Photo Jay Caboz
  • We put four Christmas puddings to the test, so you don't have to.
  • Our judges were looking for the ultimate decadence for the Christmas table.  
  • One of our puddings was criticised for not being heavy enough on the brandy – but it wasn't the pudding with no brandy in it.

When it comes to a Christmas dessert there is nothing quite like the spicy aroma of the Christmas pudding.  

The suet-based cake is steamed for hours, giving it a rich, moist and crumbly texture that is a luxury staple on many South African Christmas tables.

Traditionally, the pudding is made on Stir Up Sunday, which is about five weeks before Christmas to allow it to mature.

Most South Africans would recognise this traditional Victorian English dessert as the one you put your coins in – or the one you pour warm brandy over and then set alight before eating.

See also: We compared mince pies from Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, and Woolworths – and the loser nearly ruined Christmas

Christmas pudding is not be confused with the Christmas fruit cake, which uses similar ingredients, but is oven-baked and covered in white icing.  

Business Insider South Africa assembled a team of nine to do a blind taste-test of the most popular Christmas puddings you can buy at major retailers.

Photo Jay Caboz

Tasters were asked to score the puddings out of 10 in the following 5 categories: presentation, filling flavour, texture, aroma, and overall taste.

They had no idea where the puddings came from. The puddings were served according to the recommended heating instructions on their labels from the microwave. One of the puddings was alcohol free - our tasters were not told which one.  

Here are the highlights from our test of Christmas puddings:

Spar’s Christmas Fruit Pudding – alcohol free (400g) was so dry it might as well have been a fruit cake. 

Spar. Photo Jay Caboz
  • Will cost you R67.99 
  • Alcohol: 0%
  • Pudding weight: 400g
  • Average rating: 25.75/50

Our tasters found that Spar’s Christmas pudding was so dry some thought it could have been a fruitcake. They were left disappoint and uninspired.   

“Can only be saved with by a litre of custard, or brandy,” said one taster.

“It’s dry, but you can eat it,” said another in a wry reference to the Savannah dry adverts.

While tasters were told that one dessert on the table was alcohol free, they did not pick up that this was it. 

Checkers Limited Edition Festive Steamed Pudding (400g) – lacked the brandy factor 

Checkers. Photo Jay Caboz
  • Will cost you R79.99
  • Alcohol: 6% Brandy
  • Pudding weight: 400g
  • Total Average rating: 28.1/50

Checker’s pudding lacked the brandy flavour our tasters were looking for, despite it having 6% alcohol. The majority found the cake to be dry.

“Soooo dry! And where’s the damn brandy?” said one.

“Is this a Christmas pudding? Tastes like a dull fruit cake.”

Its saving grace was a light and airy texture, and one taster said it had a homemade feel to it.

Pick n Pay’s Brandy Christmas Pudding (900g) was well-balanced

Pick n Pay. Jay Caboz
  • Will cost you R169.99
  • Alcohol: 3% Brandy, 3% Orange Liqueur  
  • Pudding weight: 900g
  • Average rating: 35/50

Pick n Pay’s pudding was well liked with a balanced alcohol flavouring and crumbly texture. Some found the mixture to be favourably fruity with a citrus zest, except there were too many sultanas and raisins for their liking.

“Heavier brandy taste, maybe a bit too many sultanas. Very good,” responded one.

The winner by a fine hair was Woolworths’ Brandy Fruit Pudding (900g)

Woolworths. Photo Jay Caboz
  • Will cost you R179.99
  • Alcohol: 6% (doesn't say)
  • Pudding weight: 900g
  • Average rating: 39.60/50

It was a close call for the judges of this year’s test. Ultimately Woolworths came out strongest because of a moist filling, with more than one taster going back for seconds.

“Most yummy pudding of the lot. 9/10 – will eat this on Christmas again,” said one taster.

The pudding is serious about being rich and decadent as well as is stacked with loads of glacé cherries. As some of our tasters found out, it's not for the faint hearted. 

“Yoh, too rich! Pass the Rennies, needs more spices,” said one.

Now Read: We compared mince pies from Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, and Woolworths – and the loser nearly ruined Christmas

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