It was our first Christmas as cruisers, and it arrived rather unexpectedly. We’d been anchored for a couple of weeks on Picaroon, our Hardin Sea Wolf, at Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. Without the traditional holiday cues — decorations, holiday parties and snow — we’d hardly noticed it was Christmas Eve when we were invited to join local cruisers for a potluck dinner the next day.
“Make figgy pudding!” insisted Philip, my British husband. Figgy pudding is a fond nickname for what we Americans call plum pudding, and I know of it only from English Christmas carols and holiday stories. I’d obliged and made it for several holidays running, but now lacked key ingredients on the boat. Then it struck me: Plum pudding is pretty much a denser, richer version of Caribbean black cake, also traditionally served at Christmas. With a recipe for neither, and no Internet access, I decided to improvise. And use lots of rum, just in case.
The final result was still warm when we dinghied over to Willie T’s bar for the cruisers’ Christmas potluck. It was such a hit, even the bar’s local staff asked for the recipe!
Caribbean Christmas Pudding
- 2 cups raisins
- 1 cup currants or dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup dried or fresh orange peel, chopped
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup dark rum
- 1/3 cup Madeira
- 1/2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
- Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
Chop half the raisins roughly. Combine all raisins, currants, orange peel, and water in saucepan. Simmer 20 minutes until water is absorbed; let cool. Sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and baking powder. In another bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and whip until light. Whisk in rum and wine (or substitute ⅔-cup water). Fold liquid mixture into dry mixture. Add fruit mix, nuts, and candied ginger. Fold all ingredients together. Pour batter into a greased metal or heatproof glass bowl that fits into a larger pot. Cover bowl tightly with foil. Place a strip of folded foil underneath/around bowl to serve as a handle and place in pot. Add enough water to pot to come about halfway up the bowl. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and steam for about two hours, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove bowl, cool, then invert onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or glaze (add 3 tablespoons rum or water to 1 cup powdered sugar and pour over cooled cake). Serves 10.
Tip: Use a Pressure Cooker
by Lynda Morris Childress
If you have a pressure cooker aboard, use it for this dessert. (Place covered bowl on the cooker’s steamer plate with one cup water beneath. Bring to pressure. Steam for one hour.) For anything that requires extended cooking time, a pressure cooker such as the 8-quart Vitaquick by Fissler is an invaluable galley item. Pressure cooking cuts cooking time significantly no matter what’s in the pot, and the energy savings alone make them worth the price.