Saturday, October 31, 2020

British Christmas Cake Recipe


You may recall that I posted this recipe some years ago, but since I just posted the photo on Instagram and a couple people asked me for the [extremely complicated] recipe, I thought I'd post it here again.

Now that a lot of time has passed since I made the original, I've sort of forgotten the birthing pains enough to be ready to try it again. So if you're up to fussing with this recipe, you'll be rewarded with a delicious-tasting cake, and one that keeps for months in the refrigerator. Don't ask me how many months, because mine didn't last that long. I love this stuff.


Christmas Cake Recipe:

I used:

1 Kg. dried fruits
Figs, prunes, dates, dried apricots, cherries, dried blueberries, and
200g. mixed nuts, emphasis on Brazil nuts.
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150 ml.  brandy, sherry, whisky or rum (who likes rum!) I had Southern Comfort on hand and used that.
250 g. soft butter
200g light soft brown sugar
175 g. plain flour
100 g ground almonds
1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. mixed spice*
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. flaked almonds
4 large eggs
1 t. vanilla

*Mixed spice is a mixture of: 1 T. allspice, 1 T. cinnamon, 1 T. nutmeg, 2 t. mace, 1 t. ground cloves, 1 t. ground coriander, 1 t. ginger. This makes more than the recipe calls for, but then you can put what's left over into a container, label it, and keep it for another time.

Put dried fruit, zests and juice, alcohol, butter, and sugar in a large pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 min.

Heat the oven to 150C (300 degrees F.).

And the next step is where I part ways with the instructions. I had a ridiculous amount of trouble with parchment and the pan I had intended to use, so I scrapped that plan, sprayed the inside of my non-stick Bundt pan with non-stick spray, and tied a double layer of newspaper around the pan. (It's easy to get distracted reading the newspaper, however.)

Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Pour batter into the Bundt pan and bake in the center of the oven for 2 hours. Then remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 T. of the alcohol into the little holes. I think I got a bit generous with that bit, then left the cake to cool completely in the tin. IN FACT, because I was so certain that my cake would come out in pieces, I let it stay in the pan for about 6 hours before turning it out onto a plate. I was so surprised when it came down in one huge CLUNK onto the plate. YEA!!

Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and then FEED it a bit more alcohol every fortnight (Did you know that fortnight actually is a contraction of 'fourteen nights?' fēowertȳne niht, Old English. Why didn't anyone tell me that before?)


Anyway, I didn't have that much time because I didn't get my cake stirred up on 'Stir Up Sunday,'  the last Sunday before Advent, when the Christmas pudding would be stirred up, each member of the family taking a turn stirring it, traditionally.  

Here's what I found on Wikipedia about Stir Up Sunday. I found it interesting and thought I'd pass it along to you:

"The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and later (a translation of the Roman Missal's collect "Excita, quæsumus" used on the last Sunday before Advent):

 "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

If the British are anything, they are great at forming and keeping traditions!

Also, the cake is sometimes stirred from east to west, in honor of the kings who came from the East to visit the Christ child. And traditionally, a silver sixpence was put into the pudding to bring good luck, assuming you're not the one who chokes on it. I suspect that with inflation the ranks of adherents to that particular tradition are thinning greatly.

And that reminds me of one of my favorite Hercule Poirot episodes, 'The Theft of the Royal Ruby.' The Christmas pudding plays into that story. You'll enjoy it. Yes, as usual, I digress.

Back to my Christmas Cake:

But I did feed it every few days and we'll see what happens.  Do not feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.

Now on to the

Apricot Layer:

The recipe I had called for boiling the apricot jam, then straining it, adding a bit of water, and painting it onto the cake. Why?? I have no idea why they go to all that work, so instead, I put a few tablespoons of apricot jam into the blender and blended it, then spread it onto the cake, all over, with a kitchen brush.  I think I then let that sit for several hours.

Marzipan layer:

Not knowing whether or not this stuff was going to be a beast to roll out, I wanted to make sure to have enough, so I made plenty. BTW, have you priced blanched almonds lately?? The price of the blanched almonds was double that of the almond meal, so I bought almond meal. It will taste the same and not be the top layer anyway. Whatever is left over can be shaped into little decorations, or better yet, drizzled with dark chocolate. I mean, in case you can't think of anything to do with it.
So I used the following:


300 g. powdered sugar
300 g. almond meal
3 egg whites
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. almond extract

Don't even try mixing this in your food processor. Mine nearly died trying to mix it in, so I moved it to my mixer instead and used the regular mixing attachment. It turns out like a huge blob of sawdust and glue. I am not exaggerating. I mean, REALLY stiff. And then I refrigerated it overnight, as I was supposed to do. When I took it out the next morning to roll it out, it was like a boulder. I set it in front of the fire to let it soften up a bit, then put some powdered sugar on the counter and rolled it out. It rolled out beautifully and did not break when I doubled it over and lifted it onto the cake. YEA!!! So far, so good.

