Christmas Cranberry Pudding with Butter Sauce

This cranberry pudding is a moist molasses cake covered in a rich butter sauce. It’s everything a traditional Christmas pudding should be!

Christmas pudding | Cranberry pudding with butter sauce

My family has many Christmas traditions, one of my favorite of which is this Christmas cranberry pudding. My grandma makes this dessert every year on Christmas Day. As a child, I was pretty wary of it (a dessert without chocolate?!). 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! It’s basically the Christmas pudding that’s referenced in carols and Christmas stories, and a total treat. Keep reading for one of our very favorite Christmas recipes.

How to make Christmas cranberry pudding

This Christmas cranberry pudding is a steamed pudding, like the traditional English puddings. To make this Christmas cranberry pudding, you’ll need a steamer with 9-inch round pan or large stock pot and 9-inch round cake pan to create your own steamer. The Christmas pudding steams for about 2 1/2 hours, so it’s easiest to make the morning or day before eating it. You can steam the pudding and then store it refrigerated until ready to enjoy.

How to make Christmas pudding butter sauce

The secret to this pudding is the magical butter sauce. My entire family goes crazy over it. Now, this website is devoted to healthy eating and butter sauce is definitely not on the top of the health food list. But, we also believe in indulging the occasional splurge, especially when it is a tradition!  The interesting thing about this Christmas cranberry 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 Christmas cranberry pudding 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!)

The Christmas cranberry pudding 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!

Looking for Christmas desserts?

Aside from this classic Christmas pudding, here are a few of our favorite easy Christmas desserts:

This Christmas cranberry pudding recipe is…


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Christmas Cranberry Pudding with Butter Sauce

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (31 votes, average: 4.23 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 12 1x


This cranberry pudding is a moist molasses cake covered in a rich butter sauce. It’s everything a traditional Christmas pudding should be!



For the Christmas cranberry pudding

  • 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
  • Special equipment: Steamer with 9-inch round pan OR large stock pot and 9-inch round cake pan

For the butter sauce

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Slice the cranberries in half. Place them in a colander and rinse out the seeds.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually mix in the dark molasses and 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 and cover with the lid. (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 the butter, stirring often. Stir in the half and half and the sugar, then add the vanilla. To serve, cut the pudding into pieces and drizzle with butter sauce.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: British

Keywords: Cranberry Pudding, Christmas Pudding, Dessert, Holiday, Christmas, Cranberries, Butter, Molasses

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • 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
      December 17, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      I make this pudding every year as a Xmas tradition, it’s the best!!! Our family always looks forward to it.

  • 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.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    I made your cranberry pudding for Thanksgiving Dinner tonight as a variation to a baked one with which I was already familiar. The simple ingredient list was similar to the recipe I knew, but I was at once intrigued by the molasses and also eager to try a steamed cranberry pudding. The ingredients easily halved, and, filling seven small aluminum Jello molds, I placed them on a wire rack in a large stock pot. Not familiar with a steaming process, I accidentally allowed mine to boil over the molds at one point, too. Darn! Surprisingly, they took all afternoon to cook before an inserted tester came out clean. But when I took one out and inverted it on a dessert plate, I couldn’t wait for the sauce! I hurriedly made half of the sauce and spooned some on top. It was so beautiful, so delicious and so light! I had to have two! I want to pass this on this pudding recipe to a friend who cannot eat dairy. He’ll have to figure out a non-dairy carmel, but I trust he will. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      December 11, 2019 at 9:32 am

      We are so glad you enjoyed it! We always have to have seconds on this one too :) Thank you so much for making this family recipe!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2019 at 10:24 am

    This Christmas pudding sounds fantastic! Can you make it ahead and freeze it?

    • Reply
      January 13, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      We have never tried freezing, but we think it would work! Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  • Reply
    Alane Odom
    November 29, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    I’m so happy I found this recipe. It’s been in our family for more than 100 years! I had never made it before, and I couldn’t locate the recipe in my recipe book. My grandmother used to make it in a coffee can. It was always a family favorite, but it seemed to go away after my grandmother passed away. I thought about it the other day, and decided to Google to try to find a similar recipe, and found yours. I made it yesterday, and was nearly brought to tears remembering my dear grandmother making it. It was a beautiful moment. And, it was just as delicious as I remembered it being! Thanks again.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      November 30, 2019 at 3:00 pm

      I love this! So glad that the recipe worked out for you :)

  • Reply
    Betsie Zimmerman
    December 7, 2019 at 7:15 am

    The past yeas my daughter-in law had purchased a christmas cake as described in your recipes (from Cranberry Creek)
    Gets quite expensive for a large family. (add to shat shipping to Canada.
    On Internet I found a recipe for it but it did not turn out very well.
    Questionw. about the amount of flower..When you list 2 2/3 cups of flour…. I f I go by 2 X 2/3 cups I end up with 12 ozs. of flour;
    If I use 2-2/3 cups flour,I end up with 22 ozs. of flour . A considerable difference in the amount of flour to be.
    Can In I use an Au Bain Marie system? I.e. Water in a large roasting pan an place cake pan in the w bath?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      December 9, 2019 at 9:21 am


      It should be 2 full cups of flour + 2/3 cup.

