Plum Duff is a type of boiled pudding involving dried fruit. Despite the inclusion of the name ‘plum’, the pudding contains no actual plums due to the pre-Victorian use of the word ‘plums’ as a term for raisins and other dried fruits. ‘Duff’ is a Northern Britain dialect word for ‘dough’. Suet, citron and spices are always part of the recipe. Contrary to what you might see on the internet, a Plum Duff isn’t quite the same thing as a Christmas plum pudding.
The plum duff became popular around 1830, as sugar became more available in the marketplace. Because plum duff is a boiled pudding, you didn’t need an oven. Make a jug of custard, and you were right as rain. This might explain the popularity of the Spotted Dick pudding. The main difference between these pudding are the spices, the duff is richer and spicier version of the dick.
Like the plum duff, the Spotted Dick’s name is a misnomer. ‘Dick’ in this case is another word for ‘dough’, same as ‘duff’. The spots are caused by the dried fruit like currants or raisins. Again, the pudding is made with suet and boiled, and is usually served with custard. A recipe for spotted dick is first described in Alexis Soyer’s The modern Housewife or ménagère, published in 1849. It has the alternate names of plum bolster and spotted dog. When you think about the spots on a Dalmatian, spotted dog makes a lot of sense, but doesn’t have the double entendre fun factor.