Plum Duff - Oak Apple Day

Following the Puritans abolition of festivities such as May Day, in 1660 Parliament declared that this would be a day of national thanksgiving and Oak Apple Day became linked to many of the old customs such as gathering hawthorn blossom at dawn and Morris dancing. In Victorian times sprigs of oak were hung in churches and even in railway carriages. The Royalist symbol of a sprig of oak was worn as a token and children would challenge each other to reveal this token. If you were found not to be wearing it you would be pinched or stung with nettles. This apparently derives from Charles II having to be pinched to stay awake and so not fall out of the tree where he was hiding. Not surprisingly this day also became known as ‘Pinch-Bum Day’. In other parts of England this day was called Shick-Shack Day after the local name of the oak apple.

At the Charles II Royal Hospital in Chelsea beer and plum duff are traditionally served.

Ingredients - serves 6 to 8

4oz (100g) fresh breadcrumbs 4oz (100g) mixed dried fruit
4oz (100g) plain flour, sifted Generous teaspoon baking powder
4oz (100g) suet* 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
4oz (100g) brown sugar Milk, to mix

* It is better to buy suet from the butchers. Remove the membranes and grate coarsely then toss in 2oz (50g) of the sifted flour.


  1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add enough milk to make a stiff dough.
  3. Sprinkle a clean pudding cloth or tea towel with flour.
  4. Shape the dough into a thick roll.
  5. Place diagonally on the cloth and roll it up leaving a pleat at each end to allow the mixture to expand.
  6. Tie the cloth like a parcel with string.
  7. Bring a large pan of water to the boil then place the pudding into the water. Cover and boil for 1½ hours adding more boiling water as necessary.
  8. Lift carefully from the boiling water, cut the string and turn out onto a serving plate.
  9. To serve, pour over a little warmed golden syrup and serve with custard or cream.


Mixed dried fruit