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How to Make an Easy Classic Fruitcake for Christmas

Celebrate with something delicious.

Celebrate with something delicious.

A Traditional Recipe for the Holidays

I always used to bake a Christmas cake every year until recently, when I was too busy and opted out. However, last year, I decided to embark on a baking spree and dusted off my old Christmas recipes. To my delight, I found this lovely classic recipe. It was a real treat, and I'll gladly make it for future Christmases to come.

You'll be pleased to know that the recipe I'm going to share with you happens to be quite an easy one, and best of all, you don't have to make it months beforehand. Three or four weeks will do just fine; but of course, if you like to be very organised, a few months beforehand is fine, too. The result is a delicious, moist cake with a subtle boozy flavor (if you use brandy).

How to Make a Good Old-Fashioned Fruitcake

In this article, you'll find:

  1. Ingredients and instructions for this recipe
  2. Helpful tips to keep in mind as you bake
  3. Suggestions for how to decorate your cake, with inspiration photos
Try this Christmas cake recipe to get these results.

Try this Christmas cake recipe to get these results.

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

3 hours

3 hours 30 min

Serves 10 to 12

A note about time: Remember, the timing listed above does not include the overnight soaking of some ingredients, nor the post-baking preparation.


  • 300 grams sultanas
  • 300 grams raisins
  • 50 grams dates, finely chopped
  • 100 grams mixed candied peel, finely chopped
  • 100 grams glace cherries, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 300 grams plain flour, sieved
  • 1 lemon, grated zest and juice
  • 1 orange, grated zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 200 grams soft golden sugar
  • 200 grams unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 4 medium free range eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Brandy


  1. Preheat the oven to 140ºC/Gas 1. Grease a 20 cm square or 23 cm round tin with a little sunflower oil and line it with three layers of baking parchment.
  2. Mix the dried fruit, candied peel and cherries in a large, deep-bottomed bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of brandy. Cover and soak overnight.
  3. Add the flour, spices, lemon and orange zest and juice to your soaked fruit. Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the golden syrup and beaten eggs. Add this mixture to the flour and fruit mixture. Combine thoroughly. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk and add this to the mix too.
  5. Lastly, add the brandy a little at a time, tasting as you go. The mixture should have a soft dropping consistency similar to that of a cupcake mixture.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. It should reach about two-thirds of the way up the tin.
  7. Dip a dessert spoon in warm water and swirl it around the top of the cake mixture, pressing the middle down just slightly. Cover the top with a sheet of parchment paper and put the cake in the preheated oven.
  8. Bake for three hours, then test the cake by inserting a metal skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the mix is cooked. If not, allow another 15 minutes and test again. The cake might need a little longer depending on your oven and your tin.
  9. Once the mix is cooked, take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  10. Double-wrap the cake in grease-proof paper and then again in tin foil. Store in a cool, dry place till Christmas.
  11. Feed your cake on a weekly basis before Christmas. Using a thin skewer, make holes in the top and pour over teaspoons of brandy to soak in the cake. Use an egg-wash brush to brush any excess over the cake.
  12. Glaze and marzipan your Christmas cake a week before you want to ice it. Ice your cake a day or two before Christmas. I leave mine till the day before Christmas Eve, as I don't like the royal icing to harden.
Up close: deliciously moist and subtly boozy. Indulge! It's Christmas.

Up close: deliciously moist and subtly boozy. Indulge! It's Christmas.

Cook's Tips

Be an early bird and have a stress-free Christmas; cook and bake your goodies in advance. Here are some other helpful suggestions:

Adjust the Baking Time As Needed

It's a good idea to get familiar with your oven and your baking tin when it comes to baking cakes, as the cooking time can differ depending on both. If you are not sure, check your cake mixture a little earlier than the recommended baking time.

Adjust the Ingredients to Your Liking

There is no hard rule about spices and fruits when it comes to baking a Christmas cake; if you like a little more or a little less of certain ingredients, go for it. I personally don't care too much for cherries, hence the smaller amount.

Remember to Feed Your Cake Some Brandy (or Juice)

Feeding your cake a little brandy on a weekly basis leading up to Christmas will keep your cake moist, and the alcohol flavor will be present but suitably subtle. If you don't care for alcohol whatsoever, you can substitute orange juice for the brandy but only do this up to six weeks before Christmas.

No Need to Wait Till the Holidays

By all means, don't keep this fruitcake recipe just for Christmas; omit the marzipan and royal icing and you'll have a delicious fruitcake recipe for any time of the year. Best of luck with all your favorite festive recipes.

Decorating Your Cake

When it comes to decorating my Christmas cake, I like to keep it simple. Last year, I used a red cake wrapper to wrap around the cake and displayed it on a red plate. I was very pleased with the result, and though it was simple, it looked very good.

Whatever you fancy, go for it. After all, it's your cake. Well done, and have a merry Christmas!

© 2012 Gabriel Wilson