The Brits do love their steamed puddings, from the Christmas “figgy pudding” to all kinds of sweet and savory renditions. After making this persimmon steamed pudding, I echo their pudding love. It was delicious, and much easier to make than you would think. We just have to get past the intimidation of the steaming process (hint, it is hands off and not really difficult at all).Jump to Recipe Print Recipe
What is a Steamed Pudding?
The Brits definition of “pudding” isn’t the same as an American one for sure. American puddings are similar to custards with a soft, creamy texture. A British pudding can be savory or sweet, but the definition of a sweet pudding can include any number of desserts. It is generically referred to as the sweet ending to a meal (aka dessert in the US).
A steamed pudding however, is a little more specific. It can be savory or sweet, and it is boiled or steamed in some sort of container. The sweet steamed puddings are generally steamed in a “pudding mold”, but the savory puddings might be steamed in cloth or an animal intestine.
The classic sweet steamed puddings are super rich and have the texture of a moist cake or quick bread. Think zucchini bread for texture and chocolate cake for richness.
Most Americans think of figgy pudding or plum pudding when referring to the classic English pudding, perhaps because of the words in a popular Christmas carol, but many different fruits can be part of a steamed pudding. In the recipe below we used persimmons and the flavor and texture was excellent.
What to use for a pudding mold
Old fashioned pudding molds look like a bundt pan with a lid, sometimes with a handle on top to pull it out of the steamer pot. They are not that easy to find however, and many people will only use them once a year. I find a bundt pan covered tightly with aluminum foil worked just fine.
If you want to get very fancy for a holiday gathering, you can find some elaborate molds with intricate carvings on them. This might take a little sleuthing, but I have found some at the thrift store. They look beautiful on the table and can be that showstopper dessert at the holidays.
The Steaming Process made Easy
Steamed puddings have fallen out of favor, primarily because the process appeared difficult and the equipment was specialized. Neither of these need be the case. The steaming process is hands off and quite easy, and the equipment can be as simple as a bundt pan, some foil and a large pot.
Basically it is like making a cake from scratch, pouring the batter into some sort of mold and placing the mold in a large covered pot filled 2/3 of the way up the mold with water. The rest of it is just letting it steam away on the stove for several hours, checking to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated every 1/2 hour or so.
The Details of Steaming
Here are the specifics of how to steam the pudding:
- When you have decided on your pudding mold, get out a pot that is large enough for the mold to fit inside of it, and tall enough that you have an inch or two from the mold to the top of the pot. A canner with a lid works well, but it could be a tall stockpot or spaghetti pot. Make sure you have a lid that fits over the pot.
- I used a metal trivet on the bottom of the pot to set the mold on and keep it off the bottom of the pot.
- Place a penny in the bottom of the pot (some people use glass marbles). If you water level gets too low while the pudding is steaming away on the stove, the penny or the marbles will start banging around and alert you to the need to add more water.
- Set the prepared mold on the trivet in the stockpot and add enough water to the pan that it comes up halfway up the mold. If you fill it too high the water might boil into the mold, so just 1/2 way up. Cover the pot and turn the heat to high or medium high until the water comes to a steady, gentle boil
- Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low so that the water stays at a strong simmer. Turn a timer on to 30 minutes to check the water level.
- The pudding will need to steam for about 2 1/2 hours. Check the water level every 30 minutes, using a timer to remind you. You don’t want to burn the bottom of your pot.
How to get the Persimmon Steamed Pudding out of the mold
If you have thoroughly buttered your mold and if you have steamed it for at least 2 1/2 hours, it should come out of the mold fairly easily. Here are the steps to unmolding:
- After the 2 1/2 hour steaming process is over, remove the pudding from the heat. Don’t worry if you go 10-20 minutes longer than the 2 1/2 hours. The cake will still be rich and moist. Just don’t shorten the time or it might not be fully cooked in the middle.
- Let the pudding sit for about 10 minutes. Take the lid off and let it sit for another 10 minutes.
- Take a blunt knife and slide it around the edges of the cake where it meets the sides of the mold. Don’t forget to use the knife to loosen the inside hole part of the bundt cake also.
- Find a serving plate that is flat and larger than the mold. Place it on top of the mold and flip over. Tap with a spoon and lift the mold away. If it doesn’t come out readily, repeat step 3.
It might look a little wet at first, but it will dry out more as it cools and the steam comes out. When it reaches room temperature, either keep it covered on the countertop for several days until ready to serve, or wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. It also freezes beautifully.
