Classic Christmas Cake Recipe

Get into the Christmas spirit by baking your cake in good time

Christmas Cake
PREP TIME 30 mins plus soaking COOK TIME 4 to 4 ½ hours MAKES Plenty

For the cake:

  • 175g (6oz) raisins
  • 350g (12oz) glacé cherries, halved
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) currants
  • 350g (12oz) sultanas
  • 150ml (¼pt) brandy or sherry, plus extra to moisten cake at intervals
  • 2 oranges, zest only
  • 250g (9oz) butter, softened
  • 250g (9oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 75g (3oz) chopped almonds
  • 250g (9oz) plain flour
  • 1½ tsp mixed spice

For the covering:

  • 3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
  • Icing sugar
  • 675g (1lb 8oz) marzipan

For the royal icing:

  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only
  • 675g (1½lb) icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 tsp lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp glycerine

Preparation method

  1. Place all the dried fruit into a large mixing bowl, pour over the brandy and stir in the orange zest. Cover with clingfilm and leave to soak overnight or up to 3 days, stirring daily.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm/8in deep, round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140°C/275F/Gas 1.
  3. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well. Add the flour and ground spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
  4. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 4-4½ hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after two hours, and if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
  5. When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and spoon on a little extra brandy. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place. For a rich and moist cake, spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy every week until you are ready to ice and decorate your cake. Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist.
  6. The week before Christmas, begin covering the cake. For the covering, stand the cake upside down, flat side uppermost, on a board which is 5cm/2in larger than the size of the cake. Brush the sides and the top of the cake with the warm apricot jam.
  7. Liberally dust work surface with icing sugar and then roll out the marzipan to about 5cm/2in larger than the surface of the cake.
  8. Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake using a rolling pin. Gently level and smooth the top of the paste with the rolling pin, then ease the marzipan down the sides of the cake, smoothing it at the same time. If necessary, neatly trim excess marzipan from the base of the cake with a small sharp knife. Cover the cake loosely with baking parchment and leave for a few days to dry out before adding the royal icing.
  9. For the royal icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they become frothy. Fold in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time. Stir in the lemon juice and glycerine then beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.
  10. Cover the surface of the icing tightly with clingfilm and keep in a cool place until needed.
  11. To ice the cake, place all the icing onto the top of the cake. Spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake with a palette knife. For a snow-peak effect, use a smaller palette knife to rough up the icing. Decorate with silver balls, edible glitter and Christmas figures!
  12. Leave the cake loosely covered overnight for the icing to harden a little, then store in an airtight container in a cool place until needed.