Steamed Marmalade Sponge and Whisky Custard

This festive dessert recipe is a delicious alternative to traditional Christmas pudding. It's a really moist, light, rich and warming sponge, with the thick-cut bitter marmalade off-setting the sweet sponge beautifully.

Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding


Good for those winter months, this is a really moist, light, rich and warming sponge, with the thick-cut bitter marmalade off-setting the sweet sponge beautifully. I have served it for many Burns’ Night dinners and have even had a poem written about it. The whisky custard works very happily with many other puddings.

Serves 4-6


160g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
230g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1½ tsp baking powder
4 tbsp whole milk
6 tbsp marmalade
For the whisky custard:
1 vanilla pod
250ml full fat milk
125ml double cream
3 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
30–40ml good whisky

Essential kit

You will need an electric mixer and a 1 litre pudding basin.


Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3 and grease and flour a 1 litre pudding basin.

In an electric mixer with a beater attachment, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon, cream your butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs one at a time, mixing as you go to prevent them curdling, then mix in the sifted flour and baking powder.

Fold in the milk and 2 tablespoons of the marmalade.

Put the remaining 4 tablespoons of marmalade into the bottom of the prepared basin and spoon the sponge mix on top. Cover the top with a buttered round of baking paper, then cover that with a piece of foil with a pleat in the middle and tie with string to secure.

Place the pudding in a deep roasting tray and pour boiling water into the tray to come halfway up the sides of the basin. Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 2½ hours.

Remove the pudding carefully from the baking tray and leave for 10 minutes before unwrapping, unmoulding and upturning on a serving plate.

While the pudding is resting, make the whisky custard. Slit the vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds and pod into a heavy-based saucepan with the milk and cream and bring slowly to the boil to infuse the vanilla.

Meanwhile put the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and mix together for a few seconds.

Pour the boiling milk into the yolks, whisking constantly to prevent curdling, then return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook slowly over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. 

Pour through a fine sieve, discard the vanilla pod, and stir in the whisky. Serve straight away, in a jug, with the pudding.

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