Christmas Cake

Published by Amy

Posts may contain affiliate links. Please see our Privacy Policy.

Finally! Granny’s secret recipe for the perfect Christmas cake! Beautifully rich fruit cake, filled with all your favourite dried fruits, glace cherries, almonds… And of course, booze! If you want – there’s a no-booze option too.

Rich fruit Christmas cake recipe. With raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries and mixed peel.

I’ve been saying I would publish our Christmas Cake recipe for years now and finally decided make it happen in 2022, just in time for Stir Up Sunday!

In preparation, both Granny and I have been making Christmas Cakes (yes, plural – we are now drowning in fruit cake!) this past fortnight to test the recipe and baking times. And funny story…I asked her last week to decorate one for me to photograph.

“Just something simple, like a holly leaf, or a snowman.”

This, THIS, is what she presented me with. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Granny considers a “simply decorated” Christmas Cake! And yes, every little detail – from the snowman to the snowflakes – Granny made from scratch.

You understand now why her Christmas Cakes are somewhat famous around here. As well as why I had wanted to start Baking with Granny to preserve some of these home baking masterpieces!

Classic Christmas Cake recipe. Rich fruit cake, topped with marzipan and fondant icing. Decorated with a fondant snowman and Christmas Tree.

Don’t let Granny’s insane skills for decorating cakes mislead you. This classic fruit Christmas cake tastes just as good as it looks, if not better. It also reminds me of my childhood, in particular the early summertime – the smell that your home fills with whilst baking a Christmas cake, is the smell of our family home when I was growing up and Granny was baking cakes for the wedding season!

Oodles of dried fruit, soaked in brandy or orange juice. Combined with a soft dark brown sugar, giving the cake that familiar hue. And a healthy dose of cinnamon and mixed spice for that warming taste and scent.

No Christmas Cake would be complete without a layer of marzipan and some white icing to finish. We’ve opted for a fondant icing in this case, purely for ease. However you can of course go old school and use a royal icing instead.

Close up of a classic fruit Christmas cake, from Baking with Granny. Topped with marzipan and white icing.

Ingredients:

Dried Fruit
The most important element in Granny’s Christmas Cake! As this is a rich fruit cake, a lot of dried fruit is required. I have listed these in individual quantities in the recipe card. However, you can of course use a bag of Mixed Dried Fruit for convenience – just make sure you have the same totalling amount of dried fruit for your cake size.
Generally speaking, your dried fruit will consist of currants, raisins and sultanas (some bags of mixed dried fruit will also contain your mixed peel) but you can be quite flexible and swap out these dried fruits in varying quantities, or for alternatives if there’s something in particular you aren’t too fond of. I personally love to add some dried cranberries to my Christmas cake!

Glace Cherries
I always think glace cherries look like little jewels when mixed in through the rest of your dried fruits. They add a slightly different texture to your fruits, as well as a complimentary candy-like sweetness.

Mixed Peel
What I’ve found from my time using mixed peel in recipes is that it’s a bit like the marmite of the baking world – you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I love it. And I think it’s a great addition to a rich fruit cake, as it helps add an extra depth in the flavour, whilst also tying in nicely with the orange zest flavours too.

Ground Almonds
I’ve often opted for flaked or blanched almonds in a Christmas cake but Granny maintains that ground almonds will always reign superior, in terms of overall texture; that’s because they help the cake retain it’s moisture while it bakes. There’s nothing worse than a dry fruit cake, after all!

Orange Zest
Ok, so. Granny has previously opted for lemon zest in fruit cakes, which I can’t dispute because it does work great too. However, when it comes to Christmas, I feel like orange is always the winning flavour, hands down! (But if you’d prefer lemon zest you can still use that too).

Brandy or Orange Juice
Perhaps the most debated part of a classic British Christmas cake! Now, I have listed Brandy as the alcohol of choice in this recipe, purely because it’s what was written in the recipe Granny gave me. However, that’s not to say it is your only option. Granny will often swap between Brandy, Port, Rum and even Whisky. Basically, you can use whatever your alcoholic beverage of choice.
But if you want to be somewhat controversial – like myself – you don’t have to use alcohol at all.
I’m not really an alcohol drinker, so the idea of buying an expensive spirit, purely to soak some dried fruit for a cake, seems absurd to me. Instead I use orange juice. And much to my delight, Papa tells me I have made some of the best Christmas cakes (and Black Bun) he’s tasted with this method. And Papa strongly believes whisky should be used in both…and everything.
Also, the amount listed is for soaking your fruit. Should you wish to “feed” your cake after baking, more of your liquid of choice will be required.

