So, if you’re like me, that line from ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas‘ always made you giggle as a kid. I mean, I’m sure most of us, especially us Yankees here in America, have asked ourselves at one point or another: “What the hell is a figgy pudding, exactly?”
The history of figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England. Its possible ancestors include savory puddings such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a potage of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets. In any case, its methods and ingredients appear in diverse older recipes. Today, the term figgy pudding is known mainly because of the Christmas carol “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” which repeats, “Oh bring us a figgy pudding” in the chorus, indicating that it was a Christmas traditional dish served during the season and thus might potentially be given to Christmas carolers.
Well, us Americans have a different concept of “pudding” than the Brits do; our idea of pudding is Jello instant pudding, or the pudding cups you bring to school in your lunch bag as a kid, or even a homemade pudding made with cornstarch and heavy cream, but regardless, all three have the consistency of what the English call “custard.” Over there, in jolly old England, pudding is more like a cake. Sticky toffee pudding, figgy pudding, spotted dick– they’re all more like our idea of fruitcake or rum cake. Oh! Speaking of England, the wonderful Nancy from The Inky Kitchen recently was kind enough to send me a package of some British candy not easily found here in the States: Galaxy Ripple and Cadbury Flake! We do have specialty stores that sell British candy, but it’s sort of hit or miss. You never know what they’re going to have, and since the turnover isn’t very high, sometimes it can be old & sitting there awhile. Needless to say I tore into those pretty quickly. And of course, in turn, I sent her two packages of candy not available over there; Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses and Mint Truffle Hershey’s Kisses. What a nice Christmas present to get, right? Thank you so much Nancy. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas Hershey’s Kisses! I certainly enjoyed the ones you sent (and my mother loved the Ripple!). And just so you know, her blog, The Inky Kitchen, is great- awesome content and I love the artwork- so I suggest you take a look.
Upon learning last December that Cupcake Royale makes a figgy pudding cupcake, I decided to tackle the concept myself this year. Although mine is quite different- no chocolate chunks, no cocoa powder. Mine is more like a traditional figgy pudding in the sense that it’s a spice cake with molasses & buttermilk, with figs and walnuts in it. Traditionally, I’ve seen pictures of it topped with a sort of confectioner’s sugar glaze or icing, or a heavier creamier icing, usually poured on top and allowed to drip down the sides. I decided to use a regular frosting on them, instead of doing a glaze, but I added a little something extra to it. I made them as a sort of “gift” for my mother & father. This time of year I’m always making baked goods & giving them away. So this time it’s figgy pudding. I brought them some figgy pudding, and brought it right here!
“I am a wee figgy pudding… eat me!”
Full recipe makes around 18, if you halve it you’ll get 8 or 9 depending on your methods (whether you use a whole egg or take one egg, beat it in a bowl, and use half). If you do halve it, then DEFINITELY halve the buttercream (if you like really tall mounds of frosting) or quarter it, or else you’ll end up with tons left over. The full recipe makes 4 cups, so you do the math. I halved both recipes, and piled the frosting pretty high and still ended up with enough frosting left over for a good 5 cupcakes, so if you halve the cupcake recipe, you might actually want to quarter the frosting recipe. Unless you like having brandy buttercream in the freezer for later… hmm, I wonder if that’s where they got the idea for alcoholic whipped cream from?
FIGGY PUDDING CUPCAKES
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon*
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg*
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cups dried figs, stemmed and chopped fine
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Beat in figs and walnuts until combined thoroughly.
- Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Frost after completely cooled.
ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM FLAVORED WITH BRANDY
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 5 large egg whites
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon brandy
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238° degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
- Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
- With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla, then the brandy. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth. Don’t be alarmed if the frosting gets “slippery” in the bowl; that’s from the alcohol. It’ll pipe just fine.
Seriously… check out that buttercream…
Depending on the taste you’re looking for, you can start off with less or just add more brandy until you feel it’s got the right flavor, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to use too much. Using a dark rum would also work if you’re not a brandy person. If you’re not a drinker or never have alcohol in the house, some brandy extract or rum extract would be nice, or just plain ol’ vanilla too. I also added some little holly branches and berries on top to make it more traditional-looking (and a big thanks to Yoyo for my surprise Christmas cupcake package that those toppers & liners were included in).
If you prefer to make them look more like traditional figgy pudding, you can make a brandy sauce, and then dip the tops of each cupcake (after they’re cooled) into the sauce. Obviously, I didn’t use it, but because I’m really sweet and it’s the holiday season, I’m going to give you the recipe for a brandy sauce.
- 2 tablespoons butter, very soft
- 1 egg white
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup brandy
- Beat egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer until stiff.
- Add sugar, egg yolk, whipping cream, butter.
- Stir in brandy. Dip cooled cupcakes into sauce.
If you’ve never given baked goods as gifts before, it’s a great idea. First of all, for someone who’s hard to buy for or who has everything, baking them something they love or something they would love is a fantastic idea. Anyone who bakes from scratch or knows what it’s like to do so would appreciate a homemade, delicious, from the heart cake/cupcakes/bread/etc. And baking a Christmas-themed baked good is an even better idea; that way, when the person you give it to is entertaining they can serve it. Especially if they can’t bake themselves. Or they can just eat it all themselves, which I wholly endorse.
In honor of the season, I’d like to share with you my favorite Christmas commercial ever since I was a child. Seven days ’til Christmas- happy baking, eating, shopping and gifting!
And before you go, did you enjoy my interview with Pamela Ahn, contestant on The Next Great Baker? If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? Go check it out, it’s the post right below this one.