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We’ve All Sung About Figgy Pudding — but What the Heck Is It?

You know when it’s August, 100 degrees out and you can’t get the lyrics to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” out of your dang head? Yeah, that’s us right now. We might be neck deep in summer, but for some reason, we’ve got “Now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding, and bring some out here” on repeat.

Of course, this also leads us to wonder about what the heck figgy pudding even is. We did a little research and found that, in short, figgy pudding is a sweet cake doused in alcohol that gets more lit than crazy Uncle Bob after four mugs of grandma’s homemade eggnog.

Here are all your burning questions about figgy pudding answered. You’re definitely gonna want to start perfecting your execution of this holiday dessert, because you’ll be itching to make one come December.

An ancient dessert from yore

Figgy pudding is a British food that dates back to the mid-1600s according to figgy pudding expert Debbie Waugh, via NPR. It was banned by English Puritans — probably because it’s drenched in booze.

It’s actually more like cake than pudding and is made of dried fruit, seasonings (such as nutmeg and cinnamon) and a boatload of booze. Did we mention there’s booze?

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Let’s get to the alcohol

We know the mention of booze has gotten your attention, and yes, figgy pudding contains a ton of it. Most recipes include cognac and rum, but if you’re feeling especially saucy, you can drizzle even more alcohol over the top after it’s been baked and light it on fire. Huzzah.

They’re ain’t no figs or plums

Don’t be fooled by the name of the dish — you will not be getting figgy with it. Most modern-day recipes don’t have figs in them.

“The ‘plum’ was a pre-Victorian generic term for any type of dried fruit, but most specifically, raisins,” Waugh explains. “Certainly at some time figs would have been incorporated into Christmas pudding recipes, but today, not traditionally.”

It actually has a fun ritual attached to it

As if getting drunk off a cake you light on fire isn’t enough Christmas adventure, there’s even more fun behind what’s quickly becoming our new favorite holiday dessert.

“Everyone in the house is meant to have a hand in making the pudding, so everyone should grab the whisk, and together, give it at least one turn around the bowl while — here’s the best part — making a wish,” Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking: From My Home to Yours, told NPR in 2007. “If you’d like, you could even stir a little trinket into the batter. Do this, and the person who finds it will be guaranteed good luck.”

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The million-dollar question: Is it any good?

Greenspan also reluctantly admitted to NPR that figgy pudding is somewhat similar to a certain notorious Christmas dessert — the dreaded fruitcake.

Still, Greenspan says figgy pudding shouldn’t be avoided for that reason.

“I was afraid to say it because fruitcake has such a bad reputation, but [figgy pudding] is steamed; it’s chockablock with dried fruits; it’s so boozy. … It’s delicious,” she said.

Grab Greenspan’s recipe for figgy pudding here. Her version actually does have figs in it — so you can get figgy with it for Christmas 2017, after all.

Originally published December 2011. Updated August 2017.

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