Plain Flour
For those who are familiar with any of our other cake recipes, you’ll be used to me saying self-raising flour is generally preferable in cakes. Not for Christmas Cake! This is a rich fruit cake recipe, and so the majority of the mix is made from the dried fruit. Everything else is really just there to bind it together. With that in mind, no raising agents are required and plain flour is ideal.

Mixed Spice & Ground Cinnamon
These don’t really need any explanation, other than they are the smell and taste of Christmas in a tiny little jar.

Butter or Margarine
Either is fine, it’s just down to personal preference. I like margarine as it’s cheaper and an easy way to omit the dairy from this recipe. Just be sure to use a block margarine as opposed to the spreadable kind – the latter has a higher water content and may alter your baking times.

Soft Dark Brown Sugar
I have decided to list our sugar choice as Soft Dark Brown Sugar, however this can be flexible to a degree. Granny’s personal favourite sugar for Christmas cakes is a Dark Muscovado, both for flavour and a darker colour. However Soft Dark Brown Sugar is a cheaper and more convenient option. You can of course use a Soft Light Brown Sugar, or even a caster sugar; these will change the colour and flavour of your cake quite noticeably though.

Free-range Eggs
It may seem like this recipe calls for a lot of eggs, but that’s because it makes a lot of cake. Plus they do a lot of ground work in binding your ingredients together, and with the amount of fruit we are using, a lot of binding is required. The size of your eggs isn’t of great importance but be sure to use free-range when possible.

Free Ingredient Quantities Guide

Wanting a smaller or bigger Christmas Cake?
Grab a copy of our FREE Ingredients Quantities Guide!

You’ll find the ingredient amounts for  6, 7, 8 and 9 inch Christmas Cakes, as well as the adjusted baking times.

Free printable of Christmas cake recipe ingredient quantities from Baking with Granny.
Rich fruit Christmas cake recipe. With raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries and mixed peel.

Preparations:

There’s a few bits of prep work required when making your Christmas Cake. Firstly, the soaking of your dried fruit.

The purpose of this is to add some moisture, as well as flavour. A fruit Christmas Cake is baked on a low temperature for a number of hours, meaning your cake could easily dry out. “Feeding” your cake over a number of weeks after baking can help remedy this to an extend, but it’s much better to avoid a dry Christmas cake than it is to fix one.

You want at soak your fruit for a day or two before your plan to make your Christmas cake. Using a large bowl, weigh out your dried fruit, before pouring your orange juice or brandy over the top of it. Give it all a good stir, cover your bowl with cling film, and leave somewhere safe. When you come to bake your cake, your fruit should look a little plumper, and the majority of the liquid will have been absorbed.

Dried fruit soaking over night in orange juice, as part of our classic Christmas Cake recipe.

And before you move onto the next stage of baking your Christmas cake, you’ll want to prepare your tin. Our recipe card has the quantities for a 8 inch round cake tin but you  can use our Christmas Cake Quantities Guide if you are using a different sized tin. A loose bottom tin is preferable, and since this is a tall cake you’ll want quite a deep cake tin too – if you only have shallow tins, you can use the quantities for a smaller cake, or simply make two cakes.

You’ll start by greasing your tin and lining it with some greaseproof paper. You also want to have some brown parcel paper (or something along those lines) ready to use. This is to wrap around the outside of your tin whilst it bakes, so be sure it is a sufficient length of paper; and you ideally want to be able to fold it over itself and still be a couple of inches taller than your cake tin. You will also need some string to tie your paper in place, and a spare piece of greaseproof paper – big enough to cover the top of your cake.

When you have your cake mixed up, you will spoon it into your pre-lined tin. Once you have smoothed your cake into the tin, you want to wrap your parcel paper around the outside of your cake tin. Use your string to secure the paper into place. Dampen your spare piece of greaseproof paper (either by gently holding it under a slowly running tap, or dipping it into a tray of water), and carefully wring out any excess water, before draping it over the top of your cake.

