It's amazing what a brief mention in one Victorian-era carol can do for an obscure little dessert called figgy pudding. Every year, thousands of people around the world become curious about the dessert mentioned in the secular English carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Apparently, the party-goers mentioned in the lyrics refuse to leave until they get some of this pudding from their host. This must be some seriously good pudding.
In actuality, figgy pudding is more of a cake than a pudding. There have been recipes for it since the 15th century, although its popularity as a Christmas dessert probably reached its peak during the late 19th century. Several factors have significantly hampered the wholesale expansion of the figgy pudding industry, including an interminably long cooking time, an exotic ingredients list and a cringe-inducing dependency on saturated fats for texture.
The most traditional figgy pudding recipe is very similar to a cake base blended with a . Chopped figs are added for flavoring and texture, along with chopped dates or apples when available. The spices are similar to carrot or spice cake: cinnamon, and are commonly used. Heavy cream, eggs, sugar and milk help to create the custard. For additional flavoring, many traditional recipes also call for liqueurs such as cognac or . Non-alcoholic extracts can also be used.
Only three or four hours later, those house-squatting carolers demanding their figgy pudding can finally be appeased. Steaming was a very popular cooking method before the days of regulated heating. Even if the source of the heat were inconsistent, the food itself would still cook fairly evenly. Even so, the unveiling of a pudding was often a defining moment for the cook. The dessert would be either a solid success or a soggy mess. Charles hints at this moment-of-truth during the Cratchit's dinner in his novel, A Christmas Carol.