      I would think an Au Bain Marie would work, but we haven’t tried it!

  • Reply
    Betsie Zimmerman
    December 9, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for your response. I tried the Internet recipe and It was a big FLOP. I then found another recipe which had more flour in it and I will try that. The initial one only asked for 1 cup of flour and 2 cups of cranberries. I was a bit doubtful about that and I was right. It turned out more like a big lump of cranberries. I did try the aux bain Marie which did the baking job ok though. instead of the double boiler which has an additional pan with it which we use to steam English crumpets but I was afraid the mixture would ooze out of the holes and into the steaming water underneath.
    I will try the 2 + 2/3 cups of flour. Makes more sense. Unfortunately I discovered that particular recipter afterI already tried the one with far less flour. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

  • Reply
    Kristi Leibhart
    December 10, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Alex, thank you for the recipe! My grandmother (born 1904) always made this when I was growing up, and then my mother always made it. Lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s in 1988, my uncles to the disease in the last decade, and now my mom’s memory has faded to the point that she no longer cooks at all. This year, after putting it off, I want to try the cranberry pudding, ALWAYS my favorite. Mom would always make me my own, just as a gift, so I could take home. This looks exactly like our family’s recipe, right down to that deep molasses color! I always thought the recipe was German, but when I looked into it, now I’m thinking it’s American? Anyway, thanks so very much! If I have trouble, I’ll be coming here! I appreciate so much the fact that you continue to respond to people, year after year!
    Kristi from Nebraska, a Cranberry Pudding Lover

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      December 11, 2019 at 9:30 am

      It’s so great to hear from you! This Cranberry Pudding is such a special tradition in our family too: we’re excited to hear it is in yours as well! Let us know if you try my Grandma’s version of this recipe. Re origin: Christmas puddings actually originate from England! We hope you have a great Christmas and we’d love to see a photo of your cranberry pudding if you make it! (Let us know over on Instagram or you could email [email protected] !)

  • Reply
    December 22, 2019 at 9:23 am

    I am definitely going to make this for Christmas dinner! Stupid question, though…. we cover both the pan containing the pudding AND the stock pot we are using for a steamer, right? (Sorry if that was obvious to everyone else!)

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      December 22, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      Hi! You just need the top of the pot covered, the cake is open to the steam.

      • Reply
        December 24, 2019 at 11:24 pm

        Phew! I’m glad I asked! Thank you!

  • Reply
    January 5, 2020 at 12:23 am

    So glad I found this recipe. I also have had this recipe in the family for 100+ years. My Mom and grandma cooked it in coffee cans, which you can’t really do anymore, because I haven’t found any tin cans without a lip on them……so it doesn’t work–can’t slide the pudding out of the can. Do you know of any coffee cans today that still exist that would work? Just trying to make it the way I’ve always done, but if not, will try your way. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 6, 2020 at 10:29 am

      Hi! I love the idea of coffee cans, but I’m not aware of any brands that would work. What about a large vegetable can? Would that be the right size?

    • Reply
      Debbie McCauley
      December 24, 2020 at 10:47 am

      Hi Debbie,

      I spent a couple years trying to find coffee cans and anything that would work the way I grew up cooking this pudding, so I gave up until I found this recipe. Can’t wait to try it and it seems like a good workaround for the coffee cans that don’t exist anymore.

  • Reply
    December 17, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    My grandmother in Massachusetts made this every holiday, too! It came from a Maine cookbook. My mother makes it now and it is enjoyed by everyone.

  • Reply
    December 18, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    Hi! I’m so glad that I found you and this recipe! My German and Scottish grandmother made this pudding every Christmas from (I imagine) probably 1925 or so until the Alzheimer’s took over in the mid 1980’s, when I was in high school. Then my mom took over making it, and she made it every year until about three years ago, when she no longer could, because of her Alzheimer’s. I found what I thought was the proper steamer pan in her cupboard, but I think I’m missing one piece. The final result looks exactly like yours. I have a sort of flat muted silver ring, a “fan” of pieces with holes in them, and that’s it. Is there another piece? Can you please advise? thank you so much!!!! Merry Christmas to all! And a happy cranberry pudding year! -Kristi in Nebraska

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      December 21, 2020 at 10:13 am

      Hi! We aren’t really experts on the steamers themselves. The one we have is pretty different from our grandmother’s. I think as long as you have the pan and something to hold it up off of the bottom of the pot you should be good to go. Good luck!

      • Reply
        December 31, 2020 at 3:51 pm

        Thank you so much and thanks for responding two years in a row! 🥰🥰🥰🎄🎄🎄 You’re the best!!

  • Reply
    Debbie McCauley
    December 24, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Hi, So happy I found this recipe and am trying it now. Didn’t know if the steamer should be covered so read through the comments to get that answer. Maybe that should be mentioned in the recipe for all of us that aren’t used to steaming :). Thanks so much for providing this recipe to all of us who grew up on this and can’t make it anymore in coffee tins.

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      December 26, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      Yes, the cover is what makes the steam happen! We added that to the recipe for clarity. Thanks for the suggestion and thank you for making it!

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