But why do we wrap a Christmas cake tin in brown paper and top it with some extra greaseproof paper?

Wrapping the tin in brown paper helps slow the baking of the cake to a more steady temperature, avoiding the outside of the cake being overdone (or worse, burnt) while the inside is still raw. And the wet greaseproof paper on top works in a similar way, whilst also trapping some steam within the top of the cake, meaning a moister finish, a lower chance of burning and less cracking on the top.

Christmas cake before baking, ready for the oven.
Christmas cake fresh from the oven, baked in an 8 inch round tin.

Granny's Top Tips

• This recipe is for an 8 inch round cake requires a deep cake tin. I use a Masterclass 20cm/8inch Deep Cake Tin and can highly recommend it. If you don’t want as deep a cake (like the one pictured), use the quantities for a 7 inch round cake. You will find these in our FREE Christmas Cake Ingredients Quantities Guide.

• The packing paper from your Amazon parcels is a great “free” alternative to the brown parcel paper needed to wrap your cake tin for baking.

• Be sure to use a cotton string, as opposed to nylon, when it comes to wrapping your cake tin for baking. The latter has a habit of melting!

• When it comes to baking your cake, place your cake tin on top of a flat tray (as opposed to directly on the oven shelf). This will help protect the bottom of the cake from burning.

Classic Christmas Cake recipe. Rich fruit cake, topped with marzipan and fondant icing. Decorated with a fondant snowman and Christmas Tree.

Christmas Cake

Classic rich fruit cake, finished with marzipan and icing.
5 from 9 votes
PRINT RECIPE
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: British, Christmas, Scottish
Cook Time: 4 hours

Ingredients

Makes: 8inch round

Instructions

Pre-soak Your Fruit:

  • In a large bowl, weigh out your currants, sultanas, raisins, glace cherries, mixed peel and orange zest. Pour over your brandy/orange juice and give everything a good mix. Cover the bowl and leave in a safe place to soak overnight.

The Next Day:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 150°c (130°c for fan assisted ovens or Gas Mark 2). Grease and line your 8 inch cake tin with grease proof paper and set aside.
  • In a large bowl (separate to the one you have your fruit soaking), cream together your butter/margarine and sugar. Add your eggs, one at a time, ensuring each is mixed through before adding the next. Mix through your ground almonds.
  • Sift in your flour, mixed spice and cinnamon, before mixing together to create a somewhat thick batter.
  • Mix your cake batter with your soaked dried fruit, ensuring all the fruit is coated. Transfer the mixture to your pre-lined cake tin, spreading to the edges. Using your spoon, create a slight dip in the centre of the cake (this helps prevent it rising too much).
  • Wrap your cake tin brown parcel paper, secured with string. And cover the top of your cake with a dampened piece of greaseproof paper. Pop your Christmas cake onto a oven tray (as opposed to directly on the oven shelf) and into your pre-heated oven.
  • Bake for 3½-4 hours. Check your cake after 3 hours and if it looks like it is baking quicker than expected, turn down your oven a little. Depending on your oven, your cake should be ready after [around] 3½-4 hours baking but you can insert a skewer into the middle of the cake to check - if it comes out clean, your cake is baked through.
  • Remove your cake from the oven and allow to cool completely whilst still in it's tin. Once completely cool, remove the cake from the tin but keep the greaseproof lining on the cake. Cover the top of the cake with some extra greaseproof paper, and wrap well in cling film and tin foil, placing your cake somewhere safe to mature before decorating for Christmas.
  • If you wish to feed your cake, keep it well wrapped for a couple of weeks, before unwrapping and poking a few holes into the top. Brush the cake with some extra brandy or orange juice*, before wrapping and storing the cake again. You can repeat this process a couple of times, if you wish. Try not to feed your cake for at least a week before you plan to decorate.
    *Exercise caution when using orange juice to feed a Christmas cake. Unlike alcohol, it will not be sterile and could cause your cake to mould if overfed or stored incorrectly.

To Decorate:

  • You can finish your Christmas cake with a layer of marzipan, followed by a layer of fondant icing or royal icing. And top with whatever décor you desire.