After rolling out the marzipan layer and draping it, shaping it to the cake, I trimmed the excess and will use that for the decorations. I made an X across the middle, pushed the corners down into the center of the cake, then cut little V's of marzipan to fill in the spaces left. It all worked pretty slick. At this point, the cake was refrigerated over a night or two.

Royal Icing Layer:

3 egg whites
600 g. powdered sugar
1 T. lemon juice

All the above mixed on low, then when it had homogenized to the point that the dry sugar would no longer fly out of the bowl, I mixed this on high for a few minutes until the icing made soft peaks.

The icing was put on the cake, including that hole in the middle, and the leftover marzipan I cut into shapes to make the holly and berries after coloring it with Wilton's red and green food dye. After that, I stuck a ball of marzipan into the center hole of the cake to hold the candle securely. I could use a candle with a bit larger diameter, but didn't have one.

It was a fun project. I just hope I can find someone to eat it with me! If not, I'll eat my slice and wrap the rest of it up and put it away until next year. That'll teach 'em!

 In the meantime, my Christmas cake is resting
in a cool, dark place, covered with a tea towel (per British instructions)
This is my lovely tea towel's maiden voyage.

I plan to make marzipan again when our grandson is out for a visit. That stuff is like modeling clay, and with Wilton's dye, we can make many colors and have a blast.

The original cake recipe, which I tweaked (more than a bit) to my liking, was found on

 Christmas Cake 2015

Don't forget: November 22 is Stir Up Sunday.

Have fun!

Join me on Instagram: @cranberrymorning



Terri D said...

I am sure it is delicious! I will not be making it, however!! WOW!

My Tata's Cottage said...

W O W! I Must show this to my middle daughter. She loves a challenge. She loves cooking and baking too. Thank you for sharing with everyone. It has been a while since I stopped by. I have two blogs now and love to keep them up each day. HUGS across the miles. XO XO

MadSnapper said...

Looks delicious and really beautiful but since I don't bake anything at all we both know I will not be making this. Interesting info on the stirrup meaning

Elizabethd said...

It looks very British!
We usued to make one every year when the children were small. Not now.

ellen b. said...

Looks like something hubby would enjoy...without the icing.

A Bit of the Blarney said...

It looks just wonderful and, indeed, the recipe is complex and time consuming. My hat's off to you for your perseverance. Thank you for sharing! Have a wonderful week!

Wendy said...

Thanks for sharing the recipe. It is a lot of work but sooooo satisfying. Years ago when the children were little and I wasn't working I would bake more and one year I made a round christmas pudding and a christmas cake that was shaped as a tree using star shaped tins. I still have the tins and might try them again this year - we're facing another total lockdown so there won't be much else to do! (Just need to find the recipe now lol)

Vee said...

That is the most fancy fruitcake ever! I like a date cake soaked with rum or whatever. When it is ready in 4 weeks, cut a slice and slather with butter and serve with tea. Never having had marzipan, I'm quite sure that I am missing something. The royal icing I know something about, but the butter will more than compensate. Thank you, Judy, for this very nice, November post reminding us of December delights to come and giving one time to gather ingredients and mix it up. This is one, intense recipe.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

'Bloglovin' doesn't like me commenting on your site? Grr!
Even I know (and I have the experience of not only cooking a Christmas cake at least twice, but eating bits of one for as long as I can remember) that your Christmas cake recipe looks incredibly complex. But undeniably wonderful! Did you know that different regions of Britain have different styles of cake? Of course we do; it's just like breakfast.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Judy, the fruitcake (I just call it fruitcake, and am as likely to make one in spring as in autumn) sounds similar to mine. But I make a cake half the size in a 3-inch deep 7-inch round loose-bottomed tin. And we don't like to eat a lot of sugar, so I don't do the marzipan and royal icing. It still manages to look pretty fancy with just the apricot glaze and a circle of pecan halves (posted 4 years ago), but of course not nearly as fancy as your snowy-looking little beauty!

Creations By Cindy said...

WOW! TOO pretty to eat! Thank you for sharing the recipe. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Now that is definitely a labor of love! Thank you for sharing your recipe. It looks delicious.

carrie@northwoods scrapbook said...

I had to check this out after seeing it on insta. It is pretty putzy and I don't know I'd have the patience for it. But I know I'd love to eat it!! Lol And I especially love how beautiful it is. You did an amazing job Judy! 😍 xoxo

Theresa said...

WOW, does that ever look yummy! Thanks for making me hungry this morning and for sharing the recipe! Enjoy your day dear friend, HUGS!

Sammie Robinson said...

Wow! I bet this is delicious and has quite a kick. I usually make fruit cake in November and freeze the tiny loafs so I can slice them then give as gifts. I haven't eaten what I froze last year yet. I think there could be 2 or even 3 in the freezer since I've been off sweets since March so I'll not be baking it this year but will enjoy one of those.
I enjoyed this post very much.
Mama Bear


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