Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A Basic Christmas Cake

Christmas just wouldn't be complete without a tasty fruit cake to dig into on Christmas day and throughout the holidays. Love it, or hate it . . . Christmas Fruit Cake is a strong tradition here in the UK. Even back home in Canada, we always had fruit cake at Christmas, both a dark one and a light one, as well as my mother's War Cake, which was a type of boiled raisin cake, which we absolutely loved. They weren't as elaborately decorated over there as they are over here though, but you could buy iced ones if you wanted them. My mother never iced hers, and in truth . . . we never missed it.

The Christmas Cake as we know it here in the UK today comes from two customs which became one around 1870 in Victorian England. Originally there was a porridge, the origins of which go back to the beginnings of Christianity. Then there was a fine cake made with the finest milled wheatflour, this was baked only in the Great Houses, as not many people had ovens back in the 14th century.

You don't have to make your own of course. The shop shelves are filled to the brim with a variety of beautifully decorated Christmas Cakes at this time of year, in a great many sizes and shapes. I, myself, however . . . get a certain satisfaction from baking and decorating my own. I am not sure if it is cheaper or not, but it certainly is delicious and, in the doing so, I like to think I am helping to usher in the Christmas Season in our home. I usually bake my cake around the middle of November, and then I will wait until about a week or so before Christmas to decorate it, having given myself a few weeks to plan and get in all the things I will need to fancy it up with.

Fruit cake is one of the things that my Todd looks forward to most at Christmas . . . even more than the turkey, and it is a much loved holiday tradition that I look forward to baking every year. Not only is a show stoppingly beautifully decorated Christmas cake fun to make, but it beats a the flavour of a shop bought one every time . . . seriously! I'll continue with this in a few weeks time when I decorate my cake. Make sure to come back then and see how I make out!

*A Basic Christmas Cake*
Makes one 9 inch round deep cake
Printable Recipe

I have been making this same Christmas cake for years. It always turns out beautifully moist and is filled to the brim with lots of lovely fruit. This needs to be started the night before so make sure you plan ahead. I always like to make my cake a 5 to 6 weeks before Christmas so that it has time to ripen.

450g currants (3 cups)
175g raisins (generous 1 cup)
175g sultanas (generous 1 cup)
50g glace cherries, rinsed dried and cut in half (1/4 cup)
50g whole candied citrus peel, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
3 ounces of cherry brandy
225g flour (1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 TBS)
pinch salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
225g butter, softened
225g soft light brown sugar (18 TB)
4 large eggs
50g chopped almonds (1/4 cup)
2 TBS black treacle
the grated zest of both one orange and one lemon

The night before you want to bake your cake, put all the weighed out dried fruit into a large bowl, along with the chopped peel, giving it a good mix. Stir in the cherry brandy. Cover the bowl and allow it to steep overnight, giving it a stir every now and then before you go to bed.

The next morning, pre-heat the oven to 140*C/275*F. Take a 9 inch round deep baking tin and grease it well. LIne it with a double thickness of baking parchment and butter it again. Set aside.

Sift the flour into a bowl along with the spices. Beat the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gently fold in the flour mixture. Once it has all been incorporated, fold in the dark treacle and the steeped fruits, along with any brandy that may be in the bowl (it is doubtful that there will be any) the peel, the chopped nuts and the grated peels. Spread this mixture into the prepared pan. Set the pan on a large baking tray. Take a double thickness of newspaper and wrap it around the cake tin, tying it on with a piece of string. Top with a piece of parchment paper that you have cut a 1 inch hole in the centre of. Place the oven tray with the cake tin on it onto the lowest shelf in your oven. Bake for 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 hours, until it springs back when lightly touched in the centre and is baked through. Try to resist peeking until at least half an hour before the cake is done.

When done, remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, then remove the newspaper and dump it onto a wire rack and remove the baking parchment. Let cool completely before wrapping it in a large piece of muslin that has been soaked in more brandy. Place into an airtight tin and store until you want to decorate it.


  1. Beautiful! Your glace fruit looks nice too, I have worked out what a difference it can make! There are Italian shops near me that sell reeally good glace fruit. Hooray!

  2. Oh wow, it looks great. Hopefully I will get around to making a christmas cake this year, we have an old recipe from my grandmother that we usually make each year.


  3. Kinda sad that fruit cake has such a bad rap, yours look beautiful Marie :)

  4. Marie,
    Your cake looks beautiful and I would like to try it this year. Are you baking it in a tin that cookies and candy come in or is it some other kind of pan. I live in the USAmerica, and am wondering what to bake it in. Do you store the baked cake in the fridge?

  5. MArie,
    Please tell us what is the secret to not having the fruit sink like lead to the bottom. Your cake has such evevnly dispersed fruit.

