This Sunday was the last Sunday before advent, making it Stir-up Sunday, the day when Christmas puddings are traditionally made and cooked. This year, the royal kitchens stirred up their own excitement by taking to Twitter, using the official Royal family account (@royalfamily) to share their special Christmas pud recipe.
🥄 Today is #StirupSunday: traditionally the day when home cooks ‘stir up’ their Christmas pudding mixture.
This year, chefs in the Royal kitchens have shared their recipe for a traditional Christmas pudding.
We hope that some of you enjoy making it in your own homes. pic.twitter.com/BNepTPJD6a
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) November 22, 2020
An emoji-filled tweet told us that, for all their embracing of modern social media, the royals are traditionalists when it comes to their puddings: suet may have fallen out of fashion with many, but the royals still favour a suet-based pud, rather than butter. Their version makes the most of classic ingredients – currants, raisins, sultanas, and some candied peel, – and a binding of breadcrumbs, alongside three types of booze (brandy, rum and beer).
Of course, the triple alcohol inclusion is not only for taste, but also required for their preserving qualities: as long as those ingredients appear in great enough quantities, and the puddings are properly dried out before being stored, Christmas puddings can last for months. A well-made Christmas pud should last far longer than the month-and-a-bit that the Anglican calendar dictates. Many home cooks make an extra pudding to enjoy later in the year, or even at subsequent Christmases – and the fanciest puddings you can buy in shops will boast of their lengthy maturations. The tradition before baking is for every member of the family to take a turn stirring the pudding and making a wish – something Prince George enjoyed doing with the Queen last year.
Of course, the pudding itself is supposed to have royal origins: it is often said that the Christmas pudding (along with festooned trees) was introduced to the UK by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert. This isn’t quite true: we know that plum puddings were popular in England long before the days of Victoria and Albert, with one of the earliest recipes published in 1714 in Mary Kettilby’s book A Collection of above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery. It is a different monarch, George I, who played a more major role in the popularisation of the rich fruit pudding.
The tweeted recipe shows that for the royals tradition runs deeper than simply using classic ingredients: the use of demerara, and equal parts suet and breadcrumbs, alongside the candied peel and brandy means that the recipe bears striking similarity to King George I’s plum pudding, which has been the basis of the royal recipe ever since.
Despite the twitter excitement on Sunday, the royal recipe has never been much of a secret: the recipe was first published in The Strand magazine, Vol. 42 in 1911, and has been included in a stream of cookbooks since, including Florence Whites Good Things in England, Dorothy Hartley’s Food in England, and The Women’s Institutes’ Book of 650 Favourite Recipes, as well as being the basis of Fortnum & Mason’s ‘King George Christmas Pudding’ (although it wasn’t called a ‘Christmas pudding’ until 1845 in Eliza Acton’s cookery book, Modern Cookery for Private Families).
Long before the invention of Twitter, the royals have been using their Christmas pud recipe as something of a PR move: the royal recipe was disseminated in 1927 by the Empire Marketing Board. The recipe had to be downsized, as the royal recipe was designed to serve the 40-strong royal household, which feels a tad excessive for most Christmas gatherings. The Empire Marketing Board also tweaked the recipe to reflect and represent the different colonies of the empire: brandy from Cyprus, and nutmeg from the West Indies, Australian currants, South African stoned raisins, Canadian apples, Jamaican rum, and English Beer.
While today’s royal recipe might have Georgian origins, the cooking method is (a little bit) more modern. Christmas puddings generally come in two distinct shapes: bowling ball and a slightly flattened half-sphere. Before the Victorian period, puddings were generally boiled in cloth, and then hung on a hook to dry, creating the distinctive ball shape. The Victorians preferred to steam their puddings in basing, and the royal family’s recently released recipe favours the latter.
Ok, so the royal recipe might not have advanced much beyond the nineteenth century, but the appeal of a Christmas pudding has never really been its novelty, has it? And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
What you need to make your own:
150g mixed peel
250g suet or vegetarian suet
12g mixed spice
2 whole eggs
180g demerara sugar
40ml dark rum
Instructions are in the Twitter video above!