Cranberry Pudding

In Desserts

My family has many Christmas traditions, one of my favorite of which is cranberry pudding. My grandma makes this dessert every year on Christmas Day. As a child, I was pretty wary of it (dessert without chocolate? Unheard of!). However, when I finally reached the age to be adventurous enough to try it, I realized what all the adults had been talking about – this stuff was amazing!

The secret to this pudding is the magical butter sauce. My entire family goes crazy over it. Yes, I realize that this blog is devoted to healthy eating and butter sauce is likely not on the top of the health food list. However, we also believe in indulging the occasional splurge, especially when it is a tradition!  (Plus, we do firmly believe in butter as a natural ingredient – no margarine here!)

Anyway, back to the butter sauce. The funny thing about the pudding is that it contains no sugar, so it tastes pretty unsatisfying on its own. However, add the butter sauce and you have deliciousness incarnate.  I honestly think this may be one of my favorite desserts ever – and it’s so rich that I’m happy to enjoy it to the fullest just once a year. (Well, twice this year, since I wanted to share it with you!)

It does take a bit of time to make, but most of the time is hands-off while you wait for the pudding to steam. And it’s very worth the wait. If you are feeling adventurous, give this recipe a try for a special holiday meal – I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as our family does!


Cranberry Pudding

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  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Yield: 12


  • Steamer with 9-inch round pan OR large stock pot and 9-inch round cake pan (see Step 4)
  • 12 ounces cranberries
  • 2 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Cut the cranberries in half. Place them in a colander and rinse out the seeds.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 2 2/3 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and a pinch salt. Gradually mix in 1 cup dark molasses and 1 cup warm water. Fold in the cranberries.
  3. Grease the round pan and pour the cranberry mixture into the pan.
  4. Fill the steamer with water and place the pan in the steamer. (If you don’t have a steamer, take a large stock pot and place an item in the bottom to elevate the cake pan, like a trivet, cookie cutter, empty tuna can, or folded dish towel. Then place the pan on top and fill the pot with water about half-way up the side of the pan.)
  5. Bring the water to a boil, and steam for about 2 1/2 hours, checking the water level periodically (every 30 minutes or so) and refilling as needed. The pudding is done when you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean. Allow the pudding to cool (the pudding can also be made in advance and kept at room temperature or in the refrigerator until ready to serve).
  6. When ready to serve, make the butter sauce: in a saucepan over low heat, melt 1/2 cup butter, stirring often. Stir in 1/2 cup half and half and 1 cup sugar, then add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. To serve, cut the pudding into pieces and drizzle with butter sauce.


Grandma Kuhnau’s traditional recipe



  • Reply
    December 8, 2010 at 10:59 am

    It’s interesting. In our hometown, pudding is a kind of jelly. I’m going to try this.

  • Reply
    Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot
    December 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    This looks absolutely delicious! Your photo is beautiful too! Love it!

  • Reply
    December 8, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Oh does that sound good. And what a fabulous picture!!

  • Reply
    Angela FRS
    December 8, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Looks wonderful, and I am always up for a cranberry dessert. Beautiful photo.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Beautiful photo! The pudding and sauce look fantastic! Definitely worth the splurge.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Ooooh, it has molasses in it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a steamed pudding but I sure do love just about anything that has molasses in it. I need to give this a try!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Cranberry pudding with a hard sauce has been an 80 year tradition in my family. After some research, I believe the pudding to be US in origin, most likely the Northeast. The first published recipe was in Boston in the 1890’s.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    This recipe (almost exactly) has been in my husband’s family for at least 60 years, and I have been making it for 35 years at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I make it in an old fashioned pudding tin (like a tall skinny bundt pan) with a lid that it fits in perfectly. I steam it in a big stock pot sitting on a vegetable steamer (to keep it off the bottom) for about 2 hours. My husband makes the sauce and has been adding about 2-3 tbsp dark rum at the end. I grew up having plum pudding at Christmas that a family friend sent to my grandmother, and I always felt that the two desserts were very similar.

    • Reply
      December 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      What a small world! This is a tradition that is dear to my heart, growing up with it all these years. I love the idea of adding dark rum to the sauce! Thanks for writing, and hope you enjoy it this Christmas :)

  • Reply
    December 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Wonderful to find this recipie and without the sugar in the cake. I remember it from my childhood – my mother and I think my paternal grandmother would make it – definitely with the butter sauce and I think also with some hard sauce as I remember the delicious contrast. And I recall that there might have been some flambe in the event as well. Seemed like a very old tradition. So nice to be able to access this again.
    Now, does anyone still eat port salut?!

    • Reply
      December 25, 2012 at 10:17 am

      We love this Christmas pudding too! It is so fun to hear of others sharing the same tradition :) I don’t know that we’ve ever eaten port salut, though. Was that a tradition of yours as well?

      We’re off to go eat some pudding this evening. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  • Reply
    January 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    My brother made this recipe for our Xmas dessert (Thank you Tom!) The whole family was in absolute HEAVEN eating this! We used to have something similar when I was a kid…mom would steam it in a coffee can, and she told us it was an old family recipe. Wow, I’m so glad I have it, and you can bet it won’t be eaten just once per year!

    • Reply
      January 13, 2013 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you so much for letting us know, Sue! This is a very special tradition for our family and it means so much to us that you made the recipe AND loved it! It’s truly one of my favorite desserts ever — and even more special since I only eat it once a year. We love how the pudding is pretty tasteless on its own, but adding the butter sauce makes it a truly amazing treat! Thanks for writing, and I hope that this can become a new tradition for your family too :)

  • Reply
    June 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Sonja,

    my grandmother passed down her recipe to my mom, and this is a favorite Christmas dish for my family. I’m curious whether you cover your batter for your recipe with foil or a lid; I do, but I wonder based on your recipe description if this is necessary after all.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Hi, If I’m using a large stock pot as the steamer, I cover it, right?



    • Reply
      November 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Hi! Yes, cover the pot to hold the steam in. Let us know if it works out!

  • Reply
    Marlene Stellin
    November 13, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    I have been making this for 40+ years and it is a favorite Christmas tradition. Your recipe is larger than my recipe so I am anxious to make it for our once a year tradition. I use coffee cans and cover them tightly with foil.
    My recipe also says to make it well ahead of Christmas, sort of like fruitcake to mellow in the refrigerator.

    • Reply
      November 13, 2015 at 11:03 pm

      How wonderful to hear you have the same tradition! Let us know if you try out this recipe. It is one of my favorite Christmas traditions!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Looks good. But it turned out to be a flipping mess. The pot water overboiled into the pudding within five minutes. I am trying to save it. I drained off all the water and added more flour molasses and berries. Yes, I did elevate the pudding above the water. So annoyed.

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