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Sparkly Sugar Plums for Christmas

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What is a Sugar Plum?

You have probably heard ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas several hundred times, but if you are like me, you may not have stopped to find out just what a sugar plum is after hearing the sugar plum verse:

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

I always assumed that sugar plums referred to sugared and baked plums.  Even the sugar plum fairy from The Nutcracker didn’t give me a clue as to what to expect from sugar plums.

When I began my search to answer “What is a sugar plum,” I found two excellent sugar plum recipes, one from Nourished Kitchen and another from Running to the Kitchen (inspired by Alton Brown’s recipe); both treat a sugar plum as a a no-bake dessert made with dried fruit (including prunes, dried plums), nuts, honey, and spices, and rolled in sugar.  These glittery sugar plums are my take on these two recipes.

Only after I created my sugar plum recipe did I discover the truth about sugar plums – traditional sugar plums have nothing at all to do with plums!  For the full story, I highly encourage you to read an article in The Atlantic entitled Sugar Plums: They Are Not What You Think They Are by Samira Kawash, author of Candy Professor.

I was saddened to discover that my sugar plums are not quite authentic. However, Kawash’s article in The Atlantic states that “plum doesn’t just mean fruit; it can mean all manner of good things.”  By that definition, my recipe certainly fits the bill.

What Do My Sugar Plums Taste Like?


I made my sugar plums with a few of my favorite things – toasted walnuts, dried fruit, honey, and lots of spices.  They could be called healthy – before you roll them in sugar.  The sugar plums taste more like energy bars than cookies, which is actually a good thing around Christmas time when we are bombarded with sweet after sweet.

Sugar Plum Recipe

As noted above, my recipe is a meld of recipes from Nourished Kitchen and Running to the Kitchen (inspired by Alton Brown’s recipe).  You’ll notice that the recipe uses coriander.  It’s an unusual spice in modern day desserts, but if you read The Atlantic article that I referenced above, you’ll see that the original sugar plum was a coriander candy.
Although completely non-traditional, I rolled my sugar plums in plum-colored disco dust (edible glitter).  It helps them garner the special place that they deserve on the holiday table.

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Sparkly Sugar Plums for Christmas


  • 2 cups toasted walnuts chopped
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 cup pitted prunes finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots finely chopped
  • 1/2 cut pitted dates finely chopped
  • powdered sugar for rolling coating the balls
  • plum purple disco dust I got mine from Layer Cake Shop


  1. Mix all ingredients except the sugar and disco dust together in a large bowl. Optionally, place the whole mixture in the food processor and process for a few seconds - this will help everything to stick together, especially if you aren't the best at finely chopping. (I'm raising my hand high on this one.)
  2. Form the mixture into teaspoon-sized balls.
  3. Roll the balls in powdered sugar and then roll in disco dust. Note: If you let the balls sit overnight, the powdered sugar will absorb into the balls and will be less visible.


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11 comments on “Sparkly Sugar Plums for Christmas”

  1. I NEVER knew what sugar plums actually were until reading this! So interesting!!

  2. Agossays:

    Lol, I thought sugar plums were just a kind of plum :P Anyway, these sound good!

  3. I have always been interested by sugar plums. I don’t even think I’ve had one. They sound wonderful and easy to make :)

  4. I made and just posted this on my blog. They are such a great treat. It would mean a lot if you’d come take a look: Thanks for a great recipe :)

  5. Great post! Like your other readers, I always thought sugar plums were literal! English can be a sneaky little thing, right? I was wondering what would happen if you poured some melting chocolate on these and popped them in the oven for about half an hour ; I did that and they were beyond delicious. Thanks for the recipe, the ingredients really complement each other.

  6. Hanasays:

    These look great! If i were to make these for gifts for a christmas hamper (placed in little boxes or tied in some cellophane), how long would you advise they could keep for? Hx

  7. ArgotMaysays:

    I researched this ‘edible’ glitter for a long time today. The only reason it is called edible is that it (supposedly), all just passes through the body. The glitter is made of PLASTIC.

    • Stefsays:

      I wouldn’t want to eat tons of it, but I feel OK eating a little. My understanding is that it comes right out of you.. you may have sparkly poop.

      • Raesays:

        We just don’t deliberately eat plastic, or feed it to others. Technically, it’s purposely adulterating food with an inedible product.

        There’s no reason that a baker would know exactly what happens when a person eats tiny, sharp flecks of plastic that then moves thru the human body.

        Disco dust is plastic craft glitter meant to be used ONLY on items that will be removed before eating.

        To keep something edible, edible glitter should be used. It’s made from gum arabic, sanding sugar, or gelatin.

  8. macmsuesays:

    Have just looked up “Disco Dust” and everything seems to say it shouldn’t be eaten, just used as decoration.

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