An easy Christmas cake that turns out perfect every time. No creaming, beating or soaking of fruit required!
Plus tips on storage and feeding your Christmas cake (boozy and non-boozy).
Read why November really is the time to make your Christmas Cake!
Arrghhh! How did it get to be November already??
I still haven't put my flip-flops away from Summer yet.
After being faced with the reality that I'm going to have to start thinking about Christmas trees, house decorations, food and presents pretty rapidly, I decided to get going with my first festive tradition - the Christmas cake.
In fact, I usually end up making one main cake, another smaller version for my mum and dad, and then two even smaller versions for the kids to decorate.
I've even been known to make an additional one for Chris to eat right away - fruit cake fiend that he is.
When should you make a Christmas cake?
Traditional fruit Christmas cake tastes at its absolute best if it's allowed to mature before you eat it.
This allows the flavours meld together deliciously. During this time, you should also feed the cake with a tablespoon of rum/whisky/brandy (or my personal favourites - cherry brandy and/or amaretto) once a week or so. This helps to build and intensify the flavour of the cake, and will ensure it's beautifully moist.
You can start this process by baking a two or three months in advance - but who wants to start baking for Christmas when the September sunshine is still blazing!
Personally, I think early November is perfect, as we're just starting to feel a little Christmassy, and I know I'll be able to give the cake at least 4 or 5 feedings before I decorate it.
How to make it
No soaking of fruit, sugar & butter creaming, beating in flour etc.
Most of the work is done by bubbling things up in a pan (into the pan goes butter, brown sugar, dried fruit (I like mixed dried fruit including cranberries), glace cherries, orange zest and juice, lemon zest and cherry brandy) for 10 minutes.
Then we leave to cool for a few minutes before adding in ground almonds and 3 eggs. Stir together, then add in flour, baking powder, mixed spice, cinnamon and allspice and fold it all together with a wooden spoon.
Line a 20cm (8 inch) cake tin (check out my video just above the recipe card for tips on how to do this) and spoon in the cake mix.
Then bake in the oven at 150C/300F for 45 minutes, then 140C/275F for a further 60-75 minutes - until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Once it comes out of the oven, we skewer the hot cake all over - about 20 times, then spoon over another couple of tablespoons of cherry brandy.
How to Store Christmas Cake
After the initial feeding you want to double wrap the rich fruit cake in baking parchment, then double wrap again in foil and place in a tin.
Feeding the Cake
You can feed the Christmas cake once a week or so with a tablespoon or two of cherry brandy right up until a few days before you're ready to ice the cake (presuming that you are going to ice the cake).
Beware, this cake does contain a reasonable amount of cherry brandy - both in the cake mix and through feeding the cake more brandy afterwards. Personally, I don't think you can taste the actual alcohol - it just gives the cake a more rich and fruity flavour and moist texture.
If you want a non-alcoholic version, you can check out my suggestions further down this post.
That's it - one cake that you'll want to eat every time you open it up to feed it. Resist that temptation!
I usually marzipan and ice my cake a few days before Christmas. Sometimes we just can't wait though, and that cake has to be eaten as it is!
Want to see what the cake looks like inside? Here you go:
Check out my Simple Christmas Cake Decoration post for a quick-but-elegant looking finished Christmas cake.
Do you need to soak the fruit first?
A lot of people suggest that you need to do this, but you don't need to for this Christmas cake recipe.
The simmering of the fruit with the alcohol, butter and orange juice will ensure the fruit is plump and juicy.
What is the best alcohol to put in a Christmas cake?
A reasonably strong spirit (such as whisky, rum or brandy) with a warm, fiery flavour or a sweet liqueur (such as cherry brandy or amaretto - NOT a cream liqueur) will compliment the flavour of the cake, and help to preserve the cake, so it will keep for longer.
You can use standard rum, whisky or brandy. I wouldn't use the most expensive variety - the sugar in the cake and the sugars in the fruit add a lot of sweet richness to the cake, so it's difficult to tell the difference between an expensive brand or a cheaper brand of spirit anyway.
