Samoan Puligi (steamed pudding)

Puligi - steamed pudding dressed in piping hot custard - is a classic Samoan dessert for Cup Teas and New Years Eve (at least in my family). My mother got this beautiful recipe from a good family friend. Most Samoans make this with powdered custard, but I love the custard made-from-scratch - recipe included. 

Course Cup Tea
Cuisine Samoan
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Author Lils



  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose/plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 340 grams butter about 1 1/2 cups
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 250g can of coconut cream
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar total


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups full cream milk



  1. Prepare your pot(s). 

    If you don't already have fancy pudding steaming equipment, you'll need two pots - one to contain the pudding batter, a larger one to steam it in (the steam bath?)

    I made this puligi in a tin pot from an old rice cooker, but you can use any other similar sized, suitable baking dish (my mom uses bundt pans). Just make sure it's fairly deep but will still fit comfortably into the steaming pot (yes, that's what I'm calling the larger pot now).

  2. Grease your tin well. I lined the bottom of mine with baking paper, but found that it really wasn't necessary. The pudding would have popped out easily without it, I'm sure.
  3. A shallow cooling rack goes into the bottom of the steaming pot; your pudding tin will sit on this.
  4. Before heating, pour just enough water in the larger pot to to cover the cooling rack (so the water level will come up just to the bottom of the pudding tin). You'll need to top up this water several times as it evaporates during cooking.
  5. Burning the sugar. 

    Put 1 cup of sugar in a heavy skillet or frying pan. Heat it on high, stirring often, till the sugar melts, turns brown and starts to get really frothy. Stir in your cup of water at this point, but expect a bit of hot sputtering.

  6. Once the water is incorporated, add the can of coconut cream and enjoy the swirly white in caramel as you mix it all in. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool.
  7. The pudding part.

    Sift the flour with the baking soda, salt and the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) into a large bowl then whisk well.

  8. In another bowl, partially melt the butter (it should be very soft, but not too runny) then mix in the other cup of sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the burnt sugar/coconut cream mixture.
  9. Fold the dry ingredients in and mix well, but just until you get all the lumps out, then pour the batter into your greased tin. Cover it well with aluminium foil, then place it in the prepared steaming pot.
  10. Put the lid on the steaming pot and bring it to boil. Let it boil, adding more water as necessary, for 1 to 2 hours (mine took about an hour and 45 mins). Use a long skewer, inserted all the way to the bottom of the pudding, to check that it's done - it should come out clean.


  1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch until light and fluffy.
  2. In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the milk to boiling (frothing up) point, stirring often, then pour it slowly into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously the whole time.
  3. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and heat it again but only gently (to a medium-low setting). Keep stirring till the custard thickens slightly.
  4. I usually taste it at this point, to make sure it's sweet enough, and add more caster sugar as necessary.
  5. For an extra creamy custard (optional!) I might add a drop of full cream as well.
  6. The custard is done when it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, although some people prefer it thicker. You'll figure out what works for you.