Figgy pudding

Difficulty: Medium
Deliciousness: 5 out of 5 slices

Happy new year! This holiday season I tried to make an authentic figgy pudding. In the process, I learned that this isn’t a pudding, in the American sense. I love a good custard and I was a little disappointed to realize that it’s actually a bundt cake. Additionally, the term figgy is archaic, referring to preserved fruits that aren’t specifically dried figs. Putting aside the misleading name, this cake was fun to make and has a rich history that I enjoyed learning about while making it.

Figgy pudding, of “We wish you a merry Christmas” fame, has been a holiday favorite in England since the 1600’s. Some traditional recipes call for 13 ingredients that symbolically represent Jesus and his apostles. NPR reported that today very few people make their own Christmas puddings because it’s labor intensive. I will support that statement. I found out that making this cake is no picnic, it was time-consuming but in the end, it wasn’t really that hard.

I chose to make a recipe that has more than 13 ingredients because I enjoy lots of spices. I can’t remember exactly what recipe I made, because silly me, I didn’t bookmark it, but it was very similar to this recipe from Food Network. What’s really nice about these puddings are that you can use what you have available in terms of dried fruits and nuts. Mine had dried cranberries, raisins, figs, and walnuts because that’s what was in my pantry.

The most challenging part was rehydrating the fruit, which I did in milk. I only took my eyes off the milk and fruit in the warm saucepan for one minute and it got too hot and curdled. The other problem was that this very thick and lumpy cake batter pours like muddy gravel. Grease your pan very well and be ready to use a spoon to level it. Don’t forget to grease the foil used to cover the pan either. For this recipe, I used the crude but effective Crisco and paper towel method.

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When you bake it, you have to remember put a pan with water in your oven too. This “steams” the cake. I’m not going to pretend to understand why this is needed; who am I to question the wisdom of four centuries of bakers? Just do it. It took a long time to bake but it smelled amazing the whole time. Regrettably, it looked brown, lumpy, and unappetizing when it was done. That’s probably why many recipes put a glaze or sauce over it. I made a brandy sauce and it covered up and of the imperfections, resulting from sticking to the pan or air pockets, very well. I’ll own that my sauce had a slight clumping problem that I didn’t know how to fix. Since the sauce was a last minute addition there wasn’t much time to fix it. Next time, I’ll do better.

It weighed a ton. Carrying this beast of a cake to the inlaws Christmas eve celebration was an upper body workout. I was nervous about bringing an arguably strange looking fruit cake to dinner, but thankfully it was a hit! I think it appeals to most people because it’s novel. It’s unlikely Americans have a reference point to compare it to, so I recommend you take the risk too and make figgy pudding. Everyone really liked the rich spices and how dense it was. I didn’t have leftovers because people took slices of it with them.

I definitely plan to make this a Christmas tradition! Next year I may even light the pudding.

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