Traditional Christmas Cake



As it is time to start thinking about what you have in your store cupboards in preparation for making a Christmas cake, here by popular demand, here is my traditional British Christmas cake recipe reposted from last year for those of you who missed it and the many of you who have contacted me asking me to post it again…..
There are no hard and fast rules when making a ‘traditional’ British Christmas cake, some use treacle, others syrup, some dark soft brown sugar and others light, some add ground almonds or walnuts and some use glacé cherries and candied peel.
I prefer a lighter fruitier, less sweet cake, so I do not include syrup or treacle, or glacé cherries or candy peel, and as my daughter is allergic to almonds I leave them out also, and only put marzipan on the top of the cake, so it is easier for her to avoid.
I do however, play about with the fruit varieties, and over time have arrived at what is the perfect cake for me and my family, with the inclusion of ‘blond’ raisons, dates and cranberries to give it a lighter, festive flavour.
But as long as you keep to the amounts, you can use whatever dried fruits you like and reduce the butter a little (25g) if adding treacle or syrup.

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Polar Bears are Christmassy right!

When it comes to decorating, you are only limited by your own imagination… I only ice the top of my cake, as I do not like too much sugary icing, and as I only put marzipan on the top, the icing becomes discoloured with the moisture from the cake seeping through if you put it direct on the cake…..

If you are thinking of making a Christmas cake this year – then make it no later than three weeks before to allow it to ‘mature’ and maybe save it for New Year!

Don’t be put off by the size of this post, all is done in different stages and the end result and sense of satisfaction is well worth the effort………….

Ingredients For the cake

750g of mixed dried fruit (raisins, ‘blond’ raisons, sultanas, currents as you prefer)

150 g of additional dried fruit (glacé cherries, cranberries, dates, candied peel – again as you prefer)

100g of chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds – again as you prefer)

The zest and juice of one orange and one lemon

2 tablespoons of brandy (plus extra for ‘feeding’ – port, sherry, rum or whiskey can also be used)

250g softened butter

250g soft brown sugar (or ‘dark’ soft brown sugar)

4 large free range eggs (beaten)

150g sieved plain flour

75g ground almonds (or 225g sieved plain flour)

2 teaspoons of ground mixed spice (allspice)

1 tablespoon of treacle (optional)

Baking paper/greaseproof paper, brown paper and string

For the icing

1 tablespoon of warm apricot jam

1 pack of ‘Royal’ icing

1 pack of marzipan/almond paste

Cake decorations or food colouring to make your own

Method Preparing the fruit.

Mix all the dried fruit, nuts and orange and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl with the orange and lemon juice and the brandy, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 24 hours

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Preparing the tin It is really important to prepare the cake tin properly to avoid the cake drying out to much while cooking.

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Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a loose bottom cake tin with butter, and line with baking or greaseproof paper

Lightly grease the paper and line with a second layer, then lightly grease again before adding the cake mixture.

Wrap a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin, reaching 2inches/5 cm higher than the tin, and secure tightly with string.

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The mixture and putting it all together

Sieve the flour with the allspice and add the ground almonds if using, mixing well

Cream the softened butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy (an electric whisk will make this job much easier)

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Add the eggs a tablespoon as a time, followed by a dessertspoon of flour after to prevent the eggs from curdling

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Stir in the soaked fruits along with any liquid, then add the remaining flour and ground almonds

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Spoon the mixture in to the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon, making a slight ‘dip’ in the centre and patting the mixture with dampened fingertips to prevent it from drying out too much during cooking.

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Cook in a preheated oven at 160 degrees/ gas mark 3 for 2hrs

If the top begins to brown too much at this stage, cover the top with tin foil

Reduce heat to 140 degrees/ gas mark 1 for a further 1hr 45mns

Insert a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean then it is done

Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack then wrap in aluminium foil and then in a clean tea towel and store in an airtight container until ready to ice

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Feeding the cake

After a week, unwrap the cake and make some small holes with a fine skewer and ‘feed’ it with a teaspoon of brandy, allow to soak in then recover and return to the container Do this every week, turning the cake upside down each time before ‘feeding’ it (as mentioned, brandy can be replaced by sherry or port, or Rum or whiskey if you prefer!)

The final touches – the ‘fun’ part Icing and decorating the cake

At the last moment (preferably Christmas Eve) is the time to let your imagination and creativity run wild. Your cake can be a simple or extravagant, classic or quirky as you want. You can make your own decorations or buy them ready made. You can ice just the top as I, or the sides also. The important thing is to cover the cake with a half inch/1cm layer of marzipan/almond paste before the icing

Roll out the marzipan to ½ 1cm thickness and cut just larger than the top (and sides) of the cake

Warm the apricot jam and spread over the top (and sides) of the cake before covering it with the marzipan

Press the marzipan into position using a rolling pin, then cover with the icing, also pressing into place with a rolling pin, giving you a smooth flat surface which to decorate………

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One I made last year!

Finish by wrapping a ribbon around the cake and fixing it with a little icing sugar paste.

Have fun!


One my very talented friend Jayne made last year!


20 thoughts on “Traditional Christmas Cake

  1. Jacqui says:

    Lovely…i never make many without a bottle of Guiness, or Mackesons for a beautiful moist dark fruit cake…and i still feed with whiskey too!! X

  2. lindaravello says:

    Thanks Lynz and Frances – Lynz this is thanks to you pushing me – you can see why it took SO long……..
    Only two of the designs are mine, the rest are photos of friends cakes from last year – as mine is still being fed lol.

  3. lindaravello says:

    Ha ha ha Jacqui – my grandmother drunk ‘Mackies’ I prefer a lighter cake, hence the blond raisins and cranberries, but maybe that is the influence of living in France for over six years, I don’t like it too dark and rich, but as I said there are no hard and fast rules. X

  4. Osyth says:

    One of the things I learnt very quickly when I moved to France is how much the French love English fruit cake and Christmas Cake is the grande dame of Fruit cakes. Yours looks wonderful. I like quite a light cake whereas my mother makes quite a dark one and my grandmothers was virtually black. Sadly this year there will be no cake … top secret reason to be revealed 😉

  5. lindaravello says:

    Ooooh Lady O you are full of intrigue
    Ha ha ha sounds just like my family – mine is golden, my mother’s brown and my grandmother’s was virtually black and full of treacle……
    I Know what you mean about the French and fruit cake – my step-daughter goes crazy for my Christmas cake, and students have been asking me can they buy one ready made – I should have shares in M&S as they will be sold out at the weekend……xxx

  6. Four Pesky Hobbits Mama says:

    Looks beautiful Lindy! I have to admit I can be really fussy with fruit cake, I LOVE glace cherries, nuts, and golden syrup but really dislike alcohol in any food 😦 I’m not a drinker at all so I might have a look to see if I can make one without the alcohol!? I don’t like marzipan either..Although I appreciate that it makes for easier/prettier decoration. We have my inlaws around for Christmas lunch so I may well attempt something like this as I know they will eat but definitely not my children. They will like the decorating part though. Plus I like the idea of it being ready well before the day! xx

  7. lindaravello says:

    You cn just use fruit juice instead of brandy Zoe, nut the cake is sweeter and doesn’t keep as long, you can’t really taste the alcohol – well I can’t lol.
    I don’t like icing and pick that off, but asyou say, part of the fun is decorating it and the WOW factor xx

  8. lindaravello says:

    Ha ha thank you, but after I posted it I realised that the snowman had lost his nose – it had actually been eaten by the cat! (we did make another one)
    Yes – for Saltzurg zoo – I would never had thought of that – gorgeous photos xx

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