Okay, hard-core kitchen aficionados, this one I freely rank “Advanced.” It’s a great recipe, and it’s a heck of a lot less trouble if you follow my Americanized, detailed recipe than the original British one which was just one big UGH. But I really liked these Christmas puddings because they weren’t too bitter – traditional Christmas, or plum, puddings, which we’ve done nearly every Christmas, can be very bitter from the fruit rinds and alcohol typically called for in those recipes.

This one has Madeira cake and chocolate, sweetening it up while still giving you that hint of traditional English Christmas pudding flavor. There are lots of Madeira cake recipes, but I’ll include the one I used here – it worked great.

Be prepared: this recipe is multi-step with several recipes for different parts of it, but it can be great fun and an invigorating challenge if you haven’t stepped into the deep end before with baking but have enough doggie-paddling under your belt, so to speak, to be ready for it. The great thing about this whole recipe is that although there are several different recipes, you’re not on a time crunch to get all the parts together, except for the royal icing.

But you do need enough time to let each phase settle before moving on to the next, so I recommend starting it at least two days in advance: make the Madeira cake two days in advance, then the Christmas pudding balls a day in advance, and then the decorations at least half a day in advance.

Madeira Cake (Make this the day before because it has to settle)

Because you’re going to be baking an entire 8″ Madeira cake, I’m going to increase the puddings recipe to include the whole cake (the original recipe would only use about a fourth of it). Besides, to make pudding balls large enough for those decorations, you’re not going to get very many with the original recipe.

Ingredients

  • 350 g (12 oz.) Unsalted Butter (room temperature or softened in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time)

  • 350 g (12 oz.) caster sugar (This is finer than regular sugar. You could probably just run regular granulated sugar in a really good food processor or blender, but you can just buy this. I think we got ours at Williams-Sonoma but they don’t seem to carry it anymore. This link goes to Amazon.)

  • 350 g (12 oz.) self-raising flour

  • 175 g (6 oz.) plain flour

  • 6 large eggs (room temperature)

Directions

I encourage you to check out the original link for this recipe that has some tips before you get started, like flavorings you can add and how to keep the cake flat when cooking and not end up with a hill in the middle like with most cakes. That won’t matter with this pudding recipe, but that one is a great tip in general.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Grease an 8″ cake pan with cooking spray or butter. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper (do this by using the cake pan bottom as a stencil and drawing a circle with a pencil on parchment paper, then cutting it out and laying it in the cake pan). Spray the circle with more cooking spray.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light, fluffy and pale.

  3. Sift the flours together in a separate bowl.

  4. Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, one at a time, following each with a spoonful of flour, to prevent the mixture curdling. (I personally feels this is likely to make the cake tough, so I recommend just stirring it, or just a small spoonful of flour.)

  5. Sift the remaining flour into the creamed mixture and fold in carefully with a large metal spoon or rubber spatula.

  6. Transfer to the lined bakeware and bake. The recipe called for an hour and a half, but mine took WAY less.  So I recommend setting the timer for 30 minutes, check the middle with a skewer or toothpick or knife, then another 30 minutes, check again, and then 10 minutes at a time from then on.

  7. When the cake is ready it will be well risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center will come out clean.

  8. Allow the cake to cool then turn out of the pan and, leaving the lining paper on, wrap the cake in foil or place in an airtight container for at least 12 hours before cutting, to allow the cake to settle.

Mini Christmas Puddings (Make about day or half a day in advance)

Prep 25 minutes plus chilling time

No cooking time required

Makes about 3 dozen (great for a party)

Ingredients for the Truffles:

  • 2 3-oz. bars of dark chocolate (we prefer Ghiradelli’s 72% Twilight Dark)

  • ¼ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 8-inch Madeira cake

  • 7 oz. dried cherries or dried cranberries

  • 7 oz. raisins or golden raisins

  • 7 oz. pecans

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 4 tbsp confectioners/powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Put the butter and chocolate in a large double-boiler (or just a heatproof bowl in a saucepan of water so the bowl doesn’t get any direct heat) and melt together, stirring occasionally. You can also melt the chocolate in a microwave using 15 second bursts and stirring between each burst (it will probably take 3-4 bursts). Stir in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Set aside to cool slightly.

  2. Put the Madeira cake in a food processor and whiz to crumbs. Add the cherries/cranberries, raisins, and pecans and pulse a few times until roughly chopped (if you like larger pieces then chop the fruit and nuts by hand). Definitely combine the whole fruit and nuts with the cake crumbs before chopping those to keep the mixture dry so it doesn’t gum up your blade. Add the crumb mixture to the bowl of chocolate and stir until thoroughly combined. Put the truffle mixture into the fridge for around 1 hour, to firm up.

  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take tablespoonfuls of the truffle mixture and roll them into balls, using the palms of your hands. Aim for a good-sized ball that fits in your palm, bigger than a golf ball and smaller than a baseball. Sit the rolled truffles on the prepared baking sheet, pressing down just a bit to give them a slightly flat base to sit on. When you have finished rolling the truffles, put the baking sheet in the fridge for 1 hour, or overnight, to allow the mixture to firm up again.

Ingredients for the Decoration

Royal Icing:

  • 3 egg whites (at room temperature)

  • 1 1-lb. package confectioner’s sugar, sifted (about 4¾ cups)

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (it’s important to use imitation instead of real because imitation is clear, keeping your frosting white)

  • ½ tsp. cream of tartar

Directions

  1. To decorate the truffles first make the “holly.” Pinch off small sections out of the red fondant icing and roll out enough very small balls between your fingers to have two for each pudding ball.

  2. Roll out the green fondant icing (I highly recommend investing in a Silpat if you do a lot of baking, or you can use two pieces of cling wrap if you don’t have one) to about a ⅛” thick. Cut out one or two holly leaves for each pudding ball. You can do this MUCH more easily if you have a very small holly leaf cookie cutter. You can get this in a set of very small Christmas- or winter-themed cookie cutters, like these or these. (If you REALLY want to be thorough, with a sharp knife tip, score a line down the middle of each and few flecks fanning outward, to imitate the leaf veins.) Sit the decorations on a plate lined with cling wrap. If you’re not decorating right away, cover them with cling wrap.

  3. Mix the Royal Icing ingredients in a standing mixer for 7-10 minutes until VERY fluffy and the icing holds stiff peaks.

  4. With a round tip or just a corner snipped out of a Ziploc bag, pipe the frosting around irregularly as shown in the picture to imitate melting snow. With a wet finger, go back over all of them and smooth out the pipe lines. While the icing is still wet, arrange a holly leaf or two and a couple of berries.

  5. Leave all the pudding balls alone until the royal icing completely hardens, at least several hours, preferably overnight. Don’t cover them until everything has hardened.

GOOD LUCK with this recipe. You’ll have a great sense of accomplishment when you’re finished, trust me.