During a visit these holidays, my friend and I got talking about different Christmas traditions that our families have, and we landed on the topic of Christmas pudding. Both of our families make pudding during Christmas, but when we started comparing them we got a little confused. Both our families cakes were described as heavy and moist, and contained dried fruit or raisins, but when I said that the main two ingredients were carrots and potatoes I got a large frown, and my friend was pretty sure that there were no carrots or potatoes in her family’s recipe. We got further confused when she said the pudding was simply baked in the oven, and I insisted that it had to be steamed. Unable to come to an agreement, we turned to the one who would know best: the internet. I decided to share what we found because I thought it was interesting!
Christmas Carrot Pudding
The pudding that my family makes is an English pudding. The main two ingredients are in fact carrots and potatoes, and this is a result of hard times when people would run out of a variety of ingredients, leaving them to create a cake from the two foods they were sure to have: carrots and potatoes. (See: Carrots in the Christmas pud: How wartime cooks made do – BBC). Our family’s recipe is much older than WWII, and it turns out that using carrots is not a new idea. While the flavours and other specifics of puddings have changed over time, using carrots in pudding can be traced over hundreds of years. (See: Carrot Puddings Through the Ages – carrotmuseum) The pudding is in fact steamed, not baked, and comes out very rich and moist! It’s definitely one of those things that I think of when I picture my family around the Christmas season.
See Also: Wikipedia Christmas Pudding
While my friend called her family’s cake a Christmas Pudding, we found through our research that it is a bread pudding, a result of her Mennonite family history. Similar to the carrot pudding, bread pudding contains dried fruit and multiple spices. The differences are that the main ingredients are bread and milk – no carrots to be found here! (See: Bread Pudding – Wikipedia) But both puddings can make use of leftovers, and both can be made to be sweet or savory depending on the other ingredients added to the pudding. The bread pudding is not steamed but baked in the oven and sounds delicious!
Interestingly enough when I was describing these Christmas puddings to my boyfriend, he told me it sounded a lot like his Acadian grandmother’s War Cake, which they have around Christmas and through the winter season. I had never heard of this cake before, but I find the similarities to the puddings fascinating. War Cakes, or Depression Cakes, and were also quite heavy and moist, and made use of raisins or dried fruit. (See: Depression Cake – Wikipedia) These cakes were made by families who had to create desserts without the use of milk, butter or eggs – ingredients that families often ran out of during hard times. Unlike the puddings, though, this cake seems to be primarily a sweet dessert cake.
I had a lot of fun learning about our family traditions, and learning a little bit of history too. I find it fascinating that families were so creative and could make such delicious foods even when certain ingredients couldn’t be found. I’m glad that our families continue these traditions and that we can have tasty treats around the holiday season.
I hope everyone has a lovely holiday, and eats lots of yummy food!