Expert guide to the secret to the perfect Christmas pudding recipe (2024)

By Alison Tyler for MailOnline

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It's Stir-up Sunday tomorrow, the traditional pud-making day, so we called in an expert.

The secret to a perfect pudding is all in the fruit, explains Paul Gray, who is master cake-maker at Bettys, the famous bakery and tea shop in Harrogate, Yorkshire.

'Don't use dried sultanas you've found at the back of the cupboard,' he says. 'Buy the freshest and best quality fruit you can afford.'

Expert guide to the secret to the perfect Christmas pudding recipe (1)

Proof is in the pudding: The secret to a vibrant Christmas pudding is adding the freshest, best-quality dried fruit

He should know - he's made millions of cakes during his 20 years at Bettys.
Today, I'm at their equally famous cookery school making my own Christmas pudding, along with other festive treats.

We start the pudding at 10am - although the kitchen fairies have soaked the fruit in brandy overnight for us. Along the way we learn many tips, such as always juicing and zesting fruit that is at room temperature - this give you double the amount.

Likewise, eggs should always be room temperature to prevent curdling (it's the change in temperature that causes it).


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The day is a revelation, accompanied by friendly banter, good company and delicious treats for snacking - plus, you get to take home all your Christmas cooking.

After five hours of steaming, the pudding is ready to cool and then be put away for at least four weeks (longer if possible) to mature before the big lunch.

Christmas pudding perfected in just one day - what could be easier? Well, cheating and buying a Bettys pudding (, tel: 0845 345636), if you really must ask.

Makes 1 pudding, serves 6-8 people


  • 230g (8oz) raisins
  • 50g (1 1/4oz) currants
  • 75g (2 1/2oz) sultanas
  • 50g (1 3/4oz) glace cherries
  • 15g (1/2oz) flaked almonds
  • 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) brandy
  • Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon
  • 50g (1 3/4oz) vegetable suet
  • 30g (1oz) wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 50g (1 3/4oz) plain white flour
  • 90g (3oz) light brown sugar
  • 2g (1/2tsp) mixed spice
  • 1g (1/4tsp) each of ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground cloves
  • 5g (1tsp) salt
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten


  1. The day before, place all the dried fruits and flaked almonds in a bowl. Pour over the brandy and add the lemon and orange zest and juice. Mix together lightly. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.
  2. Put all the remaining ingredients and the pre-soaked fruit in a large mixing bowl. Mix lightly with a wooden spoon, so as not to break up the fruit. Place a small disc of baking parchment in the base of a 1 1/2pt pudding basin and then fill it with the mixture. Smooth the top down evenly. Place another, larger disc of parchment on top. Cover the basin with foil and seal tightly.
  3. Stand the filled pudding basin on a strip of foil long enough to make a handle (to help you lift the pudding out of the pan once it is steamed). Place the basin on top of a trivet in a deep-sided pan. Pour hot water into the pan, so it comes halfway up the pudding basin. Place a lid on the pan and bring back to the boil. Lower the heat and keep the water at a steady simmer. Steam the pudding for 5 hours. Check the level of water in the saucepan during cooking and top up if necessary.
  4. Remove the pudding from the pan and allow it to cool completely. Remove the foil. Wrap the pudding basin in a piece of greaseproof and a layer of foil. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 1 month to mature. The longer the better.
  5. On Christmas Day, steam the pud for 2 hours in a pan of water, as before. Warm some brandy in a ladle until it ignites and pour over the pudding to flambe.
  • The one-day Christmas cakes and pudding course costs £160,

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Expert guide to the secret to the perfect Christmas pudding recipe (2024)


What is normally hidden in a Christmas pudding? ›

It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver threepence or a sixpence.

Why do you use breadcrumbs in Christmas pudding? ›

The essentials for the best puddings

Use a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs, not just flour. Though in older times the choice was more to do with economy, breadcrumbs give the pudding a much lighter texture. And again, use just enough flour to hold the mixture gently together.

Why did my Christmas pudding go Mouldy? ›

For the pudding, the most likely cause of mould is moisture.

Why do you have to boil Christmas pudding for so long? ›

Most Christmas puddings are made with suet (shredded beef fat) and this tends to take longer to melt than butter, so the pudding needs a long cooking time to make sure that the fat has melted and combined properly with the other ingredients.

Why is my Christmas pudding not dark? ›

After the first 5 hours of steaming the puddings may not look that dark but do not worry as the colour deepens on the second steaming.

What is the old name for Christmas pudding? ›

Christmas Pudding (also known as plum pudding or figgy pudding) is a dish as famous as it is misunderstood. In America, Christmas Pudding (also known as plum pudding or figgy pudding) is a dish as famous as it is misunderstood.

What alcohol is best for Christmas pudding? ›

Christmas pudding is traditionally soaked with alcohol, preferably brandy, for flavour maturation. However, many people prefer rum and whisky spirit with high alcohol content.

Can I use butter instead of suet in Christmas pudding? ›

If you or someone in your family is a vegetarian and doesn't want to eat suet, look for a recipe that uses butter or margarine instead, such as this recipe for individual Christmas puddings.

Why should you stir a Christmas pudding clockwise? ›

Why do you stir Christmas pudding clockwise? Stirring East to West is supposed to signify the way the Three Wise Men travelled to meet Jesus.

How many years does a Christmas pudding last? ›

So, as long as it's unopened, your pudding will keep for two years after the production date, which you'll find on the outside packaging.

Why shouldn't you reheat Christmas pudding? ›

Steaming is the best way to re-heat a homemade pudding and the only way we recommend re-heating Delia's Christmas pudding. Microwaved puddings are frequently ruined. They tend to overheat and get tough & sticky.

Can you eat a 5 year old Christmas pudding? ›

Some Christmas puddings, made with dried fruit in the traditional way, are fine to be eaten as much as two years after they were made. "Bear in mind if the pudding is alcohol-free, of course, it will last a good while with the sugar content, but it will not last as long without alcohol to preserve it," stresses Juliet.

Is it better to steam or boil a Christmas pudding? ›

Ideally we would suggest that when the pudding is made it is steamed for 8 hours (the combined time of the first and second steamings) as the steaming is important for the flavour of the pudding. The pudding can then be microwaved to reheat it on Christmas Day.

Does Christmas pudding improve with age? ›

During the aging process, the many compounds in the pudding begin to break down, releasing new compounds, like aldehydes and esters, which are associated with sweet, fruity flavours and aromas.

Can you over cook Christmas pudding? ›

While the pudding won't dry out if it's steamed for too long, some of the ingredients inside may be spoiled by being overcooked.

What nut is hidden in Christmas rice pudding? ›

In Sweden, Finland, and Norway

Typically it is made of chilled leftover rice pudding, whipped cream, sugar and vanilla, with or without almonds. By tradition, the person finding a hidden almond in the dessert is expected to get married before the next Christmas.

Does Christmas pudding have meat in it? ›

Although mincemeat no longer actually contains meat (thank god), the word recalls its origins as a meat dish. Back in the days of yore, meat was a fundamental ingredient within Christmas pud. Pudding or 'pottage' would consist of meat broth, spices, dried fruit and breadcrumbs.

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