Figgy Pudding

I'm big on holiday traditions. And wouldn't you know it? I dig on baking, too. There's plenty of both to be had during the holidays, though some traditions are well known but not well understood.

We've all heard Christmas music, in particular the song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". Played in nearly every holiday movie (likely only beat out by "Happy Holidays"), this tune features the line, "Now bring us some figgy pudding". But what the hell is figgy pudding?

I found some interesting posts on the history, this one sticking out in particular. Long story short: It's from 1600's-era Britain, became a holiday tradition, and is soaked in booze. Um, sign me up.

It's not a pudding, at least not the kind of Jello-package mastery I've come to know. It's a cake with dried fruit.

Though obviously I went through some recipes before baking since this was a whole new one for me, I changed it significantly. For one thing, all the recipes varied in dried fruit content - some had no figs, others had I used my own mix of dates (which are delicious on their own, by the way), figs, plums, and cranberries. Though this cake doesn't have fig in it's ancestors, I wanted 'em anyway.

In a large bowl, I mixed the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a large bowl. Instead of using all purpose flour, I changed it up by adding whole wheat and coconut flours for part of the recipe. You can't use all coconut flour and using more than like, 30% whole wheat flour significantly changes the recipe, so using less than 25% each balanced the whole thing. Whole wheat flour tends to be heavier, and since I was not using bread crumbs in this, I wanted to test out the texture with this mix.

The recipe called for fresh bread crumbs, and though I had your standard store-bought bread crumbs in the pantry, I imagined that texture being odd. While maybe I'll try it in a future attempt, for this one I went with my flour mix.

Allow me to tell you now in case you don't already know dates are sweet little fruits of the gods. They taste like fruity brown sugar and I love them (but be careful - lots of sugar!). When I was checking out at the grocery, the cashier asked me what they were. Coincidentally, they were buy one get one free, so I was walking out with a decent amount of fruit. I explained that they were dried fruit, like a raisin, and mentioned they were a good snack (I didn't need to try them to know that a dried date is better substance-wise than a potato chip), to which she said, "Oh. I don't know anything about produce." Girl, you're missing out.

Once I got done snacking on them, I prepped the leftovers for the recipe by pulling out any pits and dicing them. I used mostly dried dates, but also added figs, plums, and cranberries. I passed on adding nuts to this because I planned on sharing some with someone who suffers from allergies. That's love.

After mixing together the flours and spices, I tossed the fruit, a diced apple, and lemon zest together with my hands. I wanted the fruits to get a light coating of flour and seasonings.

Moving over to my handy dandy mixing bowl, I beat the butter and brown sugar together, then added in the eggs. Lastly, I put in some vanilla, honey (as a molasses replacement), rum, and milk. This all looks pretty creamy in the photo, but don't be fooled. Adding the rum definitely caused this to look visibly more separated. This caused me to be a little uneasy, but that's ok - it all mixes together fine.

Though the recipe called for buttermilk, I made my substitute version by adding lemon juice to whole milk.

The hard part was over. I greased my mini bundt pans with vegetable shortening and added the batter. Though the recipe I was going to use called for making 2 larger cakes and steaming them over water for 2 hours, I wasn't interested in that. My alternative was to bake them, but in order to still keep the cakes from burning/sticking to the pans and to still get the steam effect, I baked the pans inside a water bath, as one would with a dish like flan.

This beautiful little cake slipped right out of the pan. It was almost too perfect. The last step was to make a frosting with butter, powdered sugar, and rum. It was tough to get this one to stop being runny; the recipe called for equal parts of rum and powdered sugar, but I found that adding more powdered sugar got it to thicken. I can't say it was the prettiest sauce, though, as it wasn't a completely smooth white. That's ok, it melted nicely on the warm cake.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how this would turn out. Gathering the dried fruits wasn't as easy as I thought; though dried fruits are common at a lot of stores, I picked up the plums and dates at different places and ordered figs online. I had presumed the aisle with nuts and raisins would have a pretty large selection, but I was wrong. At least there's always Amazon.

This seems to be a recipe with so many variations, it could come out any number of ways. Despite my choice to bake vs steam this, it still came out very soft. no brown edges or crispy parts on these little cakes.

But the meat of the matter is the flavor. The cake was doughy and soft, but not in the raw, uncooked sense, and when topped with the sauce while warm was the consistency of bread pudding (win!). The flour combination gave this dish the heavy density that I would expect in a fruit-filled cake.

I chopped up the fruit into small enough pieces that this wouldn't turn into a gummy mess while eating; the fruit that was larger dissipated quickly with each bite. And this was a sweet cake, but also had the right amount of spice from the cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Overall, this did have the holiday taste I expected. I would like to try some molasses in there next time, as that would add even more of that spice.

I shared this with a few people, and a couple were blown away. When I brought some to work, I left the rum sauce at home (obligation, y'all). Despite the lack of a very potent alcoholic sauce that made this one a next evel treat, it was still well received.

I'm coming to get you again next year, Figgy.

Figgy Pudding Recipe


For the pudding:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried dates
1/2 cup dried figs
1/2 cup dried plums
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 apple , diced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)
2 eggs
1/2 cup spiced rum
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup spiced rum
1 powdered sugar


To make the pudding, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a large bowl. Pit the dates and plums if needed, then cut all dried fruit into small pieces and cube apple. Add the fruits and lemon zest into the flour, then toss with hands to coat. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add honey, vanilla, and eggs, one at a time. Mix in buttermilk and rum. Stir the batter into the flour until well combined. Spoon into well-greased mini pans. Put the pans in a larger pan filled with water and bake for 1 hour.

To make the sauce, beat the butter until creamy. Mix in rum and powdered sugar until a thin sauce forms. Pour over pudding before serving.

adapted from figgy pudding with hard sauce

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