One-Pot Wonders

Cranberry-Molasses Pudding with Vanilla Hard Sauce

November  6, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

My former mother-in-law gave me this recipe decades ago; she got it from a friend in Milwaukee who was a fabulous home cook. This pudding is like a tart molasses-and-cranberry sponge which should be served in a bowl, with copious amounts of hard sauce, and eaten with a spoon. It's a holiday favorite at my house for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, and hardly anyone settles for just one serving. - CottageGourmet —CottageGourmet

Test Kitchen Notes

A true English steamed pudding -- dark, moist and intensely comforting -- CottageGourmet's Thanksgiving dessert suggestion really steps outside of the box. The pudding itself is barely sweet, almost savory in fact, and looks almost black, studded all over with tart, crimson cranberries. The "hard sauce" (which bucks tradition in that it is served warm and liquid) brings the sweetness to the table, soaking every bite of the soft, tender pudding with a rich hit of butter, sugar and cream. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (a heaping tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, picked over, washed and drained
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Gently fold together all of the ingredients through the cranberries in the order listed. Pour into a greased mold (I used a Bundt pan), and tightly wrap with several layers of foil so no water sneaks into the pudding.
  2. Put a steamer basket in a large pot and fill the pot with an inch or so of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the water is barely simmering. Rest the pudding on top of the steamer basket and cover the pot snugly with a lid. Steam without uncovering the pot for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the pudding is cooked through but not totally dry. (A cake tester should come out sticky, but not wet.)
  3. To make the sauce: combine the half-and-half, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and butter are melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Serve the sauce warm over the warm pudding.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Deb Currier
    Deb Currier
  • Justine Lombardi
    Justine Lombardi
  • Newhavengirl
  • Emilia Rosa
    Emilia Rosa
  • jamie munal
    jamie munal

60 Reviews

Deb C. December 25, 2022
I just made this pudding. The pudding itself is easy to make and is very tasty. However, the Hard Sauce is not hard, nor like any other hard sauce recipe I have found. It is the consistency of water, not whipped cream. Other recipes do not heat butter and sugar together, rather you whip them together. So am disappointed in the hard sauce, will try other recipe for sauce and add to pudding.
tsp December 31, 2017
I made this in a bain marie, since I have made other steamed puddings that way it seemed simpler than the method described. The amount of batter this makes also fit perfectly in the bain marie with room to rise. It came out perfect except the bottom got a little overdone because I think the cooking time can be reduced with a bain marie. But the cake popped out nicely after running a knife around the edge. Everyone wanted seconds. I will make it again and perfect the cooking time.
CottageGourmet January 3, 2018
I make this in a Bundt pan, wrapped securely with lots and lots of (recyclable!) aluminum foil. If I don't have a steaming rack available I fashion one out of additional foil, rolling it up then bending into intersecting U-shapes to keep the pan off the bottom of the pot. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting me know.
Justine L. December 20, 2015
I have made this every year since you posted it in 2010. This pudding has become a holiday tradition. It's a nice adult style sweet and my inlaws look forward to it every year. Thank you for sharing!
CottageGourmet December 20, 2015
Thank you for letting me know -- I love this pudding, too, and it is a staple at my holiday table as well. Best wishes for 2016 --
Newhavengirl February 2, 2015
Finding this recipe brought me back to my college years and my then boyfriend, back in the early 70s. We got an apartment together, somewhat scandalous for those times. The boyfriend's mom generously sent me some of her handwritten recipe cards, including one for Sailor's Duff, a steamed pudding with molasses and cranberries, that the boyfriend particularly liked. The recipe had come from the bf's dad, who was born and raised in Boston. I lost the boyfriend and the recipe card years ago, but IIRC, this is the same or very similar recipe. Nice to have it back!
Katie December 16, 2014
This is so crazy! My family has been making this pudding as we refer to it as simply "Cranberry Pudding" for decades. My grandmother found the recipe some how or another (should could never remember when asked) in the 1940s, and my family has been making it ever since for christmas dinner dessert! The only difference is we bake the pudding covered in a low oven. This is the first time anyone in my family has seen the dessert outside our family, so I guess the secret is out!
Emilia R. October 25, 2014
OMG! This is the sexiest steamed pudding ever!!!!
jamie M. December 1, 2013
Ok, I tried it and made the worst mistake of all... Water got into the pudding... Since I felt it was ruined I and full of water I jacked the temp up to 350 and cooked the water out...It worked... Instead of the vanilla hard sauce I made a rum brandy crème anglaise(sp). My family didn't like it but I've been eating it since the day before Thanksgiving... I've added it to my arsenal but I've decided to cook it in individual servings instead of one big one. My family wants me to go back to pecan pie, apple pie, and a pumpkin pie....
Ghost H. July 15, 2013
I'm not a huge fan of this kind of cake, but my husband and a good friend of ours are huge fans. I made this for them at least twice or so because they loved it so much!
CottageGourmet July 16, 2013
Glad they enjoyed it! :D
Ceege March 9, 2013
I haven't tried this yet but intend to very soon. I have a question and a "tip". First the question. When you "wrap the pan in layers of foil", does that include the top? In other words do you wrap it up like a christmas present or just wrap the sides and bottom of pan? Now for my tip. As all of you know fresh cranberries can only be bought around Thanksgiving and Christmas. When they are available, buy up bags and bags of them. Just toss the whole bag into the freezer as is. The berries will stay like new for several years (if you can keep them that long). I use cranberries in several different recipes I have and always have them in my freezer for all year round baking/cooking.
CottageGourmet March 9, 2013
I hoard cranberries too, and agree with your suggestion to freeze several bags when they're in season. That way you can enjoy their tart and sassy flavor all year round.
You should indeed wrap the pudding "like a Christmas present" so no water gets into it while it's steaming. If you examine traditional pudding molds, they seal quite tightly to prevent anything getting in -- or out -- during the cooking process.
I know you'll enjoy this pudding, since you're a fellow cranberry lover. :D
Tina H. January 4, 2013
Mr Hirschfeld, knowing that you are gf; would you mainly substitute gf oat flour for the ap flour?
za'atar November 5, 2012
This was one of the most delicious desserts I have ever eaten. Wow. A new holiday tradition, for sure!
CottageGourmet November 7, 2012
I am so glad you liked it! I look forward to cranberry season every year so I can indulge in this dessert. :D
Katherine's K. February 18, 2012
How great that you got it from your former Mother-in-law! I'm definitely trying this sometime. Thanks for sharing
Teri November 28, 2011
Oh my. I just stumbled onto this. Must try this holiday. Thanks!
CottageGourmet November 28, 2011
You will be happy you tried it! It's awesome, I made it this Thanksgiving and hoarded most of it for myself ...
fortyniner December 1, 2010
Any suggestions for a substitute fruit for the Cranberries, as we only get the dried variety (Craisins) here in Oz so don't think these would be suitable. Was thinking perhaps trying it with cherries (as height of cherry season here) or even blueberries? Definitely want to give this recipe a go as soon as possible.
thirschfeld December 1, 2010
Have you tried the freezer section of the grocery. Many times they will have cranberries frozen which is what I used when I made the dessert and it was wonderful. Cherries would be second choice
AntoniaJames December 1, 2010
I'm totally with Mr Hirschfeld on the cherries suggestion. I plan to try this, in fact, using cherries instead of cranberries. You'd get that good tart/slightly sweet effect. I would not use blackstrap molasses, by the way . . . at least not what's available locally, as its flavor is so strong, and is more bitter than I care for, so would thus overwhelm the other flavors. Just something to keep in mind. ;o)
fortyniner December 5, 2010
Well would you believe today at the nursery I found an American Cranberry plant. I grabbed it quick smart as have never seen cranberry plants down here before. However I realise it will be some time before the cranberries are ready to eat (if the plant survives) but I will check out the freezer section for some frozen ones, but can't say that I have ever seen them. Even the dried ones are ultra expensive here as they have to be imported such a long way!

