This figgy pudding, steeped in tradition, is sure to excite even the Ebenezer Scrooge types with its fruity sweetness & spectacular flaming presentation. Create new Christmas traditions with this figgy pudding recipe.
“Oh, bring us some figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer!”
And there it is, the rallying cry of the Christmas carolers of yore.
Perhaps modern Americans are unfamiliar with figgy pudding. Or Christmas carolers, for that matter. Being as that I succumb to folksy, bygone traditions during the holidays with relative ease, figgy pudding has been on my to-do Christmas bucket list for a few years now. Between the lines of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and the Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, figgy, or Christmas, pudding, has held a particularly exciting mystique.
“In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered — flushed by smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.” –Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Figgy Pudding History
Beyond Dickens’s rapturous account of Mrs. Cratchit’s confectionery success, the figgy (also known as the plum or Christmas) pudding has a long history. A product of culinary evolution, this special concoction was once composed of meat, root vegetable and dried fruit, stuffed into a sheep stomach and boiled for hours, if not days. In other words, a pottage. Less a proper “dessert”, it was a meal of subsistence, consumed in the cold and dark days of an English winter. Not bad if you are a starving waif in the middle ages, but not quite the figgy pudding recipe that evokes Tiny Tim and a reborn Scrouge. As time went on and trade increased with other European countries and beyond, the figgy pudding recipe departed from its more savory roots and became something more recognizable as dessert. Dense, moist and fruity became the pudding, oft doused with rum or brandy and lit afire for a spectacular presentation.
Perhaps it is wise for me to note that figgy puddy is not a “pudding” by modern North American standards. Rather, the figgy “pudding” is an ultra moist cake, resplendent in dried fruit glory. And, perhaps a little bit ‘o booze, if one is so inclined. During the leaner days of pre-industrial, industrial, and Victorian times, eggs would have been difficult to come by in late autumn and winter months. Thus “puddings” were bound by flour and dried fruit pastes, and were decidedly less “cake-like”. This dough was wrapped in a heavy cloth and steamed or boiled until firm. Knowing this, I can sympathize with Mrs. Cratchit’s worry and subsequent enthusiasm at success of her desert and am tickled at Mr. Cratchit’s praise, declaring it the “greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage.” Praise from one’s partner after a long fraught kitchen battle is welcome, indeed.
My figgy pudding recipe is neither wrapped in cloth nor boiled over a kitchen fire, but, rather, cooked in a Bundt style pan, mini or full size. In fact, my figgy pudding may not be very traditional at all. During my research for this post, I failed to find a thread of continuity among the recipes, save the addition of dried fruit. Actually, figs might just as well be raisins, prunes or dates. They may be puréed to a paste or left whole to stud the pudding. Some accounts say picking the fruits from a flaming pudding was a novel children’s game around the holiday table.
Oh, those wily Victorians and their scorched finger tips!
Whatever the traditional figgy pudding recipe may have been or is, I am sure that we can all agree that, with some imagination, this dessert is a figgy pudding in all the ways that matter. Perhaps what matters most during the holiday season is not the precision and execution of said tradition, but rather the sentiment it embraces.
On that note, here is some figgy pudding, a cup of good cheer (maybe in the form of this Douglas fir infused eggnog), the Merriest of Christmases, and a Happy New Year!
Figgy Pudding Recipe
Christmas Figgy Pudding
- 7 oz about 1 cup chopped dried figs
- 7 oz about 1 cup chopped pitted dates
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter for toffee sauce
- 1 cup dark brown sugar for toffee sauce
- 2/3 cup dark rum for flambe
- In a small saucepan bring water and dried fruits to a boil. Boil for five minutes, remove from heat and add baking soda. This will froth up. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes. After this cooling time, puree in a food processor until a smooth paste.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and dark rum, beating to combine. Add cooled fruit mixture and beat until evenly incorporated. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Gently fold the flour mixture into the fruit batter so that no flour streaks remain. Avoid over mixing.
- Grease one large Bundt-style pan, or 8-10 mini Bundts or ramekins with butter. Fill with batter about 2/3 full. Place the figgy pudding cooking vessel in a large baking dish and fill the dish with hot water, about 1/2 way up the sides of the pudding dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes for individual servings, or 25-30+ minutes for a larger dish. The figgy pudding is done when a skewer inserted in the thickest part of the pan reveals a moist crumb. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
- Before serving, bring 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup of dark brown sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 2-3 minutes, thickening slightly. Remove from heat. Carefully un-mold figgy pudding onto serving platter or dish. Pour "toffee" sauce over the tops of the un-molded puddings.
- To flambe, drizzle dark rum over the top of the figgy puddings, carefully ignite with a lighter or matches and receive obligatory applause.
Can’t wait to make this for Christmas!
Mrs. Cratchitt would be so proud! 🙂
OMgoodness !! I’ll make mine with cassava flour so it will be gluten free. So far cassava hasn’t let me down – it behaves just like wheat flour for making gravy. I recently found brown coconut sugar so I’ll use that instead of brown cane sugar.
I think fresh figs are out of season right now, but I’ll check at the farmer’s market – if I were to use fresh figs would the quantity be different?
My husband loves figs most of all and eats one fig cookie (Pamela’s gluten free, of course) every day with his afternoon coffee.
I would LOVE to hear how this turns out with cassava flour! I would not suggest using fresh figs due to the moisture content. I am not sure how I would adjust the west ingredients to account for the increase moisture without a lot of experimentation. I also like the rich deep flavor that the dried food lends. And then there is the traditional aspect… These traditional puddings would have been made with fruits that were preserved from the growing season. That being said — I can’t wait to eat fresh figs again!
I just finished baking this pudding. The batter was lovely. The smell is heavenly. I had to soak the figs overnight in a bit of brandy bc although fresh , they were on the dry side. So I left out the rum and added vanilla and some lemon zest to brighten the flavour . I baked in a traditional pudding mold but left off the top and proceeded as you suggested. It did take longer bc of the shape of the mold. After it cools I’ll wrap in cheesecloth soaked lightly in brandy. Can’t wait to try this one. Thank you!
Oh wonderful! Please let me know how you liked it! I love your additions — it is a dense and rich flavor profile so that lemon with brighten it up nicely!
This looks great. Can you swap the figs with raisins or another option?
This looks like a much simpler recipe than the one we tried (for the very first time) last year. I think I will give yours a go and hope for better results, as I really didn’t care for the one we made. The one we tried did not have figs in it, and the recipe required the mixture to be steamed, and then stored in a cool, dry place for ~ a month. Thanks for sharing, Devon, and I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!
Always wondered what figgy pudding looked like, and tasted like. I now know what it looks like, can hardly wait to make this amazing looking dish, to see what it taste like. It looks yummy. Thank you
Is it possible to freeze the batter or the finished pudding to serve at a later date??
Mine did not cook properly, it was in the oven for 45 min and the skewer came out a little cakey, so I pulled it out. Smelled and looked great, but battery in the middle. I’ll have to try it again. I used a loaf pan, could that have been the reason?
A new Christmas tradition! This is absolutely delicious. Even the teenagers liked it. I will make some homemade whipped cream to serve with it next time. I may not be able to wait til Christmas to do it though. It is THAT good. Thank you for sharing.