My answer: A sugarplum is indeed a real sweet treat dating back to the 1600s. It’s a piece of candy that is made of dried fruits and hand-molded into a small round or oval shape. “Plum” in the confections’ name means any dried fruit whether it’s dried plums, dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates, dried cherries, etc. Traditional sugarplums however may not contain any of the above mentioned dried fruits. Some recipes for making sugarplums consist of finely chopped almonds that are pressed together with honey and spices such as anise, fennel, caraway and/or cardamom. This mixture is rolled into balls and coated with sugar or shredded coconut.
Making sugarplums was a tedious process until the 1860s when manufactures started using steam heat and other mechanisms to streamline the process, at which time, sugarplums became available for mass consumption. Today, some candy manufacturers have taken “sugar plum” literally, creating plum-flavored, plum-shaped candies that are marketed as “sugar plum candy.”