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i’m your sugar plum fairy

Recipe: sugar plums

As a child, I only knew of sugar plums through The Nutcracker and Twas the Night Before Christmas. Several years ago when I had a subscription to Saveur, I jotted down a recipe for sugar plums, mostly because I had never tasted one before. These sugar plums are confections, not the fruits that you can read about on Wikipedia. They are quite easy to make and tend to be a huge hit with people who either don’t care for chocolate or just enjoy the autumny spices and dried fruits. It’s a heady aroma that wafts through your house when you make a batch: orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, toasted almonds, honey.


almonds, dried dates, dried apricots



I have used Medjool dates in the past, but while shopping for dates this weekend, I saw Deglet dates and had to get them. They are not as juicy, not as mushy, not as sugary as Medjool, but I love Deglets. It dates (ha ha!) back to my time spent in Death Valley. We used to go there a lot to climb, hike, camp, and to catch spring desert blooms in March. They sell Deglets at Furnace Creek in large bags and I tried them over ten years ago and have been hooked ever since.

The almonds get toasted and chopped. Since I bought Deglets, they weren’t pitted, so be sure to pit your dates unless you don’t mind killing your food processor. The dates and apricots were also chopped. In a small bowl, I combined the spices with grated orange peel and some honey.


cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, orange peel, honey



Mix everything together in a large bowl. It’s sort of ludicrous to mix by spoon because it’s such a sticky mess. I use a clean hand to make sure the spice mix is well distributed.

you need to mix it with your hand



To roll the sugar plums, pinch off about a teaspoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Your hands will become coated with gooey goodness after a while and soon all of the ingredients will stick to you rather than each other. Scrape as much off as possible and wash your hands periodically.

a delicious bite-size morsel



Dust the sugar plums with confectioners sugar before serving. They have a decent lifetime, and are perfect for the holidays. I’m sending some to my pal, Sam, for Thanksgiving.

great to serve or to ship



Sugar Plums
[print recipe]
from Saveur Magazine

2 cups whole almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 tsps grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for ten minutes. Set aside to cool and then finely chop. Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Mix almonds, apricots, dates and spice mix in a large bowl. Mix well. Pinch off rounded teaspoon-sized pieces and roll into balls. Dust the sugar plums with powdered sugar and refrigerate in single layers between sheets of wax paper in airtight containers for up to one month.

50 nibbles at “i’m your sugar plum fairy”

  1. kate says:

    Hello these , stumbled onto your blog and i simply love these sugar plums. I ‘ve tried something similar to this but with saffron and never with cinnamon , honey and orange zest. I can almost smell these and am too tempted to try them. And the packing too looks amazing.

  2. holybasil says:

    Jen, is Kaweah taking the photos of you pouring the honey and rolling the sugar plums ? :)

    I love all these ingredients, they take me to a caravan in Morocco. Now it’s this recipe or your candied orange peels for my holiday gift-giving…what to do, what to do…

  3. Amy says:

    I made something similar to these last weekend. I used chopped dates, macadamia nuts, and honey mixed together. I then formed them into balls and rolled them in coconut flakes. But I have to say that I love the idea of adding the orange zest and spices. These are definitely on my to do list this weekend!!

  4. peabody says:

    Ya know, I have never had a sugar plum…never had any idea what they were either. I think I am going to make these…thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Kevin says:

    I have never had a sugar plum. They look great! Nice photos. Bookmarked

  6. Abby says:

    I’ve never even *seen* one, much less eaten one, but now that I have I’m intrigued. They’re so cute, and I love to make candy.

  7. jenyu says:

    Kate – thanks! I think you’ll find these pleasantly delicious and healthy (!!). A keeper of a recipe.

    HolyBasil – ha ha, I don’t think Kaweah can be trusted around my camera ;) That’s why my tripod is important – takes the action shots while keeping the lens above dog-nose level. As for holiday gift-giving, let me just say that these are ten times easier to make than the orange peels (I just made a batch of the orange peels today and that involved a lot of swearing). But people love chocolate-dipped candied orange peels too :)

    Amy – oh, that sounds like a neat recipe! I think you’ll find this one pretty easy on the tastebuds.

    Peabody – these struck me as Peabody-type ingredients ;) I almost brought these to your housewarming party!

    Kevin – thanks man, I bet you’ll enjoy eating them as well as making them.

    Abby – funny how most of us had never seen a sugar plum before. I finally saw a pic on wikipedia, but I think the name is fitting for these morsels too.

  8. geekcookbook.com – Sugar Plums says:

    [...] Mainly so I don’t lose it, here’s a recipe for sugar plums. [...]