    Thank you.
    Anna Limehouse

  6. It's so pretty! It's a joy making a Christmas cake..I wish my family ate it faster:) The light in your first photo is citrusy resh!

  7. So wonderful, Marie! I've never tried this, and would really love to this year. I love English history and traditions so much that I really think I should! I love the idea of the it having such a very old history. Thanks so much for sharing this today--the photos, as always, are just gorgeous! Hope you're having a wonderful day!

  8. good! I've always love a real English Christmas cake! I've never actually made one though. Challenge finding a big enough bowl to mix up all that goodness in! I do love all the citrus and dried fruit...mmm...oh, for a slice now--hehehe... Thank you for share this recipe. Have a sweet day, my friend--LOVE YA :o) ((BIG HUGS))

  9. Joy, lucky you to live so near to a shop that sells great Italian Glace Fruit! That stuff is worth it's weight in gold!

    Michele, I bake my cake in a normal 9 inch round deep cake tin. I have it stored in a chocolate tin though until I get around to decorating it. The chocolate tin is the perfect size and is air tight! It stores perfectly at room temperature.

    Anna, there is a large volume of fruit in this cake so there is no problem with it sinking down. This cake is just stogged full of it! I do find though that if you dust your fruit with a bit of the flour from the recipe (1 to 2 TBS), this helps to keep it evenly distributed in the batter and it doesn't sink. This works well with most recipes. You just take out a bit of the flour and mix it with the fruit and then stir the fruit in as normal, along with any of the flour that is left. Hope this makes sense to you!

  10. Tracy, a clean dishpan is the perfect bowl to mix up a large cake like this in!!

  11. Your christmas cake sounds so good to me!!
    The cake looks stunning!


  12. Liqueur- soaked muslin to wrsp - never heared of that before but what a good idea. I would still over-wrap in parchment before storing in a tin so the fruit can't react with the metal. We love fruit cake in our house!
    love, Angie, xx

  13. nice job there. Christmas cake is my favourite food at Christmas.

  14. This cake sounds divine! Well worth the work and the wait. I look forward to seeing the final product at Christmas.

  15. Marie this Cake look amazinc!! love a lot!! xxxxgloria

  16. Great looking cake! Such an Xmas tradition we even have one every year even though nobody in my family likes it!!! Strange I know lol. I'm going to try out a recipe for a chocolate one this year, hopefully that one will get eaten.

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  18. Cheers Marie! Just seen your message on FB and got this link.
    This looks like a lovely Christmas cake for sure!
    Jan xx

  19. My Mom used to put a layer of marzipan over the cake then a layer of royal icing and then decorate it with a Christmas scene trees and skaters and all sorts of things. Had forgotten till I read the blog today. THanks for jogging my old memory

  20. You're welcome Pam! I do the same thing in another post!

  21. Marie, I would like to make this recipe. Can you tell me how much 225 g of light brown sugar translates to American cups, please. I just learned that treacle is molasses :)Also 225 g flour. Thanks. ~ Elaine

  22. Hi Elaine. I have converted all the measurements for you! I hope you enjoy the cake!

  23. Thank you SO much! That will be a big help. Looking forward to trying your recipe. Happy holidays. ~ Elaine

  24. By the way, if I remember correctly I found your blog by way of WELCOME HOME. Both of you have deliciously simple home cooking.

  25. You're very welcome Elaine! I hope you are happy with the cake!

  26. The cake turned out great! I changed up the fruits a bit but I am pleased with the results.

  27. Elaine, I am so pleased that you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know! I bake this cake at least twice a year as Todd really loves fruit cake. He's always a happy camper when I make him one! I don't decorate it the rest of the year, only at Christmas! xxoo

  28. Hi Marie,

    I want to make a Christmas cake next year and yours is just the thing! Thank you for sharing yours and giving us so much detail in the recipe. One question -- you mention wrapping in a double thickness of newspaper -- do you set the whole cake in newspaper and pull up the sides or do you make a long rectangle and just wrap the sides? Thank you very much, Marie! Looking forward to this. I love that it's baked for so long in a slow oven.

  29. Hi Novie Girl! This is a great choice for a Christmas cake. I set the whole pan on two pieces of newspaper, set on top of each other crossways, then pull it up. Then I take another piece and wrap it around the sides and tie it just to be sure it is properly wrapped. Long slow cooking is the key to a really moist and rich fruit cake! I hope that you enjoy it! I love that you are from Novie. I am assuming that means Nova Scotia! That's my home province!

  30. Hey thanks so much! And yes, I'm from Halifax! Love your blog. Can't wait till next Christmas to try this fruitcake in all its glory!

  31. My daughter lives just outside Halifax Novie Girl and works at the IWK as an RN. Small world. I think you will enjoy the fruitcake!xx


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