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The Sweet History of Sugar Plums: A Festive Treat Full of Whimsical Memories

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Sugar plums, associated with “Twas the Night before Christmas” and the Nutcracker Suite, are a traditional Victorian sweet, which initially started as a candy-coated confit, much like what you would enjoy at Italian weddings.  There were no plums in the original dish, but over time it evolved to include dried currants or raisins which were referred to as  “plums”.  Real plums, steeped in cane syrup began to emerge in the 17th century.

There is no baking or cooking involved and are a healthy snack. Imagine that at Christmas!

I’d bet candy canes and gingerbread cookies that you envision little Tom Nutcracker dancing about and Clara dreaming in her bay window seat when you hear the term “sugar plums.” I know I do! These enchanting bonbons elicit such cozy Christmas imagery for me. Did you know that sugar plums trace all the way back to Medieval Europe – talk about a blast from history’s past!

As a baker who loves diving into aptly-timed seasonal treats, I became totally engrossed in investigating the origins of dainty sugar plums. I had no idea they started as hard little caraway seed confetti. Can you imagine how painstaking creating tray after tray of those delicate sugar-shelled tidbits would be? What dedication from those early candy artisans! When dried fruits entered the candy mix, I picture some clever English baker whimsically nicknaming them “plums” to market their novelty.

My favorite discovery was that Tchaikovsky’s scrumptious ballet wasn’t solely responsible for shooting sugar plums to fame. Long before little Clara met her Nutcracker prince, the tantalizing notion of candies dancing in children’s heads already filled Christmas stories thanks to Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” poem. Let’s be honest, the sheer charm and fantasy would spark any child’s imagination! I still get giddy imagining those sugary jewels gracefully waltzing at the strike of midnight on Christmas Eve.

The best part? Whipping up sugar plums today is so easy and healthy. Simply mix your favorite fillings, shape bite-sized centers, then roll them in sugar.
I’ll be crafting festive sugar plums this year and coating them in sparkling white sugar in honor of their rich history. They might not send me twirling across any frozen lakes, but I’ll treasure my own sugar plum memories as their sweetness fills me with the magic of Christmas.


Easy and Nutritious Sugar Plums

These traditonal Christmas treats are easy to make with no baking or cooking. It is a perfect treat to have for health-conscious guests who shun highly processed foods.
Course Afternoon Tea, Dessert
Cuisine Edwardian, Victorian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 24 pieces
Calories 68kcal


  • 1 cookie scoop


  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans
  • 1 medium orange zested
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 cup dates pitted, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup apricots dried, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup prunes pitted, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. honey (if required to hold your paste together)
  • For finishing:  white or brown sugar


  • Mash the nuts with the spices and fruits. Daisy would have likely used a food mill, but we have modern food processors to do the job.  Combine all ingredients except the finishing sugar and process until a paste forms. If your dried fruit is really dry (my prunes lost some their moisture) add a little bit of honey to help bond. Empty the contents into a mixing bowl.
  • Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture.  If you have a small tablespoon cookie scoop that is your best option to keep the balls uniform in size.  Squish and roll the paste to form a solid ball between the palms of your hands.  it is like making meatballs.
  • Place the sugar coating in a shallow pan and place the sugar plums in and roll around, gently pressing if needed to get a nice coating.
  • Plate and serve with a nice pot of tea or Christmas beverage.  The sugar plums will keep quite nicely over the holidays.


Serving: 10g | Calories: 68kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 132mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 141IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 0.3mg

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