What Is Figgy Pudding, and What’s it Made of?

It's mentioned in A Christmas Carol and in actual carols. Why do we sing about this Dickens of a dessert?

People sing about it in “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Charles Dickens wrote about it in A Christmas Carol. But what is figgy pudding? And why do we sing about this Dickens of a dessert every holiday season?

What Is Figgy Pudding?

In its most basic form, figgy pudding is a steamed, domed-shaped cake baked in a water bath in the oven. It’s made with alcohol and dried fruit and is a traditional English dessert. It’s more like a cake than what Americans think of as a soft, custard-like pudding.

Figgy pudding is also known as Christmas pudding or plum pudding. It can also be affectionately called “pud.”

What Is Figgy Pudding Made Of?

The flavors can include figs, plums, raisins, currants, oranges, cherries, cranberries, citrus zest and juice, along with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice. The result is a dessert similar to what we know as a holiday fruitcake.

Why Is It Called Figgy Pudding?

The ‘pudding’ part of the name makes it a dessert in Britain, but not the custardy type of dish most Americans would associate with the word. At some point the dish included figs, lending itself to the term of ‘figgy’ as part of a Christmas pudding recipe.

Why Do People Sing About Figgy Pudding?

For starters, it is a symbolic Christmas dessert. It was originally made with 13 ingredients which represented Christ and the 12 apostles. It was finished with a sprig of holly on top as a symbol of the crown of thorns.

As for the figgy pudding song, near the end of the 16th century, carolers began to sing the English folk song, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” When poor folks stood on the doorsteps of the wealthy and sang, “Oh bring us some figgy pudding,” and “we won’t go until we get some,” they probably were having a bit of fun, requesting a helping of this rich Christmas dessert.

How to Make Figgy Pudding

In years past, preparations for the perfect pudding began around five weeks before Christmas. Twice-boiled in a pudding cloth, it was then aged—time-consuming and labor-intensive, but worth the effort.

Now, the dessert is steamed for a few hours as it bakes in the oven in a water bath. Christmas puddings are loaded with alcohol to draw out and intensify the flavor, most often rum or brandy. The kitchen will be filled with a mix of fragrant spices and spirits as it bakes!

If you’re looking for a store-bought figgy pudding, this Spam figgy pudding option might be your next favorite product.

Alice Knisley Matthias
Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, family, education, and garden. Her work appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food Network, Delish, The Kitchn and Parade. Her book about healthy kid snacks is published by Scholastic. Other work includes Woman's Day, Redbook, Highlights for Children, Boys' Life, Kids Discover and America's Test Kitchen Cook's Country Cookbook.