Traditional English Christmas Cake

by Veronica

November 2nd and I've just finished making my Christmas cake. It is a traditional old fashioned English fruit cake and it improves with the keeping. It will be perfect in 7 weeks.

Most countries have their own type of Christmas cake. In Italy it is a beautiful bread based Pannetone, which is a sweet bread with dried fruits added. In Germany, it would be an almond flavoured Stollen. Some people have a Yule log, a chocolate cake log shaped and this links back to the ancient, pre Christian British festival of burning a Yule log at midwinter.

Here in Britain we have a traditional fruit cake. The Royal family eat a traditional iced Christmas cake on Christmas day- even the royal children who eat in the nursery away from the adult family. In Scotland the cake is covered on top with almonds and called Dundee cake after that lovely city.

I have made a traditional English cake. They are usually decorated but not always. Some people use a boiled fruit cake recipe to make it moist.

Although I make this for everyone, I of course couldn't eat it as I gain weight easily. But one slice won't do you much harm! :)

A traditional iced cake

I made this for the church fayre
I made this for the church fayre

Getting things ready

As with all cooking, it is very important to have everything out and to hand.

I will talk you through this. It is worth the effort.


Food mixer with a heavy dough hook

two measuring jugs

wooden spoons

2 cake tins approx. 8in  round diameter or square

greaseproof baking paper.

mixing jugs are essential
mixing jugs are essential
My mixer
My mixer

My mum did everything by hand and by her eye, looking at things. I am rather more privileged. I have special scales, measuring jugs, mixers and even baking paper already cut to size.



Ingredients and method

Ingredients and method

  • Put 8 ozs sugar over 2lbs any combination of dried fruits; dried apricots, chopped cranberries , dried cherries, sultanas, raisins, currants. Anything.  I use mainly sultanas for my family. Stir the sugar in THEN ....


  • Soak the sugar and  dried fruit in squeeze of lemon juice and about 4 fl ozs of brandy, sherry or orange juice for about 20 - 30  minutes. Stir to make sure it is mixed in.

This is important because if you soak the dried fruit then the fruit does not take moisture out of the cake whilst cooking. This makes it dry otherwise. So soak your fruit first.

Over 4 hours cooking, the alcohol content will burn off.

  • While the fruit soaks, line the cake tins with greaseproof paper. If you want to, tie newspaper around the OUTSIDE of the tin with string;  that helps it not to cook too quickly.  Crack 4 eggs into a jug and mix. Then add 7 fl ozs milk to eggs. Mix.
  • Sieve 1 lbs Self Raising flour onto the fruit. Mix together. ( UK Self raising flour - flour with baking powder added already. )
  • Add the eggs and milk. Mix
  • Lastly beat in the 8 ozs of softened butter.  
  • Mix well and put the cake in an 8 inch paper lined tin.
  • COVER the top of the cake with two layers of greaseproof paper.

Cook for 4 hours on Elec 140C  300F or gas  1 -2

Every 30 minutes turn the cake 180 degrees so it cooks evenly. 


When this is cold, wrap it tightly in aluminium foil and store in a cool place.

Decorate if you wish but my husband prefers it without frosting or icing, so I don't decorate mine.

When this comes out of the oven, I shall post a picture. I made two cakes. As I sit here typing, the smell is wonderful.



In the oven

Through the glass door
In the oven
In the oven

Out of the oven and cooling

four hours later
four hours later
four hours later
four hours later

The fruit cakes.

I checked the cakes after 3.5 hours. I used a metal skewer in the centre and it came out clean. ( My mother's method. ) Then as always I tapped the cake on top to see if it sounded hollow . ( my mother in law's method ) to second check it.

So as opposed to four hours it was done in 3.5 hours. They are cooling now.

Whatever you eat at your own particular celebration, I hope you enjoy the festivals with your families and friends.

Updated: 11/02/2017, Veronica
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Veronica on 02/03/2018

Our mother baked magnificently on a limited budget and with limited ingredients. I still use her pastry recipe and her apple shortbread recipe and I have passed them on to my daughters in law.

frankbeswick on 02/02/2018

Veronica's [and my] mother was an excellent baker, so Veronica is faithfully following where her mother left off.

Veronica on 02/02/2018

I use fondant icing .
the marzipan needs to dry out otherwise the almond oil can discolour the icing. So the thinnest layer of hot apricot jam goes on the cake and icing is applied about 7 to 10 days later after it has dried out sufficiently.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/02/2018

Veronica, Thank you for letting us read and see your cake-baking methods up close and fresh from the oven. Allergies and the latest flu, for six months now!, are perhaps getting in the way of my thinking this through but how can a fruit cake sound hollow? I understand those who favor no icing but I noticed in one of your comments below that you mention the thinnest of hot apricot jam and of marzipan followed 10 days later by icing. Is the icing special because of Christmas or just ordinary icing?

Veronica on 11/04/2017

As if I would ever EVER tease my oldest and most eccentric brother ....
I reiterate though that you have taken it all with a quiet dignity for decades. Respect sir respect !

frankbeswick on 11/03/2017

I regard icing as an unnecessary addition to a cake. I don't eat it much, for solid sugar is fattening, and I am fat enough,as you probably will remind me.

Veronica on 11/03/2017

I have two of those cake tins which have a hole in the centre and also some mini bundts . I make sponge in the mini bundts and a savarin in the larger ones. I haven't made a fruit cake bundt but that would be lovely for Xmas as it would look like a holly wreath.

To decorate a fruit cake,....

..... a thin layer of hot apricot jam is applied and then
a thin layer of marzipan is applied next so the surface is smooth for the icing to attach itself to. The cake sits for ten days so the marzipan sets and the icing isn't spilt by almond oil.
Once the ten days are up then icing is applied and any decorations.

it is a long process but still popular.

blackspanielgallery on 11/03/2017

I have eaten fruit cake, but these are never iced in this area. They are often rectangular, or round with a hole in the center, much like a bunt cake.

Veronica on 11/02/2017

Yes indeed. I made two fruit cakes of course because my husband loves it. My dad, my husband and you and another brother don't eat icing on Christmas cake.

This cake has 7 weeks to mature so should be delicious. I am not sure that my husband will allow you a piece though on Christmas Eve. :)

frankbeswick on 11/02/2017

Thanks for the foretaste of Christmas. But while you may be watching your weight,nothing comes between me and fruit cake. But I rarely eat the icing.

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