This rich fruit Christmas cake recipe will produce a moist cake that everyone will love. Once you have perfected the art of making this cake, I don't think you will use any other recipe for your Christmas cakes.
The fruit used in a traditional English fruit cake are sultanas, raisins, currants, glace cherries and small cubes of a mixed citrus peel.
Sultanas are always good to use in a fruit cake and raisins are similar except they are bigger and have a more intense flavour but, unfortunately, raisins are getting quite expensive to buy.
Currants are made from small dried grapes and, unless they are a very good quality, they tend to be a bit gritty and not everyone likes them. I’m often asked to leave them out because they don’t like the taste and some say that currants give them indigestion.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a different recipe…
You really cannot get anything better than a good Christmas cake recipe to start off your Christmas baking.
However, I got fed up with making the same cake over and over again so I thought I would experiment with using different dried and crystallised fruit and I developed a fruit cake recipe that has my family, friends and clients begging for more.
I went to the supermarket and collected together an assortment of dried and crystallised fruit and made several different fruit cakes until I got the balance just right and the recipe below is the result.
The taste of the brandy is not overpowering and because the fruit is soaked in it and has all been absorbed into the fruit before the cake is cooked, the brandy is slowly released into the cake as it matures after it has been baked. This will give you a moist, rich fruit cake making it unnecessary to pour brandy over the baked cake (something I have never done).
And, guess what, this is all you need to do for the recipe to work…
Not having to ‘feed’ a fruit cake with brandy is only possible you don’t overcook the cake so if you want this recipe to really work, follow the instructions to make sure you bake it to perfection.
The spices give it a really good flavour and because dates have been used in the mix they also help to keep it moist.
People always say how much more they like this new cake than the traditional English Christmas cake.
Because this cake has proved to be so popular, if a fruit cake is requested, (unless a “traditional” English fruit cake is specifically asked for) I usually suggest this one for wedding cakes and other celebration cakes, especially if a customer is looking for a fruit cake that is a little different and I always receive favourable comments after the occasion.
Let me explain…
In England (and many other countries) Christmas, wedding and any celebration cakes are often rich fruit cakes, covered with marzipan and then iced with fondant or Royal Icing.
Follow the recipe, the method and the notes to ensure that you bake a perfect cake, making sure you don’t over or under cook it.
The cooking times are approximate because every oven is different.
There are NOTES, at the bottom of the recipe, to guide you.
Rich Fruit Christmas Cake Recipe
Makes 1 x 8” round or 1 x 7” square cake
Prepare the tin which should be approximately 3 ½” (9cm) deep – carefully lined (see note 1)
Pre-heat the oven to:-
275ºF (140ºC) without fan 250F (120C with a fan), gas mark 1.
Note – it is far better to bake the cake without the fan if possible.
Use a shelf in the centre of the oven.
Place all the fruit in a large bowl that can be sealed, add the brandy and mix well. Leave to soak for 5 days, stirring once a day to make sure the brandy soaks into all the fruit.
1. Add the ground and the chopped almonds to the fruit you have soaked in brandy, mix well and set aside.
2. Sieve together the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and salt into a bowl, then set aside.
3. Cream together the margarine (or butter) and the brown sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs together with 1 spoonful of the sifted, dry ingredients and beat together.
5. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients then add the fruit and nut mixture and black treacle/molasses. The mixture will be quite thick and will drop heavily from the spoon.
6. Spoon cake mixture into the lined tin (see note 1), making sure you leave no air pockets around the edges and at the bottom of the tin, smooth the top and make a slight hollow in the centre of the cake. NB. The reason you make a hollow in the centre is so that when it is cooked the cake is level and you won’t have to cut the top off before you decorate it.
7. Wrap a triple thickness of brown paper or newspaper around the outside of the tin and tie so it stays in place and lay a triple thickness of brown paper on top of the tin.
8. Lay a triple thickness of newspaper or brown paper on the oven shelf then stand the tins on the paper to cook (see note 3).
9. If you are using a fan oven place the tin towards to front of the oven, as far away as possible from the fan, because, even with the brown paper around the tin to protect it, the fan action is still liable to scorch the cake if it is too near. Turn the tin at regular intervals.
10. An 8” round or 7” square cake should take approx 5 -6 hours to cook but after 4 hours start testing – (see note 4) every 15 mins. If it is still not quite cooked after 5 hours test every 10 mins. As soon as the cake is cooked remove it from the oven, don’t leave it in for longer time “just to make sure” (see note 5).
Leave the cake to cool then remove from the tin but, to keep it moist, leave the lining paper on it until you are ready to marzipan and ice it.
When the cake is completely cold, wrap the cake in a layer of baking parchment or greaseproof paper then wrap it in foil or seal it in a plastic bag and store in a cool dark place until you are ready to use it.
Because you have soaked the fruit in brandy this cake will not need to be fed with spirits after it has been cooked because the brandy in the fruit will seep into the cake.
The only time a cake needs to be fed brandy is if it is overcooked and dry.
If you need to keep the cake for a long time then place the wrapped cake in another thick plastic bag or a sealed plastic box and store in the freezer.
Note 1. Lining the tins – use baking parchment or food grade brown paper and take great care when lining the tin so that you get a perfectly shaped cake.
I know it takes extra time to line a tin but the ingredients for a fruit cake are not cheap so it is well worth the effort to line the tins to ensure you get a perfectly shaped cake and it doesn’t stick to the tin.
Note 2. Brandy – use cheap, blended brandy to cook with. If you do not want to use alcohol in your cake then you can soak the fruit in the same amount of orange juice instead.
Note 3. Because the cake is cooked at a very low temperature the risk of any paper used catching fire is very small, however, if you feel uncomfortable about putting the paper straight on the shelf (especially with a gas oven that has an open flame inside the oven) place the paper in a large roasting tin and then stand the cake in that, instead of putting it straight onto the oven shelf. Surrounding the cake with paper prevents any scorching.
Note 4. To test – use a metal skewer to pierce the centre of the cake, leave it in for 20 seconds (a skewer may come out clean if you just stick it in and take it straight out, give it a chance for any uncooked cake to stick to the skewer) take it out of the cake and wipe it on a paper kitchen towel, if nothing is deposited on the paper towel then the cake is cooked.
If you test regularly towards the end of the cooking time (even if it is every 5 mins) then you will be sure of a moist cake rather than an overcooked, dry cake.
Once the skewer comes out clean don’t leave the cake in the oven “just to make sure” it is cooked because you will end up with a dry cake, not a moist one.
Note 5. The length of time the cake takes to cook will depend on Your oven because every oven is different. The times given are approximate.
The safest way is to use a timer, not guess if it is cooked or think it looks cooked.
Once it has finished cooking, take a note of how long it took then you will have a guide for the next one you cook.
The secrets to a perfect cake are…
1. Make sure you line the tins carefully so you get a really good shaped cake.
2. Make sure that when you put the mixture in the tin you don’t leave any air pockets so no holes can form in the cake
3. Follow the instructions that will ensure you get a flat cake.
4. Before baking the cake, wrap it well so it doesn’t scorch
5. Test it and test again to make sure you don’t overcook it
This rich fruit Christmas cake recipe always turns out well for me so there is no reason why it shouldn’t turn out well for you. It makes a really delicious and moist cake so I do recommend that you try it.
I wish you successful cake making…