How to Make a Classic British Christmas Cake, Step by Step

  • 01 of 11

    A Classic British Christmas Cake

    Iced Christmas Cake - Christmas Cake Recipe
    Iced Christmas Cake - Christmas Cake Recipe.

    No British Christmas is complete without a classic Christmas cake. My Christmas cake recipe may look complicated but is actually easy if you assemble and weigh all the ingredients and line the cake tin before you start. The rest is straightforward.

    A Christmas cake can be made two months before Christmas for it to mature and to be fed at regular intervals with brandy. If you are making it later, don't worry, it will still taste good.

    To make this wonderful traditional Christmas cake follow the step by step instructions on the following pages. In the photos I am making two cakes, if you want to prepare two at the same time you will need to double the ingredients listed here.

    Ingredients of a Classic Christmas Cake

    For 1 Cake you will need:

    • 1lb 2oz/525g currants
    • 8oz/ 225g golden raisins/sultanas*
    • 8oz / 225g raisins
    • 4oz / 110g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
    • 6oz / 165 glace cherries, halved
    • 3 tbsp brandy, plus extra for feeding
    • 2 ½ sticks / 300g butter, slightly softened
    • 10 oz / 300g soft brown sugar
    • Zest of ½ lemon
    • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 10oz/ 300g all purpose or plain flour
    • ½ level tsp mixed spice **
    • ½ level tsp ground cinnamon
    • ½ level tsp freshly ground nutmeg
    • Pinch salt
    Continue to 2 of 11 below.
  • 02 of 11

    Mix the Dried Fruits Together

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Mix the Fruit. Photo © RFB Photography
    The day before, in a large roomy baking bowl, mix all the dried fruits together.
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  • 03 of 11

    Add the Brandy

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography
    Add the brandy to the mixed dried fruits, cover with a tea cloth and leave to marinate overnight.
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  • 04 of 11

    Assemble the Ingredients

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography
    A classic British Christmas cake at first glance always seems daunting, but it is actually quite straightforward if you weigh, measure and assemble all your ingredients first.
    Heat the oven to 300°F/150°C/Gas 2The temperature is low as the cake needs a long slow bake. It is packed with sugars, fruits and brandy and if the temperature is any higher the outside of the cake will burn and the inside be undercooked.
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  • 05 of 11

    Line the Cake Tin (s)

    Step by Step Classic British Christmas Cake - Line the Cake Tin
    Photo © RFB Photography

    Line a 9 inch cake tin with 2 thicknesses of parchment or greaseproof paper. Tie a double band of brown or newspaper paper around the outside. This acts as an insulator to prevent the cake from burning on the outside

    Repeat if you are making more than one cake.

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  • 06 of 11

    Cream the Butter and Sugar

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography
    The next day, in another large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest.
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  • 07 of 11

    Slowly Add the Beaten Egg

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography
    Add the beaten egg to the butter mixture a little bit at a time, beating well after each addition - do not try to rush this process as the mixture could curdle. If it does curdle simply add a tbsp of flour and mix again, this should bring the mixture back together. If it doesn't come back together, don't fret, the cake will still be delicious.
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  • 08 of 11

    Add the Flour, Fruit and Spices

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography
    Add the flour, spices and salt to the dried fruits mixture and stir really well making sure there is no flour at the bottom of the bowl.
    Carefully fold in half the flour and fruit into the egg and butter mixture, once incorporated repeat with the remaining flour and fruit.Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin making sure there are no air pockets. Once filled smooth the surface with the back of s spoon and make a slight dip in the center (this will rise back up again during cooking and create a smooth surface for icing the cake).Finally, using a piece of paper towel clean up any smears of cake batter on the greaseproof wrapping, if left on they will burn, and though it won't affect the cake, it doesn't smell too good.
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  • 09 of 11

    Ready for the Oven

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography
    Stand the tin on a double layer of newspaper in the oven - if you have a gas oven ensure the paper is well away from the any flame - and bake for 4½ hours. If the cake is browning too rapidly, cover the tin with a double layer of greaseproof or parchment paper after 2½ hours. During the cooking time avoid opening the oven door too often as this may cause the cake to collapse.After 4 ½ hours check the cake is cooked. The cake should be nicely risen and a deep brown all over. Insert a skewer or fine knife into the centre of the cake. If there is sticky dough on the skewer when you pull it out it needs cooking longer, if it is clean, the cake's done so remove from the oven.
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  • 10 of 11

    Leave to Cool

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography
    Leave the cake to cool in the tin on a wire rack for an hour, then remove from the tin, remove the paper and leave to cool completely.
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  • 11 of 11

    Feed with Brandy

    Classic Christmas Cake Recipe
    Photo © RFB Photography

    Once cooled prick the surface of the cake with a fine metal skewer and slowly pour over 2 - 3 tbsp brandy. This feeding should be repeated every two weeks up until Christmas.

    The cake should be stored wrapped in greaseproof or parchment paper in an airtight tin.

    Next, you'll need to ​ice the Christmas cake

    The cake can be iced a week or two before Christmas, or served as it is and is delicious with a piece of Wensleydale Cheese