The warming and delicious scent of Christmas filled my kitchen earlier this week! Now I know this sounds crazy as Christmas is months away but for those of you who, like me, enjoy the taste of a very rich fruity Christmas cake during the festive season then experts recommend you bake your Christmas cake 3 months ahead of Christmas. The only reason I’m mentioning the C word in October is because I love homemade chutneys and Christmas cake and to taste great they need maturing time. Everything else festive waits until December, well maybe late November if I’m super organised! Check out our delicious recipe for an Apricot & Orange Chutney, it’s so lovely and most definitely worth making a batch.
Baking Christmas cake takes me back to my childhood. I have the most wonderful memories of baking and decorating our family Christmas cake at the farm. Dad had to mix in the dried fruit as my mum made such a huge Christmas cake that with each new ingredient it got harder and harder to mix! Once in the oven I got to lick the yummy spiced cake mixture off the spoon, actually, we used two spoons so dad could have one to himself too! Christmas eve was all about cake decorating. Mum would whiz around the kitchen singing along to the classic Christmas tunes, busily preparing food for the Christmas Day feast whilst dad and I would take on the task of decorating the cake. I was in my element! I guess that’s why, many years on, I am now baking Christmas cakes in October for my own family!
The recipe here has been created using two of my favourite traditional Christmas cake recipes. I still use my mum’s recipe with a few tweaks and extra ingredients here and there. Follow the simple steps below to create your own Perfectly Rich & Fruity Christmas Cake to enjoy this Christmas;
Perfectly Rich & Fruity Christmas Cake
80g Dried figs, chopped
100g Glacé cherries, halved
100g Mixed peel
130ml Rum,whisky or brandy + extra to feed
125g Butter, softened
125g Dark brown sugar
4 Large eggs, beaten
130g Plain flour – sifted
½ tsp Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp Mixed spice
50g Ground almonds
60g Whole blanched almonds
30g Stem Ginger
Grated Zest of 1 orange
Grated Zest of 1 large lemon
Pinch Of Salt
- In a large bowl soak the dried fruit, cherries and mixed peel in your liquor of choice. Cover and soak for 48 hours. Stir each day and stir well before use.
- Preheat the oven to 140C.
- Grease a 20cm baking tin add 2 layers of baking parchment on the base and to the sides.
- Place the butter, sugar, sifted flour, baking powder, mixed spice, a pinch of salt and the eggs in a large bowl and mix until well combined.
- Add the soaked fruits, ground almonds, whole almonds, stem ginger, orange and lemon zest stir well to combine.
- Add the fruity cake mixture to your prepared tin and smooth the surface. Create a small hollow in the middle to prevent a domed cake top.
- Put the cake in the oven for 50 minutes. After 50 minutes check the colour of the cake top, cover with foil to prevent it over browning. Bake for a further 45 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Insert a skewer into the middle of the cake. If it is clean the cake is fully cooked, if not, return to the oven to bake for a little longer. Check after 5-10 minutes and continue this process until it is cooked and the skewer comes out clean.
- Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin
- Use a skewer to poke a few holes into the cake, push 90% of the way down but not all the way to the base of the cake. Brush the top with 1-2 Tablespoons of liquor.
- Carefully remove the cake from the tin. DO NOT remove the parchment. Add another layer of parchment to seal the cake all the way round then cover with two layers of foil (see authors tips below – the foil must not touch the cake directly)
- Store the cake in an airtight container or cake tin in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
- To keep the cake moist you will need to feed the cake every 3 weeks. Simply brush the surface of the cake with a couple of tablespoons of liquor. Re wrap well and pop back into storage after each feeding session.
- Decorate a day or two before Christmas with marzipan and icing. Avoid feeding for a couple of days prior to icing to ensure the cake top is dry.
How to store Christmas cake;
Once cooled wrap it tightly in a double layer of greaseproof paper or parchment. Now wrap with a double layer of tin foil. Store in an airtight container or cake tin in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
You must NOT wrap the cake directly in foil as the fruit could react with the foil and the cake will be ruined.
Cakes that are to be stored for a few weeks before Christmas will need feeding (brushing the surface of the cake with a couple of tablespoons of liquor) at regular intervals, ideally every 4 weeks. Ensure the cake is re-wrapped (as above) after each feeding session.
Our Christmas cakes (we made two!) will receive their finishing touches closer to Christmas. Check out the following blogs that provide tips on how to do the finishing touches to create our Perfectly Fruity Christmas Cake.;
This recipe is ridiculously tasty. It is going to take some will power to save this cake for Christmas but I will persevere as I know when I tuck into this over Christmas it will be so much better having been left to mature for many weeks. Personal tastes vary as do the recommendations for the maturing of Christmas cakes. For me, Christmas would not be Christmas without a beautiful rich, spicy and flavoursome Christmas cake packed with plump, boozy fruit.
Check out our planning guide for more Really Useful Early Christmas Planning Tips, full of recipes and helpful advice.