christmas cake

It must be a dried fruit thing, that those who loathe Christmas cake also struggle to come to terms with Christmas pudding and sweet mincemeat. Tradition determined that fruit cake be a thing of Christmas as historically this was the time when although fresh ingredients were scarce, the boat was well and truly pushed out on the expense of dried fruits, alcohol and spices. But amidst the feast of riches, a tiny piece of spiced fruit cake with perhaps a morsel of cheese is just the thing to appease the need for greed.

I have never been that lucky with Christmas cake as each effort to liven things up with interesting fruits has ended in an over soggy cake. This year I stuck with tradition and also used a 6” inch tin which is actually ample for such a thing. It baked perfectly so rather than giving a huge chart of size options I am sticking with one recipe for a six-inch tin.

It is a long recipe so I will dive straight in. You do need to make it a month in advance, a good couple of weeks at the very least. There are no nuts or peel in this recipe so feel free to adjust some quantities to accommodate them. Just swap them out with some of the sultanas.

350g sultanas

100g raisins

50g currants

100g glace cherries

60ml fino sherry

110g butter

90g soft dark brown sugar

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon

2 large eggs

250g plain flour

½ tsp mixed spice

  1. Line a 6inch round heavy cake tin with greaseproof and brown paper as in our video over on YouTube.
  2. Put the dried fruits in a bowl, add the sherry and leave overnight. If you want to do the cake in one go then microwave the fruit and alcohol together for about 3 minutes and leave to cool. The fruit will plump up.
  3. When the fruits are ready to move on to the next stage, preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 2.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together (a hand held electric whisk makes light work of this), beat in the zest and add the eggs. Beat well to combine (you may need a tbsp. of flour or so to prevent the mixture curdling; do not worry, the flour brings it back together).
  5. Mix the spice with the flour and add one-third to the mixture.
  6. Add one-third of the soaked fruits and mix well.
  7. Repeat twice until all the ingredients are used up and you have a stiff fruity mixture.
  8. Pile the mixture into the prepared tin, level off the top with a spatula, and make a shallow well at the centre with a spoon. This will make sure that any rising does not cause the cake to dome. Fruit cake does not rise as such, merely sets, but there is always a little expansion.
  9. Bake in the lower part of the oven for 2 to 2 ½ hours. The cake is ready when a skewer comes out clean. Take care not to remove it too early; an overly moist fruit cake is just as bad as a dry one.
  10. Remove from the oven and wrap the whole thing, tin and all, in foil. Leave to cool completely.
  11. Once cool, remove the swaddling, and the paper from the tin along with the base if it has a loose one. Re-wrap in foil and store in a cool dry place. Feel free to feed it with a few spoons of sherry occasionally.
  12. Join us later in December when we take you through some ideas for decorating your Christmas cake.