How to Flame a Christmas Pudding

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Brandy burns blue, so it's difficult to see in an abundance of light.
Brandy burns blue, so it's difficult to see in an abundance of light. (Image: Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images)

Few occasions call for a flambe dessert as much as Christmas, and the British have it covered. A steamed confection not unlike fruitcake in its abundance of fruits, nuts and spices, Christmas pudding has the holiday spirit -- and spirits -- in their full glory. Not only does it macerate overnight with rum, stout and barley wine, it's traditionally served with flaming brandy. Flambed desserts are perfectly safe when executed properly. Light the fumes, not the alcohol, place a suitably sized pot close by to upend and snuff an aggressive flame and keep the flames away from anything flammable.

Things You'll Need

  • Wide-rimmed serving plate
  • 80-proof brandy
  • Long-handled ladle
  • Safety lighter or long matches
  • Large pot

Turn the finished pudding out onto a wide-rimmed serving plate. Set the plate on the table you'll serve the pudding. Lighting the pudding at the table gives your guests about 15 to 20 seconds to view the flames before they subside and saves you from walking across the room, flambe in hand.

Heat about 3 tablespoons of 80-proof brandy in a deep saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges, about 45 seconds. Ladle out the heated brandy using a long-handled ladle. If you have a gas stove, you can heat the brandy in the ladle, holding it a few inches above the flame.

Hold the ladle of warm brandy just above the pudding and tilt it slightly, just enough to make the brandy easier to light without spilling any. Have a helper ignite the brandy fumes using a safety lighter or long match.

Pour the flaming brandy over the top and sides of the pudding. Let the flame extinguish itself before serving.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't let the brandy come to a boil. Boiling cooks off the alcohol, and the brandy won't ignite.
  • If you aren't confident in carrying the flaming pudding, flambe it in place at the table.
  • Don't relight the brandy, even if you don't see it. Start the flambe over with new brandy to prevent from overheating it.
  • Set the bottle of brandy away from the stove and where you'll ignite it.
  • Light the brandy away from anything flammable.
  • Don't wear long, hanging sleeves when flambeing.
  • Keep your face away from the brandy when lighting it.

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