October 26, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Makes 24 pieces
Author Notes

You hear all about them in old-timey stories. They are a big part of the magic behind the Nutcracker. So what are sugarplums exactly? They are everything that is right with the world! You can make them without an oven. You can make them without any cooking equipment at all--although a food processor helps with the mincing. They are kid-friendly, allergy-friendly (you can sub pumpkin/sunflower seeds for nuts) and portable. They keep for weeks in a tightly sealed container. Their flavor actually improves over time, especially after refrigeration.

Sugarplums combine dried fruit, nuts, sweetener and spices that, on their own, may seem boring. But together they make magic! The best part about this recipe is that you can vary the ingredients according to your tastes and what you have around. They can even be leftover extras from making other holiday desserts. Coriander is my favorite spice, but maybe you'd prefer some ground juniper berry.

The recipe calls for sugar, for rolling. I found some very sparkly decorator's sugar at a cake supply store, and it added a nice extra holiday touch. You could also mix-in some "disco dust" (also available at cake stores) for a similar, icy effect, or just appreciate the beauty of natural sugar crystals. Over time, they will absorb some of the color of the cherries and plums and give the sugarplums a fruitier look that is equally as pretty. Substituting shredded coconut makes them look like little snowballs. Pulsing the coconut in a food processor beforehand until it is fine increases that effect.

This recipe was originally adapted from Saveur magazine, but I have evolved it over many holiday seasons to take on a life all it's own. My version was featured in the only December issue of the short-lived (yet locally-celebrated) magazine Brooklyn Bread Press, where it appears on page 25. —Anitalectric

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups raw cashews, ground
  • 1 cup dried cherries, minced*
  • 1 cup dried plums A.K.A. prunes, minced*
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: black pepper, pink pepper & coriander
  • 2 cups sugar or coconut, for rolling
  • 1/4 cup cognac (optional)
  1. Combine the maple syrup, zests and spices in a large bowl (also cognac if using). Fold in the ground cashews and dried fruits. I like to use my hands for this step.
  2. Wrap the mixture tightly and refrigerate at least one hour.
  3. Roll a tablespoon-sized ball between wet hands, then roll in sugar or coconut to coat and place on a tray or in small baking cup. Repeat until all of the mixture is used. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
  4. *(Tip: If you are using a food processor to mince, rough chop the fruits before pulsing for faster and more even results.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anitalectric
  • lorigoldsby
  • Niknud
  • Bevi
  • wssmom
I am a self-trained vegan chef, pastry chef and baker. More recently, I founded Anita's Yogurt in Brooklyn, NY. Anita's Coconut Yogurt is now available from coast-to-coast and for nationwide delivery from our website. I still frequently bake desserts for my daughter and post recipe videos on instagram. Currently baking: Kombucha Muffins From Jerrelle Guy, Genius Nut and Seed bread from Sarah Britton.

6 Reviews

Anitalectric October 28, 2011
Lori, by sweet challenged, do you mean those who don't like overly-sweet, or those who have a hard time finding desserts they can eat due to food allergies/concerns? Because they work for both ;)
lorigoldsby October 27, 2011
beautiful! I love how they may be that sweet treat for the sweet challenged!
Anitalectric October 26, 2011
Yes, Bevi. I recommend chilling after rolling, but after they are firm they can be stored at room temperature. PS- I LOVE rum balls!! Thx for the comments.
Niknud October 26, 2011
These are just beautiful! Never actually knew what a sugarplum was until now. You learn something new every day!
Bevi October 26, 2011
They are shimmering! Can these be kept in an airtight container for awhile, like rum balls?
wssmom October 26, 2011
This is amazing!!