Friday, 9 November 2012

Time to Make the Christmas Cake

As a child, I always used to help my mum with the Christmas cake  - it was a fascinating process to a curious child and I loved handing the ingredients to her and trying to swipe a fingerful of the mixture although in those days I was none too keen on the fruit.  My mum makes a lovely fruitcake also and in those days Mum also used to make a Dundee cake as well.

As I grew older My Nan always used to make my Christmas cake for me as my Christmas present. Nan  used to make a wicked fruit cake.  I found out in later years that she used to feed the cake on whisky (quantities unknown but a little dubious) and that cake never used to last very long at all.

This year I am late in making my cake; slapped dannies naughty Pattypan.   I normally have this all done by the end of September,  in order that the cake will have time to mature and give time for dripping brandy into the cake (called feeding the cake) before lining with marzipan and icing. { Ideally I  aim to get the cake marzipanned and  iced in the second week of December  I usually make Royal Icing and that needs a few days to settle down under a wet teacloth before the cake is actually iced}.  

For this year's cake the fruit is soaking in a little brandy as we speak.  I always give my fruit a couple of days to soak before actually making it so that the fruit is nicely plump and the cake will be nice and moist.  So for this year I am in a bit of a rush.

In recent years I have nearly always used Delia's Classic Christmas cake recipe as it is a really moist fruity cake that has good keeping qualities and both of us like proper fruit Cake, although as a child it was a no no and the only bit of the cake my brother and I were keen on were the marzipan and the icing.   That has obviously changed as we have grown older.  This year though I am going to make a second cake but a different recipe and then do a comparison as to which one we like best which will determine which recipe I use next year.  I just felt it was time for a re-visit although this recipe is one of the better ones that I have made and the most consistent.

This is the Recipe that I use as a standard; but it will need to be started at least a night before you cook it; I usually allow three to four days soaking in the brandy.

You will need an 8 inch round or a 7 inch square cake tin which will need to be lined with greased greaseproof paper (I put some butter in a bowl over saucepan of water and melt it and then use a brush to grease the lined cake pan after it has all been fitted out with the greaseproof.  I then tie newspaper or brown paper round the outside of the tin a this stops the cake from catching and cooking too quick on the outsides.


1lb currants
6oz sultanas
6oz raisins
2oz glace cherries rinsed dried and finely chopped
2oz mixed candied peel
8oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg
8oz unsalted butter
8oz soft brown sugar
4 eggs
2oz chopped almonds
1 dessertspoon of black treacle
grated zest of a lemon
grated zest of an orange
(optional if the cake is going to be un-iced 4oz blanched almonds)
3 tablespoons of brandy
Extra brandy for feeding the cake


  1. This cake needs to be started at least a night before you want to bake it.  Weigh out the dried fruit and mixed peel place it into a  mixing bowl and mix in the brandy as evenly and as thoroughly as possible.  I usually use a tablespoon and mix the fruit around so that the brandy covers everthying.  I then leave the bowl covered with a tea towel somewhere cool and out of the way for at least 12 hours.
  2. On the day that you are going to bake your cake preheat the oven to Gas mark 1, 275 Degrees F or 140 degrees C.  Measure out the rest of the ingredients making sure to tick each item off so that you do not miss an ingredient.  For the treacle I boil some water and put into a cup or bowl get a tablespoon and dip it in the hot water and then add to the mixture - this helps the treacle come off easily.  However I have heard of an alternative method were you dip the spoon in some oil and then into the treacle.
  3. Now begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt, and spices into a another mixing bowl lifting the sieve up and down to incorporate extra air into the flour. Next in a separate large mixing bowl whisk the butter, and sugar together until the mixture goes very pale and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at at time (i add a little flour with the addition of each egg) using an electric whisk until all the egg is incorporated.  Then add the flour and spices by folding it in with a metal spoon  using a gentle slicing movement with the spoon round in a circle then across the middle - do not beat the aim is to keep as much air in the cake as possible.  Fold in the fruit, peel chopped nuts, and treacle followed finally by the grated lemon and orange zests.
  4. Transfer the cake mixture into the lined greased tin spread it out evenly and at this point if you do not intend to ice the cake add the blanched almonds on the top of the cake mix in circles all over the surface..
  5. Finally cover the top of the cake with a double square of greaseproof paper with a hole in the centre the size of a 2 shilling piece/50 pence piece this will stop the cake burning on the top and going hard.  Bake the care on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 hours.  Sometimes it can take a little longer but in any event do not open the oven door until 4 hours have passed.
  6. Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes in the tin and then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.  When it is cold give it its first feed wrap in double greaseproof paper to allow the cake to breathe with an outer layer of foil and then pop into an air tight storage tin.  You can now feed it at intervals (I usually check weekly) until you need to ice it.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of feeding basically with a fine skewer you make several small holes in the top and bottom of the cake then spoon over teaspoonfuls of brandy to soak in through the holes and soak into the cake.  There is nothing nicer to my mind than the smell of a brandied fruit cake.   Very yummy.


  1. I made my cake a couple of weeks ago - I've used the same recipe for many years, one that a friend gave me. The fruit gets soaked for a day or so in sherry, orange juice and lemon juice. It will be coming down for a feed this weekend.

  2. Hi Rowan

    I got a little behind I normally do the cake right at the end of September and then drip feed it. This recipe is lovely but I thought I would look around to see if there were any other recipes. This one I have used for over 23 years and I may not change from it. Your recipe sounds interesting though, bet it tastes good.

    Take care




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