Royals reveal their Christmas pudding recipe – with surprise secret ingredient

Helena Horton
·4-min read
The Christmas pudding - as cooked by the Royal kitchens
The Christmas pudding - as cooked by the Royal kitchens

Households across the nation wielded wooden spoons as they prepared to stir up their Christmas puddings on Sunday.

The Royal Family was no exception, and they have revealed their secret recipe on Instagram so followers could attempt the pudding enjoyed by the Queen. However, it contains a surprising ingredient historically associated with peasants.

It is well-known that the Queen loves to savour an alcoholic beverage, and her favourite is said to be a gin and Dubonnet.

However, in her Christmas pudding, the Royal kitchen has always glugged in a good measure of ale to give a rich flavour.

The palace chefs add 275ml of beer along with 40ml each of dark rum and brandy to the dry ingredients at the same time as the eggs, stir it up and bake. The recipe does not show any "feeding" of the pudding with further alcohol after baking.

The Royal Family said: "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."

Beer was traditionally used in a Christmas pudding, which originated as a 14th century porridge called 'frumenty' that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. 

In the late 16th century, frumenty was slowly changing into a plum pudding, having been thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit and given more flavor with the addition of beer and spirits, and became the traditional Christmas dessert.

In the coming centuries, the recipe diversified and most use just spirits rather than beer. A popular superstition led households to make the pudding with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles - which the Royal recipe does.

Chef Richard Corrigan, who has won Michelin stars and cooked for the Queen and the Prime Minister, was surprised by the addition of beer.

He told the Telegraph that it should be "fed generously with port and brandy" rather than beer. He also took issue with the fact the Royal recipe uses suet, adding that "butter is richer."

Critiquing the recipe, he said: "Up the booze by 20 per cent. Add 200g of grated carrots, yes you heard me, it's brilliant, and 250g of prunes."

Chef Michael Caines MBE told The Telegraph the beer could work by giving some depth to the cake.

He said: "It’s a lovely recipe and has some nice alternative suggestions for non-alcoholic and veggie, and the beer adds real depth to the pudding.

"I personally like to spice mine up with ground ginger and nutmeg and instead of beer and rum I use brandy and sherry which compliments the fruit nicely and I add a little milk to blend."

Some chefs offered their own unusual takes on a Christmas pudding, and expressed surprise that the Queen uses beer.

James Cochran, Head Chef at London restaurant 12:51 said: "I'm intrigued by their use of beer. So unexpected in a royal pudding! But that leads me to think that they would enjoy my own personal take on a classic with inspiration from St Vincent in the Caribbean.

"Mine uses tropical dried fruit of pineapple, coconut, mango and sultanas and I like to feed the fruit with a caramelly based rum like Merser Rum  for a winter sun take on a Christmas classic. I think with her penchant for the sunny isles of the Caribbean, Princess Margaret have would love this version, served with a big scoop of coconut ice cream and toasted almonds after a good flambe with more rum."

Oli Martin, head chef at Hipping Hall, Lancashire, added: "The Royal Christmas Pudding looks like a brilliant recipe. I've not seen a pudding make use of beer before, but it sounds interesting and I can see it working well adding a nice depth to the cake. I came across a recipe for Christmas pudding while working in Australia which used tinned pineapple and a teaspoon of curry powder and honestly I haven't looked back since! It really works!"

What is your recipe for the perfect Christmas pudding? Tell us in the comments section below