For many years, I have used a traditional English fruit cake recipe for my Christmas cakes. I used the usual ‘cake’ ingredients such as butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, to which I added a mixture of dried and crystallized fruit such as sultanas, raisins, currants, glacé cherries, and mixed citrus peel.
Raisins are expensive, so I looked around for other fruit I could use and began experimenting with ‘exotic’ dried and crystallized fruits, and I was delighted with the results.
That is how I developed this recipe, which I have been using successfully for the past few years. Now I am passing it on to you.
This rich fruit Christmas cake recipe will produce a moist cake that will beat all the other cakes you have ever made. Once you have perfected the art of making this cake, I don’t think you will use any different rich fruit cake recipe for your Christmas or any other celebration cake.
A different recipe for Christmas
You cannot get anything better than a good Christmas cake recipe to start your Christmas baking.
However, I got fed up with making the exact cake repeatedly, so I thought I would experiment with different dried and crystallized fruits. I developed a fruit cake recipe with my family, friends, and clients begging for more.
I went to the supermarket and collected an assortment of dried and crystallized fruit and made several cakes using different combinations of fruit until I got the balance right. The recipe below is the result.
I still use some of the traditional fruit, such as:
Sultanas are always good to use in a fruit cake as they help give the cake an excellent rich flavor.
Raisins – I use them sometimes, and they are similar to sultanas, except they are bigger and have a more intense flavor. Unfortunately, they are pretty expensive to buy. You can get cheap raisins, but they are gritty and have some pips left in them, which you don’t want in a cake.
Glace cherries are a must for any fruit cake; apart from tasting good, they add color to the cake, and most people like them.
This recipe is different because I have also used dried apricots, prunes, dates, crystallized pineapple, mango, papaya, and pears.
Currants are often used in a fruit cake recipe and are small dried grapes, not black currants, as many people think. Unless they are of excellent quality, they also tend to be a bit gritty. I am often asked to leave them out because some people don’t like the taste, and others say that currants give them indigestion, so I stopped using them altogether.
Brandy – I use brandy in this recipe, and the taste is not overpowering.
(See note 2 at the bottom of the recipe if you don’t want to use alcohol).
The fruit is soaked in the brandy and should absorb it before adding fruit to the cake batter.
After baking the cake, the brandy will be slowly released into it as it matures. 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 what you do, so the recipe works…
Not having to ‘feed’ a fruit cake with brandy is only possible if you don’t overcook the cake, so if you want this recipe to work, follow the instructions to make sure you bake it to perfection.
The spices give it an excellent flavor, and because dates are used in the mix, they also help 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. It is perfect if you are looking for a fruit cake that is a little different, and I always receive favorable comments after any occasion where it’s been used.
Let me explain…
In England, where I come from, and in many other countries, Christmas, weddings, 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 undercook 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)
Preheat the oven to:-
275ºF (140ºC) without fan 250F (120C with a fan), gas mark 1.
Note – it is better to bake the cake without the fan if possible.
Use a shelf in the center 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 five days, stirring once daily to ensure 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. Sift 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 with one spoonful of the sifted, dry ingredients, and beat them 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 the cake mixture into the lined tin (see note 1), make 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 center of the cake.
NB. You make a hollow in the center so that when it’s 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 it, so it stays in place. Then 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 minutes. If it is still not entirely 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 a 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 it in a layer of baking parchment or greaseproof paper, then wrap it in foil or seal it in a plastic bag and store it 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 is baked 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, place the wrapped cake in another thick plastic bag or a sealed plastic box and store it 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 for cooking. If you do not want to use alcohol in your cake, you can soak the fruit in the same amount of orange juice.
Note 3. Because the cake is baked 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 center of the cake and leave it in for 20 seconds. A skewer may come out clean if you stick it in and take it straight out, so 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 regularly test towards the end of the cooking time (even if it is every 5 mins), 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 cake’s cooking time 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’s cooked or you think it looks cooked.
Once it has finished cooking, take 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 to get a perfect 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 delicious and moist cake, so I recommend you try it.
I wish you a successful cake-making.