to just be simmering and it will need topping up every now and again. I usually set a timer and check on it every 45 minutes or so. Letting the pan boil dry could result in a pudding explosion and nobody want to be cleaning up that kind of mess. Or wasting that amount of ingredients.
If you have a large enough pan, you can cook both puddings together, otherwise you can use two separate pans.
Steaming Christmas Pudding in a Slow Cooker
You can also cook your Christmas pudding in the slow cooker. I often use this method which is brilliant fun as the house smelled gloriously of Christmas for even longer.
- Add a plate or saucer to the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Add enough water to cover the base – about 4cm and turn on to high. Add a bit more boiling water to heat it up.
- Once the water is simmering, add the pudding basins into the water. Make sure that the water only comes halfway up the sides.
- Pop the lid on and let it steam away for 9 hours on high. Top the water if needed.
Storing & Feeding the Pudding
Once cooled, the puddings should be carefully wrapped and stored in an airtight container.
It is best to keep the puddings in the pudding basins but they can be turned out if you can’t spare the dishes for a few weeks. If you do this and intend to feed the puddings, it is best to put them in another dish which is as close in size as possible.
After one week, unwrap the puddings and poke holes in the top using a small skewer. Drizzle over 1 tbsp of brandy, sherry or whiskey then rewrap and store for another week.
Repeat each week until Christmas. You won’t need to make any new holes after the first week however.
Reheating, Decorating and Serving Christmas Pudding
When you are ready to serve, the puddings simply need to be resteamed. They will need around an hour on the stovetop and nearer two if using a slow cooker.
Serve with a topping of fresh holly or pour over a ladleful of brandy that you’ve set alight.
Please remember that holly is so much sharper than you think it will be. I learned this the hard way – ouch!
What To Do With Leftover Christmas Pudding
I love leftover Christmas pudding! One of the most popular ways is to eat is is sliced and fried in butter then served with more brandy butter, ice cream or cream.
One way that I love to use it which is slightly more unconventional, is in my No Churn Christmas Pudding Ice Cream recipe. It goes down a treat in that funny time between Christmas and New Year!
There are lots of other inventive ways to bake with leftover Christmas Pud too. You could try this Brioche & Christmas Pudding Bread & Butter Pudding from Curly’s Cooking or even Christmas Puddini Bonbons from Nigella Lawson.
Traditional Steamed Christmas Pudding with Stout
For the Soaked Fruit
- 150 g raisins
- 150 g sultanas
- 150 g currants
- 100 g dried cranberries
- 50 g glace cherries
- 50 g mixed peel
- 1 large bramley apple peeled and chopped
- 250 ml stout
- 100 ml brandy
- zest 1 orange
- zest 1 lemon
Spices For The Pudding
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp nutmeg ground or grated
- ½ tsp mixed spice
To Make The Pudding
- 120 g dark muscovado sugar
- 150 g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 100 chopped almonds
- 100 g self-raising flour
- 50 g suet
- 75 g unsalted butter plus extra for the basin
- 2 eggs beaten
To Line the Pudding Bowls
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp muscovado sugar
To Soak The Fruit
- In a large bowl mix the dried fruits, glace cherries, mixed peel and chopped apple, then add the stout, brandy, orange and lemon zests and stir.
- Cover and leave overnight to soak.
To Make The Pudding
- Butter two small (0.9litre/16cm/6") pudding basins, place a circle of greaseproof paper into the bottom so it's a bit easier to get the pudding out later.
- Sprinkle the buttered bowl with a light covering of muscovado sugar.
- Add the sugar, flour, breadcrumbs, chopped almonds and suet to a bowl along with all the spices to the soaked fruit and mix together.
- Grate the butter and add to the bowl along with the eggs and stir well.
- Spoon the mix into the prepared basins and level the tops.
To Cook the Puddings
- Put the kettle on to boil.
- Take a large sheet of foil and greaseproof paper. Butter the greaseproof paper and lay it face up on top of the foil layer.
- Make a pleat in the two together and wrap over the bowl securing with string. The butter side should be facing the pudding with the foil on the outside.
- Repeat for the second basin.
- Put the pudding on a heatproof saucer in a saucepan and pour in just-boiled water to come halfway up each basin.
- Cover and steam on a low heat for 6 hours. Top up the water occasionally so it doesn't boil dry. I set a timer and check every 45 minutes.
Store the Puddings
- When the puddings have cooled, remove the cooking foil then re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper and foil.
- Store in a cool place ready to reheat on Christmas Day.
Feeding the Puddings (Optional)
- If you want to feed it each week before Christmas add a tablespoon of brandy, sherry or whiskey. Use a skewer to make a few holes to help the brandy soak into the middle.
To Reheat and Serve the Puddings
- Steam the pudding for 1 hr using exactly the same method as before.
- OR microwave the pudding until it is piping hot throughout. Do this is short bursts and keep checking. It should take around 10 minutes in total. Remember to remove the foil before microwaving.
- Pour a little brandy into a metal ladle or jug then set it alight. Pour the flaming brandy over the top of the pudding. It is best to do this at or near the table for the full spectacle.
- OR add a sprig of holly to the top of the pudding and serve.
Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only.