Steamed Pudding Is the Old-School Dessert You Need to Make

This frugal-yet-tasty dessert helped home cooks make the most of budget ingredients.

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Have you heard of steamed pudding? In the ’30s, home cooks made this popular dessert with low-cost ingredients—and even leftovers from other meals. But despite its modest history, it’s a dessert fit for a king.

What Is Steamed Pudding?

Steamed pudding isn’t the custard-like “pudding” you might assume, but a soft, moist, cake-like treat. Steamed puddings are a traditional British dessert at Christmastime. (“Bring us some figgy pudding!”) For wealthy Brits, steamed plum puddings were lavish affairs, loaded with eggs, butter, spices and even brandy.

But steamed puddings in Depression-era America were a go-to for the opposite reason: They were a thrifty choice at a time when many people were out of work and food was expensive. You’ll see recipes from the 1930s use ingredients like prunes and dried fruit, which were cheaper than fresh, bread crumbs made from stale bread, sour milk, mashed potatoes and lard.

The odds and ends were combined with small amounts of spices and molasses to create a modest dessert.

How to Make a Steamed Pudding

The ingredients are mixed together and then pressed into a greased mold. There are pudding molds made precisely for this purpose, which look like small, handled buckets with tight-fitting lids. In the ’30s, thrifty home cooks would use what they had on hand for a mold, often empty baking powder cans!

The mold is covered tightly and placed on a rack in a large pot with boiling water—anywhere from a couple of inches to halfway up the sides of the mold. Then, the pudding steams slowly over a few hours.

When done, the pudding is inverted onto a serving plate and drizzled with a simple sauce. It’s a delicious and unique-for-today dessert: a soft and very moist cake full of plump fruits and warming spices. Try these comforting depression-era desserts.

Steamed Pudding Recipes

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a Taste of Home Community Cook and a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.