Steamed Pumpkin Pudding

Lots of us were without electricity this week which some of us need it to bake. Fortunately for me, Ruth Thurston in Machias had sent along a couple of good pumpkin recipes in response to my request and one was for a steamed pudding which when cooked, turned out, frosted and sliced looks for all the world like cake. It proved to be the perfect dessert for us who could not bake, and another very good use for pumpkin. I used my tubed pudding mold so it turned out pretty, dressy enough for the Thanksgiving table.

You don’t need much pumpkin, a little under half a pie pumpkin or about half a fifteen-ounce can; perhaps you could think about making two and freezing one, or using some pumpkin puree in pumpkin bread. This is one of those times when freezing pre-measured amounts of pumpkin to pull out of the freezer as needed is a good idea.

The amount of spice in this recipe was just right, I thought, and you can add more or use less to suit your preference. The recipe calls for chopped walnuts but I am not fond of them in this kind of dish, so I used a cup of raisins instead. Again, you will want to suit your own taste.

If you are a brown bread maker, you can use the same device for steaming this pudding. A covered mold is handy but you can also use a greased, heat-proof bowl covered with muslin or aluminum foil. If you don’t like the idea of keeping a pudding steaming on top of the stove, you can do it in a deep, all-metal saucepan or glass baking dish with enough hot water to come half-way up the side of the pudding mold or bowl in the oven set at about 325. Check after an hour to see if it needs more hot water added. The pudding is done when a tester inserted comes out clean, just exactly as for cake.

I had leftover cream cheese frosting which I slathered over the top. You can also use hard sauce or lemon sauce, whatever you like. Ruth’s directions say, “serve warm” but I am here to tell you that the people with a sweet tooth will happily shave slices off a cold pudding until it disappears.

Steamed Harvest Pudding
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup buttermilk, or sour milk
  • ½ cup butter or shortening
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  1. Set a kettle of water on to boil, and grease a one-and-a-half-quart sized pudding mold or bowl.
  2. Whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda, and set it aside.
  3. Mix together the pumpkin and buttermilk and set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and granulated and brown sugars, add and beat in the eggs, and then the salt and all spices.
  5. Stir in the nuts.
  6. Turn the batter into the prepared mold, cover tightly, and set into a deep kettle and add hot water enough to come half-way up the side of the mold.
  7. Steam on a moderate heat for two hours, checking after an hour to see if you need to add more hot water.
  8. The pudding is done when it pulls way from the sides of the mold and a tester inserted comes out clean. Let stand for a few minutes, then loosen and remove it from the mold.
  9. Frost it, if you wish or serve it with hard sauce.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.