Traditional English Christmas Cake Recipe

by KathleenDuffy

The sooner you make your Christmas cake, the better it will taste on the great day! Here is a traditional Christmas Cake recipe for baking as early as September.

In England, the Christmas cake began as a Twelfth Night cake, Twelfth Night being on 5th January and marking the end of the Christmas season. Twelfth Night was a great celebration and often the local priest would visit and bless the houses, and would be invited to take a piece of this cake.

After the Reformation this religious tradition died out, but enterprising bakers, no doubt seeing a gap in the market and missing their lost revenue , revived the cake, decorating it with Christmas scenes. So, Twelfth Night cake became Christmas cake!

Traditional Christmas cakes were made in advance, usually no later than November. The cake would be kept upside down in an airtight tin. Every week a small amount of brandy, sherry or whisky would be 'fed' into holes in the cake, until Christmas.

Traditional Christmas Cake Recipe


This recipe is for a cake which is wonderful if baked in September or October, as it improves with keeping.

Note: Requires to be left overnight at stage 3.

Ingredients :

  • 125 g/4 oz raisins
  • 125 g/4 oz glace cherries
  • 125 g/4 oz mixed peel
  • 450 g/1 lb currants
  • 125 g/4 oz sultanas
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, sherry or rum
  • 4 eggs
  • 225 g/8 oz butter
  • 225 g/8 oz soft brown sugar
  • 225 g/8 oz plain white flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 125 g/4 oz ground almonds



  1. Chop raisins, cherries and mixed peel.
  2. Put these in a bowl with currants and sultanas.
  3. Pour over the brandy, sherry or rum and leave overnight.
  4. Line a 20 cm/8 inch diameter round cake tin or an 18 cm/7 inch square tin with greased, grease-proof paper.
  5. Prepare a cool oven, Gas 2, 300°F, 150°C.
  6. Beat the eggs.
  7. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl.
  8. Sift flour and mixed spice in a separate bowl.
  9. Add soaked fruit and ground almonds.
  10. Mix well together.
  11. Add spoonfuls of egg then flour mixture to bowl of creamed ingredients.
  12. Mix well at each addition until all is thoroughly mixed.
  13. Put mixture into prepared tin.
  14. To protect the cake from browning on the outside before the middle is cooked, wrap a double thickness of brown paper or newspaper round outside of the tin. It should stand up a good 5 cm/2 inches above the tin. Tie it on with string.
  15. Bake the cake for 3 to 4 hours, until it is firm and the fruit stops ‘singing’ or ‘hissing’.
  16. Remove cake from the tin and place on a cooling wire.
  17. When cold, store in an air-tight tin and let it mature as long as possible (at least 3 months). It will keep for a year.

The whole cake can then be covered with Almond Paste and Royal Icing, if desired, although a plain traditional Christmas cake is sometimes preferred.

Xmas bells

You Might Like These Almond Paste and Royal Icing Recipes

This traditional almond paste recipe will give your Christmas cake, whether bought or home-made, the foundation for Royal Icing.
Your Christmas cake, whether bought or home-made, will benefit from a covering of your own Royal Icing. This traditional Royal Icing recipe is the icing on the cake!

Christmas Baking Items

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Updated: 08/06/2013, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 08/29/2013

ologsinquito - My pleasure!

ologsinquito on 08/29/2013

Thanks for telling us about these great old traditions.

KathleenDuffy on 08/14/2013

NausetViews: You are right - it's a lovely aroma!

NausetViews on 08/14/2013

I can only imagine how wonderful the kitchen must smell when baking this cake. So many delicious ingredients!

KathleenDuffy on 07/29/2013

Yes, those were the days. I've put it on very early, I know, but precisely because of what you just said about doing it months before.

jptanabe on 07/29/2013

Oh Christmas cake! I loved making Christmas cake with my mother. I do remember it was made months before Christmas so we had a long wait before eating it!

KathleenDuffy on 07/28/2013

2uesday - You are so right! Really brings the spirit of Christmas right into the home!

KathleenDuffy on 07/28/2013

Oh boy! That sounds brilliant, Yvette! 'specially the white rum! I might not get round to finishing the cake though! :)

KathleenDuffy on 07/27/2013

Oooh, Brenda. Thanks a lot! That's really lovely of you. xx

BrendaReeves on 07/27/2013

Kathleen, I have a cake blog. I'm going to post your link on my blog.

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