I always use Treacle in place of Molasses as it (molasses) is only ever sold in speciality stores and not readily available in supermarkets.
Thanks for your help everyone.
CottageGourmet December 5, 2010
I'm interested to hear what the pudding is like with other fruits -- the cherry suggestion sounds closest in that both cherries and cranberries are red and round! However, the thing that sets this apart is the tartness of the cranberries so see if you can find sour pie cherries. Also -- if you have access to lingonberries they're nearly the same as cranberries, but smaller.
BeetRiot November 27, 2010
I scraped a vanilla bean into the sauce instead of using vanilla extract. 'Twas awesome.
thirschfeld November 25, 2010
Fantastic, a great addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Kayb November 25, 2010
This was one of my Thanksgiving desserts today. Just marvelous! The tart pop of the cranberries against the silky, rich sweetness of the sauce....exquisite! One issue -- for some reason, it took mine twice as long to steam done as the directions said. Not a prob, as we put dessert on hold because we were so full from dinner! This definitely pushes pumpkin pie into the background for me! Thanks SO much for this recipe, and I hope you're having a perfectly wonderful Thanksgiving!
CottageGourmet November 25, 2010
I'm so glad you like the pudding -- thanks for the feedback, and I hope your Thanksgiving was everything you hoped for.
I made it tonight, too, in some darling little pudding molds. They came out beautifully, and were done in just under an hour.
I wonder why yours took so long ... was the water simmering?
Kayb November 26, 2010
Well, I thought it was, but I may have had it at a bare simmer when it needed to be at a higher boil. My vessel that was holding the mold/Bundt pan was really too big, so that may also have had something to do with it.

By the way, I cut a big slice of it this morning, spooned some of the refrigerated sauce over, and microwaved it for 30 seconds. It makes a stunning breakfast!
surfchyck November 24, 2010
what a lovely recipe, and congrats...not quite sure mine came out light...twice....but it's lovely just the same....oh and i love the tin foil idea...i use cookie cutters to lift the pan above the water, and thanks/
CottageGourmet November 25, 2010
Perhaps it's the molasses you used? Was it light?
ashleychasesdinner November 23, 2010
Congratulations on being a finalist! I can't wait to give this a try!
CottageGourmet November 23, 2010
Thank you! It'll be on my Thanksgiving table come Thursday ~
Threemealsaday November 23, 2010
Congrats on being picked. I just received a huge steamer for puddings like this from my mother and will have to try this recipe out.
CottageGourmet November 23, 2010
Oooh, lucky you!
You won't be disappointed with this pudding, it's really good. Be liberal with the sauce as the pudding is quite tart.