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How to Make an Authentic English Fruit Cake: Easy-to-Follow Recipe

This fruit cake recipe came from my mum.

This fruit cake recipe came from my mum.

Old Family Recipe

For my son's 19th birthday, we decided to bake an English fruit cake using a recipe from my 92-year-old mum's kitchen notebook! Although the finished product had an unusual appearance, it tasted divine. After about an hour with his teenage friends, only crumbs remained!

The UK is known for creating dozens of different kinds of fruit cake, from simple sultana slices to dark and mysterious Christmas cakes, steeped in rumfustian juices.

This cake is somewhere between the two and should be a delicious addition to any family meal, or a tea or coffee break party! In fact, it would grace any table on any occasion.

You'll find this cake sweet but not as sweet as many other fruit cakes out there. Sugar has been minimised. The goodness of three eggs—with iron, vitamins, and protein—has to be a bonus.

Please note that the addition of small amounts of spirits is optional. My mum loved to put a 'good drop of sherry' in her fruit cakes, but you may wish for something different.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

1 hour

1 hour 20 min

12 servings


  • 250 grams self-raising flour
  • 200 grams soft butter
  • 50 grams dark/demerara sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 2 medium apples
  • 250 grams sultanas, raisins or mixed peel

Healthier Version

For a healthier version try olive oil mixed with butter, egg whites only, use dried chopped apricots, cherries and dates, wholemeal flour and white flour combined and lower the sugar content further, according to taste.

Add molasses into the mixture.

Add molasses into the mixture.


  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C / gas mark 4. Grease (butter) your medium-sized cake tin and set aside.
  2. Peel and core apples, then chop into small chunks. Submerge the apple chunks in lemon water so they don't get brown.
  3. Mix flour, butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder, mixed spice and molasses until thick and creamy.
  4. Add apple chunks and sultanas and raisins. Stir into batter. Make sure the mixture is stiff enough to suspend all fruits. If not the cake will be bottom-heavy in fruit, and the top too dry and crumbly.
  5. Transfer batter to cake tin. Bake for 50 to 70 minutes (depends on the efficiency of the oven) or until dark golden brown.
  6. Use a probe, skewer or thin knife to check if cooked in middle. When cooked, the implement will be dry and not have uncooked cake stuck to it.
  7. Leave to cool on a rack.
  8. Wrap in foil or greaseproof paper and keep in fridge a few hours to allow cake to firm up.
Fruit cake ready for the cream and yoghurt! And the appetites.

Fruit cake ready for the cream and yoghurt! And the appetites.

Tips and Suggestions

  • Soak your fruit in cold black tea overnight for darker fruit and a darker cake.
  • Darker sugar (e.g., muscovado) could also be used for a darker cake.
  • Instead of sultanas and raisins add cherries, chopped dried apricots, pineapple pieces. Other additions include raspberry liqueur or rum/brandy, ginger, cinnamon, applesauce or cranberry sauce. Please note that these should be used separately and not combined!
  • Baking powder can be made by mixing 15ml bicarbonate of soda with 30ml cream of tartar.
  • To avoid burning the cake and exposed fruits lower the oven temperature and slow bake until cooked.
  • If you wish, sherry/rum/brandy can be added after the cake is finished and ready to be served.
  • For very special occasions small amounts of brandy can be dripped carefully over the cake and lit to produce the traditional blue tinged with yellow Christmas flames, well known in the UK and Europe.

© 2012 Andrew Spacey