Christmas Cake: Part 1

Image of cake after baking

Apparently some people make their Christmas cakes three months ahead of time. I didn’t. To paraphrase the old music hall song, I dillied and dallied, I shillied and I shallied, but I finally got around to it this week.

If that strikes fear into your heart – ‘for crying out loud’, I hear you say, ‘it’s only November’ – don’t worry. You can make this at the last minute and it will still be lovely.

I know that because cake queen Pam Corbin says so, and she should  know, it’s her recipe. For the original, variations on the theme and a guide to quantities if you want to make a smaller cake, check out her Cakes, one of the River Cottage handbooks.

I’ll be writing again closer to Christmas about marzipan and icing and ideas for decorating the cake. It’ll probably be a car crash as precision isn’t my middle name but at least I’ll know the cake at the centre of it will be good. I used a 25 cm round tin.

Fruit Cake - Part 1

  • Servings: It's humungous
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Image of baked cake


Image of apple being grated

Grated apple helps keep the cake moist

375g each of currants, raisins and sultanas

250g dried apricots, chopped

200g glace cherries, rinsed of syrup, drained and (optionally) halved

Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

4 tbsp brandy + 4 tbsp to finish

315g plain flour

Big pinch of salt

1 1/4 tspn each of mixed spice and freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 tspn ground ginger

250g soft brown sugar (I used muscovado)

315g unsalted butter, softened

8 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 tbsp golden syrup or black treacle

125 g walnuts, chopped (I used half and half walnuts and almonds)

250g cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated

Image of dried fruit


Lightly grease your cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment. Tie a double band of brown paper round the outside of the tin, 3cm deeper than the depth of the tin, to stop the outside of the cake drying out.

Put the first seven ingredients in a bowl, mix well, cover with foil and place in a cool oven, 130C/Gas Mark 1/2, and leave for 30 minutes for the fruit to get warm and sticky. Or soak overnight.

Image of brandy poured over dried fruit

Increase the heat of the oven to 145C/Gas Mark 1-2. Sift the flour, salt, mixed spice, nutmeg and ginger into a large bowl, add the sugar and mix together well. Add the butter, three-quarters of the beaten egg and the golden syrup or treacle. Create a Jackson Pollock (not rhyming slang) if you’re feeling artistic and a bit silly.

Image of basic cake mix ingredients

Using an electric whisk (hand-held or free-standing) beat for about a minute and a half until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the remaining egg and beat for another 30 seconds.

Add the dried fruit, nuts and grated apple. Fold everything together until thoroughly mixed. Make a wish.

Image of ingredients stirred together

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing it out lightly with the back of the spoon. Make a small hollow in the centre of the cake to stop it rising in the centre.

Place a piece of foil, with a 4cm wide hole cut in the centre, over the cake tin. Bake in the oven for roughly two hours, then remove the foil and cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Trickle the remaining brandy over the top of the hot cake.

Allow to cool completely before turning out. Leave the baking parchment on the cake, wrap it in greaseproof paper and place in an airtight container.

Image of cake wrapped and in tin

All wrapped up for Christmas

Although Pam doesn’t add any more brandy,  we have a time-honoured tradition in our house of Feeding the Cake. Using a darning needle or thin skewer, make small holes in the top of the cake and trickle a tablespoon of brandy over it once a week in the run-up to Christmas, re-wrapping each time until you want to decorate it.

9 thoughts on “Christmas Cake: Part 1

  1. Loving your quantifying it as simply ‘humungous’! Mother-in-law always makes us a delicious Christmas cake – I can’t hope to compete with Mummy so don’t go there (see also: strawberry jam). I look forward to seeing the finished article.

  2. Reading your post was like deja vu. My Aunt and I made a humongous Christmas pudding a few weeks ago – ostensibly to feed 25 but I’m certain it will stretch further than that. My immediate family always wakes up to a cheats boiled chocolate fruit cake for breakfast on Xmas morning. Usually made just one or two days before and simply dusted with icing sugar and decorated with chocolate coated fruit and nuts because I’m too exhausted to do any thing else.

  3. Feeding the Cake. Love it. The Wife made ours a couple of weeks ago. The cake is also fed over here though not weekly. Perhaps we should up the frequency, now that it’s nearly Christmas!

  4. Pingback: Christmas Cake Part 2 | Mrs Portly's Kitchen

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