How to Serve
English steamed puddings are typically served with some sort of sauce or whipped cream. The “hard sauce” is another British term for a sweet sugar and butter sauce. It is not actually hard at all, but rather is quite pourable. I found most of these sauces to be overly sweet and therefore prefer whipped cream. I did leave a recipe for a classic hard sauce in the recipe notes below however.
It’s traditional to sprinkle a little bit of powdered sugar on top and place a sprig of holly if you are serving this at Christmas time.
Now if you really want to take it over the top at your gathering, you can flame it. The steamed pudding is on the table, out of the mold and you pour some brandy over the top and light it on fire. Quite dramatic!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it freezes really well. Wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap and it will freeze for several months. When you are ready to defrost it, pull it out of the freezer, but leave it wrapped and sitting at room temperature so that your cake or pudding will not become soggy. Once it’s at room temperature then you can remove the plastic wrap and serve it.
There are basically two types of persimmons. The Fuyu persimmon is usually eaten raw and is fairly firm. The Hachiya persimmon is only sweet when it’e very ripe and very soft.
Many people use the Hachiya persimmons when they are ripe or over-ripe because they puree easily. We only had the Fuyu persimmon available but once peeled and chopped it was easy to puree, and it was sweet and wonderful.
Other British Pudding Recipes:
This English Summer Pudding (with blueberries, raspberries and currants) is an easy pudding that I make in the summer. While not steamed, it also involves a “mold”. Do not let that deter you….I used a simple bowl and foil and it turned out beautifully!
Persimmon Steamed Pudding
- 12-cup capacity bundt pan
- Aluminum foil
- Large, tall stockpot or canner with cover
- Metal trivet (optional)
- Microplane (optional)
- 1/2 Cup wheat flour
- 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated with a microplane
- 1 Cup sugar
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup) melted
- 3 persimmons fully ripened (fairly soft)
- 2 Teaspoons Baking soda Dissolved in 2 teaspoons warm water
- 2 Tablespoons Brandy optional
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 Cup Raisins
- 1 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans finely chopped
- In a bowl stir together the flour, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. In another bowl thoroughly mix together the sugar with the melted butter. melted butter. Combine the flour mixture with the butter mixture and stir well.
- Remove blossom end of persimmons and cut them into quarters (if using Fuyu persimmons, peel them first). Add the persimmon pulp and the rest of the ingredients (baking soda through nuts) to the flour/sugar mixture in the bowl and stir together. This is your cake batter.
- Generously grease the pudding mold with butter or spray oil, making sure you get all the crevices of the mold, including the center hole of the bundt pan. Pour the batter into the mold two thirds of the way up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, crimping the edges around the mold.
- In a stockpot or canner large enough to fit the mold with a couple inches left at the top, lower the mold inside the pot. If you have a metal trivet to place on bottom of pot before placing the mold in the pot, it will help ensure you don’t burn the bottom of the pot. Add enough water to the pot to bring the water level up to 1/2 of the sides of the mold. Add a penny or glass marbles to the pot if you think you will forget to check the water levels. Cover the pot and turn the burner on to medium high heat to bring the water to a low boil. Once the low boil is achieved, lower the heat to medium or medium-low to keep the water at a low simmer (or gentle boil). Once you reach the boil/simmer, start timing your cooking. You want to keep the water simmering for 2 1⁄2 hours. Keep checking the water level every 30 minutes (set a timer)
- After 2 1⁄2 hours, turn off the heat and remove the mold from the boiling water. Let it set at room temperature for about 10 minutes before removing the aluminum foil. Remove the foil and let the pudding set for an additional 10- 15 minutes before “unmolding” it.Slide a blunt knife between the cake and the sides and center parts of the mold to loosen it. Find a serving plate that is slightly larger than the base of the mold and place it on top of the mold (where the foil was before). Flip the plate over and gently tap the mold with a spoon to further loosen. Lift the mold away from the cake and say Ahhhh.
- Once the pudding is cooled to room temperature, you can leave it on the counter (covered) if you plan to serve it within a couple of days. You can also wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. This steamed pudding also freezes very nicely. Simply wrap well and freeze up to 6 months.Serve the pudding at room temperature. It is often served with a hard sauce (see notes) or whipped cream. Some brave people will pour brandy on top of it at the table and light on fire. This is not necessary however. Steamed pudding is a showstopper with or without flames!
- Beat butter in mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy. Add powdered sugar gradually until incorporated, scraping sides of the bowl as you go. Add brandy and briefly use processor to blend it together
- Drizzle over steamed pudding, or keep in the fridge (it will last for days covered in plastic wrap) until you need it.
- The hard sauce will harden in the fridge, so be sure to remove it at least a couple of hours before you want to serve. Hard sauce should be smooth and easily spooned onto desserts.