Notes

This recipe is for a 8 inch round Christmas Cake. Please see our FREE Christmas Cake Ingredient Quantities Guide for the ingredient lists and baking times of smaller and larger cake sizes.
Tried this recipe?Tag @bakingwithgranny or use the hashtag #bakingwithgranny!
Traditional fruit Christmas cake recipe from Baking with Granny.

23 Responses

  1. 5 stars
    Looks like a 5 star winner to me. Wonderful guide and instruction to a stunning cake! I am planning to make this on Sunday.

    1. I might give this a go.
      Been nagging my grandmother for her recipe for years. So maybe I can impress her instead of asking for her to make it for me to decorate.

  2. I made this cake yesterday and it filled the kitchen with lovely smells, I have wrapped it up for now and will feed it for a few weeks before my husband will finish it off with decorations.

  3. I love trying new fruitcake recipes. This sounds great and I want to bake it for my sister and I. I wonder what you mean by sitting it though. Do you store it in the refrigerator or at room temperature?

  4. I bake a cake exactly the same have done the same 1 for years I steep my fruit in sherry so is called a Christmas wine cake delicious

  5. I have some jars of mincemeat. Can I use these for the cake? And if I do, do I make up the same weight of fruit and liquids??
    Or would I need to follow a different recipe altogether?
    Thanks Kim.

  6. 5 stars
    The information so helpful and the tips about wrapping the tin with brown paper explained in such a good fashion. Although I said I would not make a cake this year I will probably make yours

  7. 5 stars
    This is the best and truly tastiest ever Christmas cake anyone will ever enjoy as it is a classic and I have had the pleasure in seeing the process done for not just Christmas but also for Wedding cakes. I was looking to fine this original recipe that my mother used to create every year with the rest process thereafter then soaking with rum or brandy. “Delicious”
    Love it

  8. Just made this cake, about to take out of the oven in around 10 minutes. Used ground Walnuts instead of almonds and my fruit was pre-soaked in Whisky and Sherry. I will wrap it for 2 weeks and feed it with a bit more whisky before final wrap and decor. Fingers crossed will taste as good as it looks and Smells.

  9. 5 stars
    Great receipe. Very similar to my father’s receipe which I followed. My father has passed on and it has been years since I have baked a Christmas cake as none of my children like cake especially fruit cake. They have all left home and have their own families. You have inspired me to bake a cake this year.

  10. 5 stars
    Used your recipe for my Christmas cake this year and it turned out perfectly and was very well received.
    My daughter is making her own wedding cake and wants this for her bottom tier using orange juice instead of the alcohol used for my christmas cake.
    Having a trial run this week. 8″ just out of the oven and looking good.
    The printable quantities guide is really useful, thank you for providing this.
    Is there any possibility of getting quantities for a 10″ cake please.

  11. I have baked Christmas cakes for many years and tried this recipe this year. I am convinced that the recipe is perfect but for the first time ever the 3 cakes I baked using this recipe didn’t work out. They were extremely dry which I think was down to the baking time. Maybe my oven was too hot, though on hindsight 3.5-4hrs to bake a cake does seem quite a long time. Disappointed especially as 2 of the cakes were gifts.
    Any suggestions on how to bake a moist cake next time would be welcomed

  12. 5 stars
    As you know Amy I made my first Christmas cake using your recipe last year. Genuinely over the moon with how it turned out. I was told it was exactly like my Granny Mary’s which is the highest praise I could have wished for! I’m just getting ready to make my 2023 version. THANK YOU xxx

  13. 5 stars
    Hey lovely lady. Just started my 9” today by soaking all my fruits. I think I shall have it plain though or maybe just a fine coating of icing and decorate later as not keen on marzipan not too much icing

  14. 5 stars
    Hi I can’t wait to make this cake. Have you ever made it in a slow cooker? My oven isn’t working properly and was wondering if it would turn out OK.

  15. Hi Amy, can I leave out the almonds and replace them with something else. Nuts are a no no. I hope you see and answer this. I have so many requests for shortbread from friends and it is if course Granny’s recipe I use.

    1. Hi Jayne. Yes, this recipe is very forgiving and can be adjusted to suit your taste and requirements. The almonds do help the cake retain some moisture, so it may be slightly drier without them. But you should be able to combat this by being cautious with your baking time, and being sure to “feed” your cake routinely. Hope that helps!

Leave a Review

Got a question? Tried this recipe & want to leave some feedback? Please use the comment section below! Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.