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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Virtual Advent Tour: Our Traditional Christmas Desserts

This is the third year that I’ve been a participant of the Virtual Advent Tour, and I have to say that it has quickly become a favourite holiday tradition for me. I love reading holiday memories, recipes, recommendations, everything! So much fun, really. Last year, I posted about edible gifts, and the year before I posted about how Christmas isn’t Christmas without the Muppets. This year, I want to share our two traditional Christmas desserts.

When I was growing up, a few days after Christmas, my dad’s side of the family would have a Christmas gathering of our own. It wasn’t often when we would all get together (my dad had four siblings, and all of them had 2-3 kids, along with my grandparents, etc, which made it hard for EVERYONE to be able to get together at any one given time), but most of the family made an effort to be around on Christmas.

Every year, my grandmother would make dessert – both Christmas pudding and English Trifle. Because the Christmas pudding was always such a favourite among her children (my parents, aunts & uncles), she made additional small Christmas puddings for each family to take home with them. My father would always put his pudding into the freezer until the following year on Christmas day.

As with most people when they start getting older, my grandmother’s memory started going… which posed a problem, as she always made the recipes from scratch and never wrote them down. One year when this started happening, she spent a day with a couple of my aunts to teach them how she made the Christmas pudding. I think the plan was that they would take over making the pudding from her. Unfortunately, neither of the aunts ended up writing down the recipe either, and have since forgotten how exactly my grandmother made it… but that particular year, when my aunts helped my grandmother, was a bit of a special treat for those who got a taste of the pudding.

Like some recipes for Christmas pudding, my grandmother always added alcohol (brandy, I believe) to her pudding. During the year she was teaching my aunts, my grandmother added the alcohol without letting either of the aunts know that she was doing so. Then both of my aunts proceeded to add the required amount of alcohol, both sure that it had been overlooked by my grandmother and the other aunt that was there. Needless to say, when it came time to eat the pudding that year, it certainly packed a bit of a punch… and the following year, when we took my father’s pudding out of our freezer, we found that there had been so much alcohol in it that it hadn’t even frozen!

Last year, I made my first attempt at making Christmas pudding from scratch. (Those store bought ones don’t taste nearly as good as homemade ones!) I borrowed my maternal grandmother’s recipe collection, and found about 6 or 7 different Christmas pudding recipes. After much debate, I decided on making King George’s Christmas Pudding, as it seemed to be the most similar to what my paternal grandmother would make. I think I made the right choice – my dad quite enjoyed it, and will be eating the frozen one this year on Christmas day!

King George’s Christmas Pudding

6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmet
3/4 cup mixed candied peel
1 cup chopped blanched almonds
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 cup melted margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 medium apple, peeled and grated
1 small carrots
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
3/4 cup sultana raisins
3/4 cup currants
grated rind and juice of one large lemon
2 medium eggs, beaten
1/3 cup stout or beer
1/3 cup brandy

Thoroughly combine all ingredients. Stir well, cover and leave mixture 24 hours to mature.

Press into greased two-quart bowl or mould and cover tightly with wax paper and foil.

Steam for six to eight hours. Remove covers and cool. Remove pudding from bowl and let dry. Wrap tightly in foil or plastic and store in cool dry place. To reheat, unwrap and place in bowl; cover and steam two hours.

Notes: If cutting in half (or if making two smaller puddings), you only need to steam for 3-4 hours.

As Christmas pudding wasn’t always something that us kids would enjoy, my grandmother also always made English Sherry Trifle. This is still one of my favourite desserts – partially because I only eat it at Christmas time (and so is extra special!) and partially because it is just SO PRETTY. Sadly, I don’t have any amusing anecdotes about this one. I have taken over making it for my immediate family, and have been doing so for the past five or six years. This year I will need to figure out substitutions for a few ingredients, since I can no longer eat gluten, which is a little frustrating, but I am determined to not let that deter me from having my favourite Christmas dessert on Christmas day!

English Sherry Trifle

jelly rolls
1/2 cup sherry
2 pints raspberries
1 pkg raspberry Jello
Custard (we use 1 package of Bird’s instant custard!)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Cube jelly rolls; arrange in glass bowl, lining sides and bottom. Pour sherry over jelly rolls. Layer raspberries over top. Dissolve Jello in 1/2 cup boiling water and let it cool; pour over raspberries and cake. Cover and refrigerate until chilled and set. Meanwhile, make custard. Spoon cooled custard over set Jello. Meanwhile, whip cream and sugar. Spoon over custard. Top with sprinkles.

So, those are our traditional Christmas desserts that we’ve been eating for as long back as I can remember.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and that you too get good noms on Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate)!

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 1:01 am December 16, 2011.
Category: Holidays

  • sprite

    I love the story about the boozy puddings! We do trifle for Christmas, too — two flavors, raspberry and apricot. One is a family recipe from England and the other is a New Zealand recipe of a family friend. Both are delicious.

  • Kailana

    I am going to have to go through some of these recipes for the things I am invited to this week… I am sure amongst all of the posts there is something fitting. Thanks for joining in again this year, Court!

  • rachel

    loved love love!

  • Cat @ Beyond Books

    These both sound very good. I love me some plum pudding (well, the sauce anyhow). Mmm.

  • Pepca

    Those recipes sound delicious!

  • Tami

    It’s too bad that your Grandma’s recipe was lost but your version sounds delicious. Hope it was close enough to stir that Christmas memory.

  • Court

    Sprite – mmm, apricot trifle sounds like it would be delicious!

    Kelly – thanks for hosting it! It’s always such fun to participate in!

    Rach – LOL. Thanks.

    Cat – Mmmmm, yes, love the sauce of plum pudding!

    Pepca – They really are delicious!

    Tami – Thanks – it’s definitely close enough to remind us of my Grandmother’s recipe. :)

  • Marg

    My sister makes the pudding in our family – a big one and lots of small ones!

    The mini puddings make fabulous teacher presents. My son gives them to all his teachers at the end of every year. When he finished primary school there was more than one teacher who were disappointed that there were no more Christmas puddings to be coming from him!

    I do love trifle! One year I made White Chocolate and Cranberry trifle which was awesome but a lot more fiddly than the more usual trifles we have!

    Thanks for joining in on the tour again this year. We appreciate your support!

  • betty

    What a cute story with the pudding and the extra alcohol that one year. What a wonderful tradition to make the Christmas pudding though! I think that was so common for ladies of the generation of your grandmother. They just made things from scratch with no recipe and sometimes not even measuring cups. My grandmother would make bread like that, a handful of this, a handful of that, and it came out delicious. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!


  • Court

    Marg – Oh, that’s so smart to give them as gifts!

    Betty – It always amazes me when people can make things like that without a recipe.