Put the dates, raisins, milk and brandy
or rum in a small saucepan and bring to
the boil. Simmer for 5 mins until the fruit
is soft and the liquid has been absorbed
– don’t worry if it looks a little curdled.
Leave to cool. Meanwhile, generously
butter a 1.2-litre pudding basin.
To prepare your steamer, place a
snugly fitting upturned bowl or saucer
in the base of a large, deep saucepan,
big enough to hold your pudding basin.
Cut out a large circle of baking parchment
and one of foil, both 5cm wider than
the rim of your pudding basin. Make a
sharp pleat down the centre of both,
then butter one side of the parchment –
this will be your lid. Set aside. Boil the
kettle for the steamer.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and
sugar with an electric whisk until pale
and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating again
until well combined. Finally, add the flour,
mixed spice, orange zest, date mixture
and a pinch of salt, and stir everything
well with a spatula until there are no
visible lumps of flour. Tip the cake
mixture into your pudding basin. Cover
the bowl with the parchment, butter-side
down and pleat on top, then the foil.
Push the sides of the lid down, then
tie a piece of string securely under
the lip of the basin. Use any overhanging
string to create a handle to help you
lift the pudding.
Stand the pudding basin on top of the
upturned bowl or saucer in the saucepan
and fill the pan with enough boiling water
to come halfway up the side of the basin.
Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover the
pan with a lid and leave to steam for
2½ hrs, topping up with boiling water if
the level gets low. Check the pudding is
cooked by inserting a skewer into the
centre. If the skewer has any uncooked
mixture on it, return it to the pan to steam
for another 15 mins, then check again.
Once cooked, you can cover the pudding
with clean baking parchment and foil and
keep for up to a week. Re-steam the
pudding for 1 hr before serving.