Not another Christmas pud! There are plenty of other seasonal sweets with a festive flavour

The traditional version is not to everyone's taste, says Anthea Gerrie.

Blame it all on Heston. Ever since he decided to bury a whole candied orange instead of a threepenny bit in a Christmas pudding, we have gone mad inventing new ways to tweak the festive dessert with which we enjoy a love-hate relationship. We may still clamour for the chef du jour to bring out the figgy pudding, but we prefer it with a nice surprise and a bit of light relief.

"Cooks have to battle the 'ball of stodge' syndrome," says Tom Kerridge, of the Hand and Flowers, Britain's only two-Michelin-star pub. He felt obliged to pull a traditional pud off his set Christmas lunch three years ago when he found punters were ordering a different dessert à la carte rather than tackle a hot, starchy helping of rich, dark fruits bound with suet after their turkey and stuffing.

"I love traditional Christmas pudding myself, but I could see the need to lighten it up and give diners the flavour without the density," says Kerridge, who is now combining a faithfully stirred and steamed pudding with crème anglaise and churning it into a Christmas pudding ice-cream.

Cold is the coolest thing in desserts this Christmas. The Hand and Flowers festive ice is not a million miles away from the Christmas pudding gelato Jacob Kennedy, of Bocca di Lupo, has created for his Soho ice-cream parlour Gelupo. That is a limited edition of 250, just as Heston's Hidden Orange became a rare collectible in 2010. Not to be caught out, Waitrose has ordered 11 times as many for this third year of the orange, but eBayers are already asking £100 for its successor, Heston's new Hidden Sauce Figgy Pudding.

The fact that this last is an actual figgy pudding, albeit one oozing toffee, suggests many of us cling perversely to a compulsion to steam basinfuls of dense, warm, sweet and sticky pud on a day when mountains of other calorific offerings often make us disinclined to actually consume it after the festive bird. This perversity is a tradition many are reluctant to abandon. "It's all about nostalgia in this big year for Britain," says Will Torrent, a pastry chef who consults on dessert development for Waitrose.

He believes the sweet, stodgy stalwart of the festive season is not going to be chased away anytime soon in the rush towards lighter, brighter desserts: "Heston helped reinvigorate the traditional segment by adding a fun element to allay the 'Oh God, we've got Christmas pudding coming' syndrome," Torrent says. "He took those people on a journey and gave us room to create true alternatives for the many people who are not keen on that rich fruity texture."

Thus for traditionalists in search of a twist, the Hidden Orange has spawned the Hidden Clementine mini-me and Sainsbury's robust riposte, the Hidden Cherry Centre Christmas Pudding. Lighter alternatives include the cherry and almond pud with edible glitter from Waitrose and the panettone-based pudding from M&S. Not to mention a whole host of frozen desserts with no Christmas flavours at all, such as Heston's baked Alaska (blowtorch recommended to finish it, needless to say) and the non-Heston Salted Caramel Chocolate Bombe from Waitrose.

Salted caramel, which refuses to loosen its grip on the British palate, is also flavouring pudding cream at Sainsbury's this year, in a range that includes cherry-brandy and champagne-cocktail variations, and in the dairy aisle you'll even find a Christmas pudding-flavoured yogurt from The Collective (a probiotic, low-fat alternative to the real thing, a boon for those prone to indigestion).

Selfridges' key cold treat this year is Gelupo's mince-pie-and-mulled-wine-flavour gelato, while M&S has also looked towards Italy in a bid to tweak the Christmas pud: "Italian flavours have been a big trend this year, so we've combined panettone with traditional pudding ingredients to create a lighter texture," the dessert developer Helen Brennan says.

She might be surprised to learn that adding sugar, vanilla and spices to the golden crumb and steaming it is the last thing Italians do with their panettone at Christmas. Paola Pignataro, a Carluccio's buyer, says her kinfolk take a slice of the fruit-studded bread absolutely plain with a glass of Prosecco at the end of their festive feast. It leaves room for other treats: "In Italy the Christmas spread is all about abundance and enjoyment, so the selection could also include panforte," she says of the gorgeously sticky Tuscan confection of dried fruit and nuts compressed into a flat, hard cake.

Those of us who feel the traditional Victorian steamed fruit pudding is just too dense and heavy for contemporary tastes could take a leaf out of Italy's book by embracing a simple British seasonal taste tradition that also takes us back to earlier times. "Orange for me is one of the five essential flavours of Christmas," says Torrent, for whom the others are fragrant spices. "I've never got over visiting American friends who infused their living room with the scent of clove-studded oranges placed on the radiators."

It's a tradition that has driven Kerridge to bring to his own Christmas table this year a spiced orange cake inspired by his friend Lawrence Keogh at the Wolseley: "Combining the aromatic oils of orange with cinnamon and ginger gives off the pure smell of Christmas – and reminds me of the orange that used to be in my stocking as a child." His fragrant confection of clementines boiled, then seeded and blitzed with eggs, sugar, ground almonds and spices, certainly seems an enticingly light conclusion to a modern Christmas feast compared with a ball of traditional dark, dense stodge – even a ball of stodge with a candied orange at its centre.


Simon King of Restaurant 1861 delighted visitors to this year's Abergavenny Christmas Food Fair by incorporating Christmas pudding into a soufflé and creating a Christmas pudding parfait served with cranberry sorbet.

Christmas pudding is also good sliced, fried in butter and served with thick, liqueur-flavoured cream.

Stale panettone makes the world's best bread-and-butter pudding – even more so if you use the booze-soaked variation known as drunken panettone.


Paul A Young's Christmas pudding-flavoured brownie is going head to head with Heston's new Chocolate Christmas Cake – a brownie disguised as an iced Christmas pudding. Young is also fielding a brownie-topped mince pie.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor