Saturday, 7 November 2015

Getting Ready for Christmas - Christmas Cake - Part Two

Collating your Ingredients

Before you make your Christmas cake or cakes you need to gather all of your ingredients together. I do have all the fruit in due to the fact that I have stockpiled.  During the summer months I either add to my basket when the fruit is on offer, or just buy a couple of bags every so often until I have enough for what I want to do.  I cook a lot with dried fruit with cakes, puddings, chutneys, mincemeat, traditional feasting cheesecake, scones etc.).

Christmas cake is one of the first things I make as part of the Christmas preparations . I tend to use the Delia recipe for her cake from the Christmas cookbook but I have used other recipes.  They are all different but proper fruit cake is something very special. This is a classical recipe; there are easier versions out there. 

Funnily enough I was not taught to make a Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding at school. I was taught how to line cake tins but our year was the only year that did not do  cake or a Christmas pudding.  The first I made of each was when I was just married and I spoke to my mum and read a lot and took it from there.  (I was 19 and my husband was seven years older and the eldest of five children) so there were lots to feed).

To Soak your Dried Fruit

Delia's recipe starts the day before making the cake where you soak the dried fruits in your chosen spirit.

Her recipe and how to make it is covered in the link below.

One thing I do, is tick off the ingredients in the order that they are used as quite often you can miss an ingredient and this is one way of ensuring this does not happen.

My fruit is left to soak for three to four days.  Now to make your cake  follow the instructions in the recipe you have chosen to a tee and do not put anymore spirit in than what the recipe states. certainly until you become familiar with the recipe and know its strengths and weaknesses when you can start to play a little bit.

Lining your Cake Tin

After the fruit has soaked you will need to line your chosen cake tin.  I also covered this in a previous post a few years ago.  Please check out the link below for further details.

Filling your Cake Tin

Once your cake mixture is all combined you then need to fill your lined cake tin.  I add spoonfuls at a time and make sure the cake mixture around the perimeter of the cake tin is higher than the middle of the cake.  I have found that if I do not do this the cake domes and is higher in the middle.  You can cut this flat if you have to as the cake is going to be covered but really you do not want to do this unless you absolutely have to.

Make sure you have plenty of time to dedicate and to concentrate as the cake will need a long period of low cooking in the oven and you do not want to spoil it at all.  Making a Christmas cake is pretty special and you should be gentle and give it the time and attention it so deserves. So pour all your love into it and it will come out with the flavour.  Cook your cake as per the instructions but towards the end test the cake with a skewer to make sure the mixture is cooked otherwise your cake will go sad.  Equally if you go the other way the cake will be too dry.

My Christmas cake and my brother's was made a couple of weeks ago.  But I still have the Dundee Cakes to make, and the fruit bread.  The Dundee cake will be completed next and the Fruit loaves will be cooked for the third week in November; but I will cover them separately.

However equally if there is fruit left over that I have had for a while I do not waste it, I turn it into chutney.  There are so many chutney recipes out there particularly using dried fruit of one sort or another.  It would be a tragedy to waste such a resource especially as it is one of the pricier items.  Dried fruit chutneys are particularly good to make at the beginning of a year in readiness for the next Christmas to come - having just got one prepared for its time to start again.

Feeding your Cake
Now that my cakes are cooked there is something I have to do to them.  Some of you will think it is sacrilege but I pierce each cake after unwrapping it with lots of little holes made by a very fine kebab skewer.  Pouring out a teaspoon of my chosen alcohol at a time I gently dribble this over the cake working methodically and rhythmically until the top of the cake is covered.(I tend to use Brandy (My grandmother used Whisky) and I know other cakes use Rum or Bourbon some even use red wine or ginger wine).  This is known as feeding the cake.   Be gentle try not to flood it and then re-wrap the cake in clean greaseproof  paper with an outer layer of foil and either pop in a tin or a deep box and pop into the depths of your pantry/cupboard somewhere cool (some people I know keep under the bed in the spare room which only has minimal heat) and leave for a couple of weeks.  Repeat the process two or three times until you get to the beginning of December.  It is important that you only use small amounts.  You want the cake to smell and taste divine but you do not want to over power it.

Marzipanning your cake
Its then time to marzipan your cake.  You have a choice here you can either make the marzipan yourself or buy it pre-bought. I use strips of marzipan with about an inch overlap which is then glued to the sides of the cake I use orange marmalade or apricot jam sieved and heated in a small pan and then the whole of the cake is covered with the preserve, brushed on (this is the glue that holds the marzipan on the cake) and then you cover the sides of the cake and then lastly the top of the cake with the marzipan.  Leave for about a week loosely covered with tissue or greaseproof paper for the marzipan to dry a little.  (Keep it away from the cats one year one of my little light footed darlings went walkabout on the marzipan leaving a trail of footprints behind)

Icing Your Cake
After two days of leaving the marzipan to dry I then make the icing for the cake.   You can use fondant icing but I use home made Royal icing that I make in my Kenwood but if you make icing this way the icing will need to stand for a couple of days in a cool place covered with cling film to let any air bubbles come to the surface. (It consists of lots of icing sugar, lemon juice, a little glycerine and egg whites).  Then you can cover the cake  I tend to use a a slap it on and swirl it method, but you can smooth it right down and then add all sorts of lovely additions if you are so minded and then I leave it to set.  This should be nice and firm but not rock hard (because of the addition of the glycerine) just nicely for Christmas. And then its done, can be forgotten about until you come to eat it come Christmas tea.

Catch you soon.


As children, my brother and I did not like fruit cake!  We liked the icing and the marzipan but not the fruit cake and we often used to be given the icing and the marzipan by mum or dad.  They just loved the fruit cake.  Funny how times and tastes change.


  1. I got a English fruit cake from a friend .I misread the instructions .So every day I put a spoonfull of spirit in the Tin pan.It was slipping and sliding ,and I kept on. To end it my husband "drank " the cake with his afternoon coffee .

  2. Nice one Eufemia. The idea is to feed it sparingly a little at a time. Did your husband enjoy "drinking" the cake. With the addition of the spirit it helps the cake keep moist and last for longer. Proper fruit cake is a favourite here.

    Take care.




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