It’s that time of the year again when Christmas cakes rule the roost. Plum cakes, Christmas pudding, plum pudding, et al. But they’re the same thing, aren’t they? Nope. Here is the difference
1. Plum pudding is the Big Daddy amongst them all and eaten on the 25th of December as part of the Christmas lunch. It is the richest and never baked, only steamed. Made with raisins, currants, sultanas, slivered almonds and orange peel, the fat used is suet. Plum pudding is made with eggs and treacle rather than white or even brown sugar for a rich, dark colour. A generous amount of spices go into the batter, primarily nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. The raisins etc (collectively called plums) are macerated in brandy. On Christmas Day, plum pudding is served with rum butter.
2. A plum cake is baked in the oven and though it has the sultanas and glace cherries of a plum pudding, they are distributed more judiciously through the batter. No suet is used in a plum cake, butter is. And instead of treacle and molasses, brown sugar is used.
3. The tradition of the plum pudding is a British one, the spices ostensibly commemorating those that the Three Kings brought to Baby Jesus. However, there are other cultures where plum pudding is not used. The French have a cake on Christmas called Buche de Noel, the Germans have Stollen, the Italians Panettone and so forth. There is even an English approximation of the Buche de Noel that is made with vanilla and chocolate, iced with chocolate butter cream and dusted with caster sugar to resemble snow.
4. Lastly, a fruit cake. You don’t want to use expensive raisins or real butter? Can’t be bothered to find treacle or even golden syrup? Like to make it eggless in the bargain? In that case, you’d end up with a fruit cake that is perfect for tea-time every day of the year besides Christmas.