Personally, I like to use spirits that have a bit of a Christmas feel to them. Cherry brandy, amaretto, orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier) and spiced rum (such as Kraken rum) are my favourites. You can use one of these, or alternate between a couple of spirits - i.e. cherry brandy and amaretto flavours work great together for a subtle cherry-almond sweetness to the cake.
Can I make my Christmas cake without alcohol?
For a non-alcoholic version, you can replace the alcohol with cold tea, fresh orange or apple juice.
You can then feed the cake with either:
- Cold tea
- Fresh orange or apple juice
- Ginger cordial mixed with water (2 tsp mixed with 2 tbsp water)
- Rum flavouring mixed with water (⅛ tsp mixed with 2 tbsp water).
If you do this, don’t make the cake any earlier than November, as juice (as opposed to alcohol) could start tasting funny after more than a couple of months.
Watch how to make it
Christmas Cake Recipe
- 175 g (¾ cup) unsalted butter - chopped
- 210 g (1 packed cup) light brown muscavado sugar
- 400 g (2 ⅔ cups) mixed dried fruit
- 200 g (1 cup) glacé cherries - roughly chopped
- 100 g (1 cup) dried cranberries
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- zest of 1 lemon
- 120 ml (½ cup) cherry brandy
- 85 g (½ cup) ground almonds - coarsely ground - not the type that is like flour
- 3 large eggs - lightly whisked
- 200 g (1 ⅔ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
To feed the cake:
- cherry brandy - (1-2 tbsp per week)
- Take a large saucepan pan and add the butter, sugar, dried mixed fruit, glacé cherries, cranberries, orange & lemon zest, and juice and all but 4 tbsp of the cherry brandy.175 g (¾ cup) unsalted butter, 210 g (1 packed cup) light brown muscavado sugar, 400 g (2 ⅔ cups) mixed dried fruit, 200 g (1 cup) glacé cherries, 100 g (1 cup) dried cranberries, zest and juice of 1 orange, zest of 1 lemon, 120 ml (½ cup) cherry brandy
- Heat on a medium heat until the mixture comes to a gentle bubble, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 150C/300F (fan) and line a 20cm (~8inch) spring-form round cake tin (with a removable base) with baking parchment (I find it's easier to line the sides first so they're about 2" above the cake tin, then cut out a circle for the base and push it in).
- Add the ground almonds into the slightly cooled fruit mixture and mix, then stir in the eggs.85 g (½ cup) ground almonds, 3 large eggs
- Add the flour, baking powder, and spices and fold together until everything is just combined.200 g (1 ⅔ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, ½ tsp baking powder, 1 tsp ground mixed spice, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground allspice
- Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth flat with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 45 minutes, then turn down the heat to 140C/275F (fan) and cook for a further 1-1+½ hours, until the cake is dark brown on top and an inserted skewer comes out clean (note: if you're using a gas oven, the cake may take 15-30 minutes longer to cook). Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to darken too much.
- Take it out of the oven, and whilst it's still hot, use a skewer to make about 10-12 holes all over the cake.
- Pour the 4 tbsp cherry brandy all over the top of the cake.
- Leave the cake to cool in the tin. then remove it and wrap it in a double layer of baking parchment and then in a double layer of foil. Place in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Feed with 1-2 tbsp cherry brandy once a week up until a few days before you marzipan and ice the cake.cherry brandy
I've also made it in a 23cm (9inch) cake tin, which works (following the same recipe and cooking times), but results in a slightly lower height cake.
- For a 20-21cm (8-8.25 inch) cake, it usually comes out about 3.75cm (1.47 inches) high.
- For a 23cm (9 inch) cake, it usually comes out about 3cm (1.18 inches) high.
This post was first published in November 2015. Updated in November 2019 with new photos, video and tips. Updated Oct 2020 with more tips and for housekeeping reasons.
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