Stir-Up Plum Pudding

This recipe takes its name from the opening words of the “Collect”
for the First Sunday of Advent:  Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.


According to an old English tradition, the Plum Pudding served at Christmas dinner was “stirred up” on the First Sunday of Advent (or the week before)–to give it plenty of time to age before the big Feast.  In some families, everyone is invited to make a wish as each adds some of the amazing ingredients (&/or a coin or token) and takes a turn helping with the stirring. [For a fuller story, see the post under Making Connections.]  Even if you don’t get the pudding together before St. Nicholas Day, it will still be good for Christmas–and it has been known to keep for more than a year!


The recipe has changed throughout the centuries — at one time including several fine cuts of meat and PLUMS.  Most recipes (a web search for Stir Up Pudding yields thousands!) nowadays include suet–which our family does not use– we substitute extra bread crumbs and the “meat” of a small sugar pumpkin (since our garden always yields more than we can use before they start to wither). I’ve yet to see a modern recipe that calls for plums! We have included dried prunes with the other dried fruits.     Better get started!



  • 1lb  dried mixed fruit (use golden raisins, apricots, raisins, currants)
  • 8 oz. candied orange &/or lemon peel, finely chopped
  • Grated zest and juice of ½ large orange and ½ lemon
  • 4 tbsp brandy, plus a little extra for soaking at the end
  • 1 cup whole wheat or white flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp  of each: ginger, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
  • 1 cup cooked & mashed pumpkin or squash
  • 2 raw apples chopped
  • [2 shredded raw potatoes (1 cup?)
  • 2 raw carrots shredded (1/2 cup)]
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup white fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 cup whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped
  • 4 large, fresh eggs


  • Lightly butter a pudding tin or two 2-pound coffee cans.
  • Place the dried fruits, candied peel, apple, orange and lemon juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to marinate for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
  • Stir together the flour, soda, baking powder and mixed spices in a very large mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin, sugar, lemon and orange zest, bread crumbs, nuts and stir again until all the ingredients are well mixed. [You can skip the raw potato and carrot] and Finally add the marinated dried fruits and stir again.
  • Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. The mixture should have a fairly soft consistency.
  • Now is the time to gather the family for Stir Up Pudding tradition of taking turns in stirring, making a wish (and adding a few coins or dried beans).
  • Spoon the mixture in to the greased pudding tins, gently pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover with a double layer of waxed paper or baking parchment, then a layer of aluminum foil and tie securely with string.
  • Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 7 to 10 hours (we do ours on the wood-burning stove which heats the whole house!) Make sure you check the water level frequently so it never boils dry. The pudding should be a deep brown color when cooked. The pudding is not a light cake but instead is a dark, sticky and dense sponge.
  • Remove the pudding from the steamer, cool completely. Remove the paper, prick the pudding with a skewer and pour in a little extra brandy. Cover with fresh waxed paper or plastic wrap and retie with string. Store in a cool dry place until Christmas day. Note: The pudding cannot be eaten immediately, it really does need to be stored and rested then reheated on Christmas Day. Eating the pudding immediately after cooking will cause it to collapse and the flavors will not have had time to mature.
  • On Christmas day reheat the pudding by steaming again for about an hour. Serve with a Brandy or Rum Sauce, Brandy Butter or Custard.
    Left over Christmas pudding can be reheated by wrapping tightly in aluminum foil and heating through in a hot oven.