  9. MissGinsu says:

    A very nice visual step-by-step presentation!

    I do my sugarplums with figs, cinnamon, almonds and a pinch of cocoa powder, but I’d love to try the apricot-honey date preparation.

    Your version reminds me of some of the really delicious and nutty Turkish Delight candies my boyfriend brought back from Istanbul. I wonder if Sugarplums were originally inspired by Turkish Delight?

  10. jenyu says:

    MG – I think there are several versions floating about out there and they all sound lovely! You know, I sampled a Turkish jelly (it’s Turkish Delight, but the chocolatier’s own recipe) that was just heavenly… it was only jelly, no nuts, but pure bliss. Oh, it was from Wen Chocolates in Denver. Best stuff EVER! :)

  11. laura says:

    When I was a kid my neighbors made sugar plums.
    Reading the recipes now, it seems they may have just called them sugar plums for the shape of them.
    Has anyone heard of any recipes that would be for a frosting like ball called a sugarplum?
    I remember they were on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator and they were like a cold butter frosting cookie.

  12. jenyu says:

    Laura – I think you’re right about naming them for the shape. A few other recipes I’ve seen vary the ingredients but the shape is always the same. I haven’t heard of the frosting cookie version though.

  13. breandan says:

    There actually is a real sugar plum. They are about the size of a very large grape, and they don’t have the bitter skin like other plums do, hence the name sugar plum. They are very rare and expensive. That is why the victorians made a confection and named it a sugar plum. I’ve only seen the chocolate versions of this, so I’m very eager to try yours. It does seem very Turkish. Since vitorians were enamored of exotic foods this seems about right. Thank you for letting me put my two cents in. I love history and knowing where things come from. I’ll bet you couldn’t tell ;)

  14. Sugarplums! Really! | All Things Metal Clay says:

    [...] Read the recipe and see more pictures here. [...]

  15. jenyu says:

    Breandan – You are correct! I have actually seen them in markets before and have heard they are delicious, but I’ve never had the pleasure of trying one myself. I too have heard that there are some Turkish sweets that are similar to this recipe. I think Turkish confections are amazing and delicious, so I’m not surprised. Thanks for the tidbits of info!!

  16. Sevina says:

    Thanks for the step by step instructions and great photos! These look exactly like the ones my daughter made this summer when she was volunteering as a costumed character at a historic re-enactment village near us. Half of the prairie school girls made sugar plums while the other half worked on making homemade ice cream. Both were delicious, but I think the sugar plums were truly magical, like taking a bite of Christmas! We’re going to make some from your recipe and pass them out to friends over the holidays. Thanks again!

  17. jenyu says:

    Sevina – oh, that’s great. I am happy you like them. It’s a great treat that is pretty healthy too. I hope all of your friends appreciate how nice you are to them :)

  18. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies « Nostalgichome’s Blog says:

    [...] For those interested in drying their own plums, check it out here. I also found an interesting discussion about a dried fruit and nut version, inspired by Turkish candies. Given that The Nutcracker has an [...]

  19. Alexsandra says:

    First I want to gush, I mean say, what a great (new) fan I am of your site Jenny, thank you! You are bright, talented and down right awesometastic! These sugarplums are going into my holiday gifts post haste – keep your spirits up around the orange peels and think of all the moments of sinful pleasure your recipients will have at first bite – you are my new daily vacation, thank you.

  20. jenyu says:

    Alexsandra – you’re so sweet. Thanks. I hope you like this recipe, they are some of my favorites.

  21. Tammy says:

    These are wonderful!

  22. Y says:

    They look fantastic – the perfect gift, as it’s healthy, gluten-free.. Bookmarked! :)

  23. The Real Deal on Sugar Plums says:

    [...] recipe from Saveur Magazine.  I also include a link to more detailed instructions and pictures at UseRealButter.com.   This looks like a great treat to keep in the house for unexpected guests and also to give as [...]

  24. Lisanne says:

    I’m totally going to make these to take to our children’s preschool Santa visit party next week! THANK YOU!

  25. The Stories Behind Forgotten Holiday Treats | Food & Think says:

    [...] plums are a type of Christmas sweet. (They’re also a specific type of small, sweet plum.) Use Real Butter has a recipe for sugar plums that calls for toasted almonds, dried apricots, honey and plenty of [...]

  26. Kate says:

    Thanks for the recipe! Just saw The Nutcracker and many with me did not know that Sugar Plums are a treat! Will make these tomorrow to share on Christmas Day.

