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December 20, 2018


by Anne Paddock

When I was young and first saw The Nutcracker, I was fascinated with the Sugar Plum Fairy who ruled over the Land of Sweets. I remember thinking she had the best job in the world (what could be better than ruling over a Candyland?). Forget about the Prince and Clara, I wanted the Sugar Plum Fairy’s job (until I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then I wanted Willy Wonka’s job but that’s another story).

Although I wasn’t a fan of sugarplums when I was a child (they reminded me of fruitcake), I grew to appreciate how sweet, delicate, and delicious a home-made sugarplum is, especially when I made them myself with the top quality ingredients.

The following recipe is a variation of a recipe from Handmade Gatherings:  Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations and Potluck Parties by Ashley English.  My version calls for more orange zest, less pepper, and the option to use dates instead of figs (equally delicious).

The sugarplums are made from a mixture of nuts (black walnuts), dried fruits (figs or dates, apricots, and prunes), spices, orange zest, and Cointreau, an orange liquor (or orange juice).  Don’t omit the fresh rosemary (and don’t used dried) because the combination of fresh rosemary and orange (the zest and the Cointreau or the juice) along with the spices give these treats so much flavor – both savory and sweet. And, do roll these treats in sugar. Normally sugar-adverse, I realized the sugarplums don’t really become sugarplums until they are rolled in sugar, which makes these morsels glisten.

Super easy to make in a food processor, sugarplums are the ultimate holiday dessert.

Sugarplums (makes about 30 sugarplums)


  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (I use black walnuts)
  • 6 ounces dried organic apricots, chopped
  • 6 ounces dried organic Smyrna figs (stem removed), chopped or Medjool dates, chopped
  • 6 ounces organic prunes, chopped
  • zest of 2 navel oranges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped very fine
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Cointreau (an orange liquor) or orange juice
  • Granulated organic sugar (for rolling the sugarplums in)


Toast the chopped walnuts at 250 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a food processor, combine the walnuts, figs, apricots, prunes, orange zest, fresh rosemary, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, salt, and Cointreau.

Start by pulsing the ingredients about 20 times and then wipe down the sides. Do this several times. Then turn the machine on for about 2 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir the ingredients. The ingredients should be blended well and the consistency will be very sticky (this is good!).

Place a medium-sized Tupperware or plastic container on the counter top. Cut parchment paper pieces (2-3) to fit the interior of the container. Place one piece in the bottom of the container.

Cove the bottom of a dinner plate with granulated sugar.

Wet your hands and just pat them gently but don’t dry them completely.

Using your hands, roll the batter (it will be sticky but having damp hands helps keep the dough off your hands) into 1-inch balls and then roll the sugarplums in the sugar on the plate. Place the sugarplums on the parchment paper in the container. Repeat until you use all the batter but rewet and pat dry your hands after making every 5-6 sugarplums.  Once a layer is full, place another piece of parchment paper on top of the first row and fill with more sugarplums.

Serve immediately or store the sugarplums in the airtight container in the refrigerator and take out an hour before serving.

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