This is the most elegant and traditional of all the Christmas Cake recipes, and as such it does need to be made a few weeks in advance to be at its very best … very little needs to be said about the taste and texture of this cake, it really has all the wonderful and essential elements a traditional Christmas Cake should have – it is a heavy, fruity, boozy cake, (and if you want) covered in a layer of soft marzipan and a hard-white royal icing. This is in every way a ‘classic’.
This cake is a joy to make if you have planned it out in advance and intend to spend a morning making the house smell of Christmas, which becomes something of a ritual, year after year, at the end of November or the beginning of December. If doing a Christmas Cake at the last minute then have a look at the other Christmas Cake recipes on this site which can be done more successfully with less preparation time.
Note on tins: Choose either a large round, or square cake tin – a loose bottomed cake tin is best, one you can pop the cake out of once baked. Bake in a tall cake tin, minimum 20cm square, or 23cm if using a round one. The cake tin needs to be greased with butter or vegetable oil, and then lined with baking parchment or grease-proof paper which prevents the cake from burning or scorching on the top while baking.
Traditional Christmas Cake Recipe
This large cake will make enough for about 16 slices, and if some are wrapped carefully the slices can be sent through the post to absent friends and family in the New Year – and you do not have to ice this cake if you do not want to – this cake will keep for a couple of months wrapped up and kept in an air tight container.
Group 1 ingredients
- 400g raisins
- 200g sultanas
- 200g currants
- 200g candied peel, chopped small
- 250g glace cherries, chopped in half
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 orange, zest and juice
- 300ml brandy (with more for ‘feeding’)
Group 2 Ingredients
- 100g chopped walnuts
- 100g ground almonds
- 250g unsalted butter
- 200g dark brown sugar (muscovado)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tbsp black treacle (molasses)
- 300g plain flour
- 100ml milk
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
To Decorate: Christmas Cake Masterclass
The day before: Take the Group 1 ingredients and into a large saucepan place all of the dried fruit, the lemon and orange zest and juice, and the brandy. Mix and then bring this fruit and brandy up to the boil. Once at the boil simmer for 2 minutes, stirring all the time, then take off the heat and allow to cool. Once cool cover and allow the fruit to steep and plump up over night.
The next day: Grease your cake tin lightly with butter or vegetable oil, then line your cake tin with baking parchment or grease-proof paper. To do this cut out some baking parchment for the bottom of the tin, cut to the right size – and then for the sides cut out a wide strip of baking parchment that will line all around the sides of the tin but also stick out over the top of the tin by a good 10cm. Tip: If you grease the cake tin or oil it first the parchment will stick to it allowing you to line the tin far more easily than if left dry.
Pre-heat your oven to 160C
Soften your butter and then in a medium sized mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together before adding in and beating the eggs one at a time. Once everything is fully mixed stir in the black treacle (molasses).
Then in a very large mixing bowl sift in the dry ingredients – (flour and spices) – then stir in the nuts – (chopped walnuts and ground almonds). Into this bowl stir in half of the plumped up fruit and brandy, then stir in half of the egg, butter and sugar mixture. Then stir in the remaining dried fruit and brandy, and finally stir in the remaining half of the creamed ingredients. Add in a little milk if the cake batter is a little stiff and dry, or flour if it is a little wet, the cake batter should be of a dropping consistency i.e. it will drop off a spoon when tilted.
Make sure you have thoroughly mixed all of these cake batter ingredients together, then pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Tip: If you intend to ice the cake it is well worth spending a few minutes making sure the cake mixture is in the tin with no air pockets anywhere; tamp it down with a wooden spoon all over, then make sure that the top of the cake is as flat as possible.
Bake in the oven at 160C for 3 hours. After 3 hours test the cake by pushing a metal skewer into the centre of the cake to see if it comes out clean and hot, while the centre is still soft, it might need 30 minutes longer.
Once baked remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten minutes. After ten minutes fold down the grease-proof paper and wrap some foil over the top of the tin, sealing the cake. As the cake continues to cool any moisture evaporating will be trapped by the paper and foil and be returned back into the top of the cake, keeping it moist.
When the cake is completely cold remove it from its tin, drizzle over some extra brandy and then re-wrap it in new grease-proof paper or baking parchment, and then wrap completely in foil. Store the Christmas Cake in an air tight tin or container for around four weeks, once a week, every week, open the tin, unwrap the top, and drizzle over a little more brandy to ‘feed’ the cake. The cake will darken as it matures.
To Decorate: see this Christmas Cake Masterclass