  27. 50 Homemade or Highly-Affordable Gifts for Christmas on a Budget says:

    [...] very real and very delicious. A box of these dandy treats makes for a fine Christmas gift. Follow these simple instructions on how to make them, and go make someone happy with your [...]

  28. Christy Martin says:

    These sound delicious. I plan on making these for Christmas this year. Will add some edible glitter to the dusting of powdered sugar for a little extra holiday magic.

  29. Bobbi says:

    Approximately how many “plums” does this recipe make?

  30. jenyu says:

    Bobbi – I haven’t made these yet this season. I think you can get approximately 2-3 dozen out of a recipe? I usually double the recipe because these are so popular with folks.

  31. becky says:

    these were a hit back stage at last night’s nutcracker performance.

  32. Rob in Seattle says:

    Just made these and they’re brilliant! Thanks for the killer recipe. They’re very European / Mediterranean tasting.

  33. Patti says:

    I just found this recipe online and made them one night at 10:30 p.m. — too awake to go to bed. They are so simple to make and such a treat to eat. Kinda refreshing flavor. I love telling people I made Sugar Plum like in the Christmas poem. Nobody seems to know what they are.

  34. Seasonal Traditions « Not Dabbling In Normal says:

    [...] this year I’ve tried to incorporate our crafts into her lesson plan. We’ve made Sugar Plums while discussing the Nutcracker Suite and “The Night Before Christmas”, learned songs [...]

  35. Carrie says:

    I just made these today, for Christmas next week. They taste fabulous! My theme this year for the desserts was ‘vintage’ and my table wouldn’t be complete without sugar plums. They just have an old fashioned taste to them, it is great. I used a food processor to make easy work of the chopping, and if you roll the balls with slightly moist hands, it won’t build up, and you get a nice compact ball every time. Thanks for this great recipe!

  36. Angie says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I just made a half-batch because I wasn’t sure how they would go over. I made them small so a person could just pop one in their mouth, and I got 30 sugar plums from this half-batch. I’m planning to bring them to my daughters school xmas party. Every year my own kids always ask, ‘What are sugar plums?’ after reading The Night Before Christmas. And I just told them it was a kind of candy. Now, they’ll know! I think my son will like them as he loves dates, but I’m not sure about my girls. I like them and they remind me of the filling my grandma makes for her delicious pinwheel cookies.

  37. Amy says:

    These were delicious and beautiful.

  38. laura says:

    I made these for my kids and grandkids and they were a big hit, Tho I did use splendia in place of the powder sugar as 4 kids and or grandkids have diebeties, it still worked out great, I will making these for my daughters brownie troop

  39. Alicia says:

    Does it matter if you don’t wait a month but yet do it the night before you decide to have them for Christmas dinner?

  40. Alicia says:

    Hello I am making them right now and they’ll taste good because i all ready know it ;)

  41. Alicia says:

    I’m sorry my little girl just added the second comment after she tried them. :) Thanks for the recipe we love it!!

  42. Dayton says:

    [...] (poor) humor and things that are totally irrelevant if i didnt add a good recipe for sugarplums sugar plums recipe | use real butter Merry Christmas Marcus D. Reply With Quote + Reply to Thread « [...]

  43. laqueinta says:

    my boyfriend never hd sugar plums but when i make them he will love them… thanks for the recipe we will use often

  44. Bonnie says:

    My daughter is dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker this year, so I just HAVE to make these.
    They should be a big hit at our “Land of the Sweets” concession!

  45. karen says:

    These look great and I plan to make them. My mom would love them, but she can’t have nuts. Any similar alternatives?

  46. jenyu says:

    karen – wow, that’s a tough one. I don’t really know what would be a proper substitute for the almonds since they make up 50% of the recipe. I mean, you could try crushed pretzels or rice crispies cereal or perhaps some kind of hard cookie crumbled up?

  47. karen says:

    Thanks for the tips. I also thought of using granola. I made them as is and everyone loves them at work.

  48. GINNY says:

    I WILL MAKE THESE TREATS FOR US

  49. Aurora says:

    I substituted 1 1/2 cup of almonds and 1/2 cup of macadamia nut, and I added dries plums. It turned out really well. Thanks for the recipe my family loved it.

  50. Sweet Traditions for the Holidays | Teatime Romance says:

    [...] spices. I found that intriguing and found this fabulous recipe originally from Saveur Magazine: http://userealbutter.com/2007/11/18/sugar-plums-recipe/.  I made these and rolled them in turbinado sugar instead of powdered sugar. Make them small, they [...]

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