Soft & Sweet Orange Christmas Pudding


Light and airy, this decadent Christmas pud is a family recipe we have used for many years to feed a crowd on the big day. No need to worry if you missed Stir Up Sunday, this Christmas pudding keeps well, but tastes delicious served warm from the simmer, so can also be made relatively last minute.

It is deliciously boozy with a fab sweet, zesty edge, the making of it being wonderfully ritualistic, perfect for getting in the festive spirit. It is very simple to make, however keep in mind it takes a day to create, so start mid-morning at the latest.

Here's how you do it

1.       First off, let’s soak your fruit. Start early in the morning if you can. Place the dried fruit and the grated apple in a bowl with the orange zest and juice. Now add your Brandy and Cointreau and leave to stand for two hours, giving it a little mix every now and then. It will smell spectacular.

2.       Now, let’s make the candied orange peel, except, we’re going to use the whole orange. Wash the orange thoroughly and slice it into rounds.

3.       Put the water and sugar in a pan and stir over a medium high heat, until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes syrupy.

4.       Now, place the orange slices into the syrup and simmer on a medium low heat, covered, for around 45 minutes. Your house will smell amazingly festive.

5.       Remove the orange from the heat and dry the slices on a wire rack for ten minutes, before coating both sides of each slice in granulated sugar. Pop them back on the rack to dry out further until we need them. Save the orange syrup in a little jar as it will keep in the fridge for a few weeks and is absolutely delicious mixed with your morning porridge along with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

6.       Now you can relax until the two hours fruit soaking time is up. We’re getting in the mood, so if its not too early, maybe pour yourself a glass of mulled wine?

7.       Once the soaking time is complete, let’s begin on compiling the pudding. We love this ritual and there are many variations on this tradition, however we like to stir it with our favourite hand carved wooden spoon and each blow a kiss into the mixture for good luck. You can throw a (clean) coin in, but I have a love/hate relationship with the dentist, so blown kisses it is.

8.       In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar and eggs until well combined and soft and light.

9.       Now, slowly add the suet, flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, breadcrumbs and pecans until nicely combined.

10.   Next, chop your orange slices up into tiny squares and mix in with the dried fruit mix.

11.   Slowly add the boozy fruit mix into the pudding mixture and stir with love, adding your kisses as you see fit.

12.   Now prepare your bowl. This pudding recipe fills a 2 litre Pyrex bowl or equivalent heatproof bowl. Grease the inside with butter and place a small circle of greaseproof paper at the base of the bowl.

13.   Now pour the mixture into the bowl and cover as follows: cut two large ovals (big enough to overhang the bowl), one from greaseproof paper, the other from foil. With the foil on top, zig zag pleat both layers in the middle so that you now create more of a circle. This gives the pudding room to rise whilst it is cooking. Now place both layers over the bowl, covering the pudding and tie securely with a long piece of string, around the rim, in a double bow to finish.

14.   Next, gather your largest, deepest pan and place an old jam jar lid at the base, to stop the glass bowl knocking as it cooks.

15.   Cut a piece of foil, around 60cm long, and fold in half lengthways again and again, creating a long, thin foil arm, which you drape into the pan, with a length overhanging the pan each side. This will allow you to lift out the pudding easily, once it has finished cooking.

16.   Now carefully pop your pudding bowl inside the pan and add enough boiling water to the pan, so that it comes halfway up the side.

17.   Simply cover the pan and allow to simmer for 6-7 hours on a low heat, until the pudding is completely firm in the middle. Remember to set your alarm for roughly every 30 minutes, so that you can top the pan up with boiling water to the halfway mark again. Be careful to not let it boil dry. Now, where’s that glass of mulled wine?

18.   Once the time is up, you can easily lift it out with the foil aid, and allow to cool for 10 minutes and then discard the wrappings and serve straight away, flaming your pudding with a little brandy. Or keep the pudding in its wrappings for one month, just in time for Christmas Day. I often need my bowl back, so I simply wrap it afresh in greaseproof paper first and then two layers of foil.

I created this recipe years ago for two main reasons. Firstly, I don’t particularly like the really heavy, stodgy Christmas puds that are so solid, even a tiny slice at the end of Christmas Day puts you over the edge of over-indulgence. Therefore, this super soft, flavoursome pud made it more fun, ensuring I could join in with this age-old tradition with my family. Secondly, store bought ones are rarely big enough! This is a large Christmas pudding, to serve a crowd. If you wish to make a smaller one for a family of four, halve the ingredients and cook for around 4-5 hours.

I know that orange peel can be a little off-putting for some people (equally, you can cheat and use store bought), however, by making your own, the peel is much softer and sweeter, which helps to keep this pudding beautifully moist. Plus, the aroma that fills the house, instantly kicks off that Christmassy feeling.

Should you wish to make additional candied oranges to dress the pud, simply boil the oranges twice, discarding the water each time, before you simmer in the syrup. This removes the bitterness, however it is not noticeable in the pudding, so I don’t bother here.

Also, you can, of course, choose to soak the dried fruit overnight to make it even softer, but I find that two hours is fine for this pudding, given the cooking time. This pudding makes for a beautiful gift, all wrapped up in a new festive tea-towel with a jar of candied orange on the side, stored in its syrup. And you can personalise the kisses you throw in!


For the homemade orange peel:

  • One large orange
  • 200ml water
  • 150g sugar
  • Granulated sugar for coating

For the pudding:

  • 450g sultanas (or a 450g mixture of your preferred dried fruit – cranberries, raisins, cherries)
  • One apple - peeled and grated
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • Generous mix of Brandy and Cointreau (around 150ml)
  • 75g soft butter
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 50g vegetable suet
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 40g breadcrumbs
  • 40g pecans (or walnuts) – roughly chopped

What’s in this recipe