Spotted dick is a baked pudding with primary ingredients of flour, currants, golden sugar, rum, and suet. Suet is traditionally made from raw beef fat, though vegetarians may take heart since suet can also be made from a combination of vegetable fats. Most often, however, suet in this dish is of the non-vegetarian variety. Most recipes for this dessert have sweet spices added, like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Spotted dick tends to be either rounded or oblong resembling either a plum pudding or a small loaf of bread. The exterior layer is often described as translucent or gelatinous. The pudding is almost always served in slices and may be accompanied by either a hard sauce, made up of butter, powdered sugar and rum or brandy, or a vanilla custard poured over the whole pudding prior to serving.
Like most baked puddings, spotted dick is normally baked in a tin, which is surrounded by a water bath. The result is a very moist, and has a breadlike or cakey consistency. In most cases, the pudding is not presented as plum pudding is, by being briefly set on fire to eliminate its alcoholic content and to add a breathtaking finish to its presentation.
Spotted dick may have been a popular dessert items on ships; in fact, it may have been one of the only dessert items offered on ships with tiny kitchens prior to the invention of steam and gasoline powered engines. It is mentioned in the historical fiction Patrick O’Brien novels that concern Captain Jack Aubrey, a ship’s commander during the early 19th century.
Some concern about the name of spotted dick has been expressed because of the use of the term as a curse word. In some places one may see it offered as spotted Richard or spotted dog.
In fact, in the 1990s, several hospitals in Britain decided to change the name of spotted dick to spotted Richard so patients would not be embarrassed in ordering the pudding. However, the name was changed back in 2002, since few seemed to be embarrassed by using the original name, and often didn’t recognize what spotted Richard might be.