How to Make my Nana’s Steamed Plum (Christmas) Pudding for the Holidays

Learn how to make an old-fashioned Steamed Christmas Pudding, or Plum Pudding as my nana used to call it, for the holiday season!

Nana's Steamed Christmas Pudding

This month’s Recipe Redux challenge was the following: “Please share one of your favorite food memories and the healthier “redo” of the recipe.” This was an easy decision. Every year my beloved Nana brought her steamed “Plum Pudding” for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was always my favorite, for reasons I’ll get into later. When I got her recipe card from my mom so I could make it myself, I discovered that the real name for the recipe was, “Steamed Christmas Pudding.”

Nana's Steamed Christmas Pudding recipe card

I wish my Nana was alive so I could ask her why she called this dessert Plum Pudding. After all, there are no plums in the recipe! Maybe someone out there knows the answer to this question? I’m also unclear why it’s called a pudding since it’s really more of a cake. I love this card that Nana typed out for my Mom, and my Mom’s writing to remind her where to find the recipe for hard sauce. Joy of Cooking, of course!

Nana Newell and Dad serving Plum Pudding

When I was preparing to write this post, I asked my husband to check the attic for photo albums from the 1980s since my Nana died in 1989. Five minutes later, god bless him, he brought me an album that had this 1988 photo of Nana being served a piece of her Plum Pudding by my Dad.

How cool is that?

Nana's Steamed Christmas Pudding 13

When they say steamed puddin, they are not kidding. The batter is placed in a metal mold with a cover and steamed for three hours. I was so pleased when the cake slipped out of the mold.

Nana's Christmas Plum Pudding


When I steamed the plum pudding, it expanded to lift the cover off a bit so it’s taller than I remember. It’s not as perfect looking as I recall, but it sure tasted good!

Ingredients for Nana's Christmas Plum Pudding


The ingredients are really quite simple, and the only changes I made were to substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for a cup of the all-purpose flour and to use some canola oil in place of half the butter. Otherwise the recipe is the same as Nana’s.

Nana’s Steamed Plum Pudding

Makes 12 Servings

This old- fashioned Plum Pudding, AKA Christmas Pudding, was a family favorite in the Newell house at the holidays. Cutting back on the butter and adding a bit of whole wheat flour didn’t change the flavor or appeal. Top with a dab of whipped cream or hard sauce and enjoy!

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup water

1. Lightly butter a 4-cup pudding mold and set aside.

2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl until well combined.

3. Rub the butter and canola oil into the flour mixture (the object is to incorporate the fat into the flour) and stir in the raisins.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the molasses, milk, and water until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover. Place in a steaming basket and steam for 3 hours. Allow to cool slightly and unmold the pudding onto a serving platter. Slice and top with whipped cream or hard sauce.

Nutrition Information per Serving: 300 calories, 10g fat (3.5g saturated), 220mg sodium, 51g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 4g protein, 15% iron

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Nana's Steamed Christmas Pudding

I mentioned earlier in the post that I’d share one of the reasons I loved this dessert when I was a kid. The hard sauce that we enjoyed on top of the Plum Pudding was made with brandy and I felt very grown up eating it. Of course the entire recipe had only one tablespoon of brandy, which explains why my Mom let us eat it. Or, maybe she wanted us to go to bed early on Thanksgiving night!  🙂

Mom and Dad eating Nana's Christmas Plum Pudding

Speaking of Mom, I had my parents over for dinner last weekend so they could sample my first attempt at making Nana’s plum pudding. Guess what?  They loved it!

Mold for Nana's Christmas Plum Pudding and Joy of Cooking

If you find a mold to make this Plum Pudding and want to prepare the hard sauce, check out page 775 of the 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking. If you do not own it, simply beat 1/4 cup butter and gradually add 1 cup of powdered sugar until well blended and fluffy. Add 1 tablespoon brandy or rum and a pinch of salt and blend well. Chill thoroughly.

Let me know if you try this recipe, and feel free to share one of your favorite food memories. Happy Thanksgiving!

19 responses to “How to Make my Nana’s Steamed Plum (Christmas) Pudding for the Holidays”

  1. Oooh, love the story, recipe AND the pictures of Nana 🙂

  2. Cindy Gay says:

    This is a great post-love the family photos and what a great recipe you have here. I remember making steamed brown bread in a coffee can when I lived in the dorm (1972:) I’m going to try your recipe!

  3. Bethany says:

    This looks incredible! I have never heard of steamed pudding before but I will definitely make this!

  4. rachel says:

    fantastic recipe!!!

  5. Love this story, Janice. Loved getting a peek at your family photos. Very sweet!

  6. Janice says:

    Nana was a very classy lady, loved by all! I think she’d be tickled that I made her plum pudding!

  7. Serena says:

    You made PLUM PUDDING?!!! Have always wanted to, but was way too intimidated. I think I’m going to try the coffee can Cindy suggested. Any thoughts on how I could rig a steam basket?

    • Janice says:

      Serena, I have an steamer insert in my pasta pot but I think you could put the can in whatever steamer basket you have. 3 hours seems like a long time but it wasn’t too bad and we only needed to add more water once. Let me know if you try it so we can share with others who didn’t get their Nana’s mold!

  8. Gosh, I haven’t had plum pudding in years! I think I’ll get in the kitchen soon and cook one up to surprise the family.

  9. Great story and love both the photos with your grandmother and dad, and your parents! The recipe (and rcipe card!) looks very similar to my Great Aunt Sena’s Persimmon Pudding, which is also more like a cake 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!

  10. Dr. Jennie Smith-Pariola says:

    I think I may have a bit of insight for you, Janice, about the title “plum pudding.” Evidently the British used to use the term “plum” to refer to raisins. Samuel Johnson, in fact, once defined plum as “raisin, a grape dried in the sun.” Hope this helps to answer The Mystery of Nana’s Christmas Pudding!

    Thanks for your wonderful podcasts and website! I’ve gotten many great ideas–and more than a few good laughts–from you!

    • Janice says:

      Thanks, Jennie, for the info on plum pudding. That makes perfect sense! I also understand that the British use the word pudding to refer to a dessert, versus our definition of a pudding. Mystery solved. However, Raisin Dessert doesn’t sound nearly as delicious as Plum Pudding! 🙂

  11. Serena says:

    So it took me a year! But I made it! Turned out AMAZING! I didn’t have a mold – and found an 8-in metal bowl that worked better than I thought a coffee can would. (The coffee can has too big of a lip on the top to get it out in 1 piece!) Set the metal bowl over my large stock pot that was filled with boiling water. Took a bit longer than 3 hours. Made a (not low-fat!) whiskey hard sauce to serve with. Even our British friends thought it was amazing (and couldn’t taste the whole wheat flour!)

    • Janice says:

      If your British friends were impressed then it’s a success! A metal bowl is a brilliant idea – it fit in your stock pot so you could cover it? Awesome. The whiskey hard sauce is key. 🙂

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