Feeding a Christmas cake with alcohol

Make & mature Christmas cake

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(144 ratings)

Prep: 25 mins Cook: 2 hrs, 10 mins Plus cooling


Cuts into 12-15 slices

Bake this festive fruit cake in advance of Christmas and feed it regularly with rum, brandy or whisky to build the flavour and keep it moist

Nutrition and extra info

Nutrition: per slice (12)

  • kcal678
  • fat29g
  • saturates12g
  • carbs88g
  • sugars79g
  • fibre3g
  • protein9g
  • salt0.6g
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  • 1kg mixed dried fruit (use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, cranberries, prunes or figs)
  • zest and juice 1 orange



    One of the best-known citrus fruits, oranges aren't necessarily orange - some varieties are…

  • zest and juice 1 lemon



    Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

  • 150ml brandy, Sherry, whisky or rum, plus extra for feeding



    Brandy is a distilled spirit made from virtually any fermented fruit or starchy vegetable.…

  • 250g pack butter, softened



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • 200g light soft brown sugar
  • 175g plain flour
  • 100g ground almond
  • ½ tsp baking powder
    Baking powder

    Baking powder

    bay-king pow-dah

    Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making. It is made from an alkali…

  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 100g flaked almond
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Put 1kg mixed dried fruit, the zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 150ml brandy or other alcohol, 250g softened butter and 200g light, soft brown sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat.

  2. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 mins. Tip the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 mins.

  3. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside – tie with string to secure.

  4. Add 175g plain flour, 100g ground almonds, ½ tsp baking powder, 2 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground cloves, 100g flaked almonds, 4 large eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour.

  5. Tip into your prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hrs.

  6. Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp of your chosen alcohol. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.

  7. To store, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap well in cling film. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every fortnight, until you ice it.

  8. Don’t feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.

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Comments, questions and tips

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Roz Spencer's picture
Roz Spencer
14th Oct, 2019
Even using this recipe for years now, so easy to follow and make. Always super tasty! This year I’ve added in some cranberries instead of cherries (purely because the supermarket didn’t have any!) I made 3 today, however small tins so actually turned out to be 4, which has taken longer in the oven but only to be expected. Can’t wait for Christmas!!
DrHeather's picture
13th Oct, 2019
Used this recipe for the last 3 years, super easy and worked well so far! Usually I add a tub of glacé cherries too. This year I let the fruit soak in V.S.O.P. Brandy for a few hours beforehand and then used the recipe as written. Usually store mine in clingfilm in the fridge and ‘feed’ every 2 weeks. Worth investing in a decent brandy, sherry etc
Tina Robinson's picture
Tina Robinson
4th Oct, 2019
I made this cake on Wednesday and added some chopped mixed nuts. I may have added a little extra brandy too! It had two hours in the oven and came out perfectly cooked. It smelt and looked delicious - the newspaper around the outside is worth it. We can’t wait to try it at Christmas. Follow the recipe and you can’t go wrong.
Jay E's picture
Jay E
28th Sep, 2019
Mine has been in the oven over 3 hours and is still rather soft in the centre, this is using a shallower cake tin than recommended. Be careful with the timings.
Sunnie Cord
23rd Mar, 2019
Easy recipe and tastes wonderful. I baked 7 last Christmas, for friends, and I've made another today for a friend's child's christening. However, I've had to give them all about 3 hours in my preheated fan oven at 145c. I'll always use this recipe but will rely on a thermometer to ensure the cake is ready rather than relying on time alone.
14th Feb, 2019
It’s Valentine’s Day and I just had the next to last sliver of this cake. Absolutely superb. One thing I did do is used whisky and after I’d cooked the fruit in it and the butter etc, I left it overnight to soak before baking the cake. And I topped up fortnightly or so.
10th Jan, 2019
We had a bake off at work (we made 6 different Christmas cakes which we blind tested). This cake came last but made the biggest laugh. When it came to testing this cake, the judges looked like they were at a wine tasting event - using a spit bin! My colleague says she followed the recipe to the letter but it still came out like undercooked gravel! This recipe is one to avoid.
27th Sep, 2019
I don't know what you did to the cake, but it most certainly isn't the recipe. It is reliable and very simple. Peculiar way to judge a contest.
Chelle Leong's picture
Chelle Leong
26th Dec, 2018
Too much raisins but everything else is great
15th Dec, 2018
This is the best Christmas cake recipe I have ever made, it is so moist and flavoursome, will definitely do this again next year


11th Sep, 2019
I would like to know How long before Christmas can i make this cake. Thank you.
goodfoodteam's picture
12th Sep, 2019
Thanks for your question. We'd suggest making the cake up to three months before Christmas. Wrap it tightly in a baking parchment, then foil and keep it in an airtight container. Feed every few weeks as suggested above.
10th Dec, 2018
Im in the process of making this cake but I do not see the reason for putting paper on the outside of the tin and I am a little worried it will set fire. The fire brigade are miles away lol
goodfoodteam's picture
11th Dec, 2018
Thanks for your question. This helps to protect the outside of the cake to stop it from becoming overcooked during the long cooking time. Don't worry it won't set fire as long as it's not near a naked flame.
Savya Ramesh's picture
Savya Ramesh
4th Dec, 2018
Could you please include the height/depth of the cake tin used as the cake tins in USA are around 2” high but based on the quantities the cake tin you have used should be higher? If that is the case, do I reduce the baking time?
goodfoodteam's picture
6th Dec, 2018
A deep cake tin tends to be about 3" high. If you cannot get hold of one, you'll need to use a larger tin and reduce the cooking time. We cannot give exact timings as we have not tested this in an alternative tin but would suggest cooking until it starts to look golden on the top and is firm to the touch. If necessary, return to the oven.
29th Nov, 2018
I make this cake every year and I love it. This year, I'm wondering if I might substitute all or half of the butter with hazelnut oil. I prefer to avoid dairy for ethical reasons. Would it work, though? I don't want to jeopardise the whole family's Christmas cake! Thanks!
goodfoodteam's picture
3rd Dec, 2018
Thanks for your question. We're glad you've enjoyed this cake so much. Unfortunately, we haven't tested this so can't give advice on quantities for substitutions. However, we do have a couple of dairy-free Christmas cakes you could make as an alternative: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/vegan-christmas-cake https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2709/gingered-rich-fruit-cake
Sara Sanders
27th Nov, 2018
Hi, this is my first time making Christmas cake. I know I'm a bit late, so I'm going to feed this every week. How should I reheat this on Christmas day? I'm making it to take to my mother in laws as a surprise.
goodfoodteam's picture
27th Nov, 2018
Thanks for your question. You don't need to reheat the cake, just serve it at room temperature.


Laura Heptner's picture
Laura Heptner
19th Nov, 2018
I made this recipe last night, and wrote down the best conversion I could for us Americans (link to converted recipe below). Also, I substituted the ground almond with extra flour. I haven't iced or decorated it yet, since I'll still be feeding it over the next 5 weeks until Christmas, but it smells so good! I used apple brandy to cook with, and will be feeding it spiced rum.
3rd Dec, 2016
I am going to make this today with fruit that has been soaking since January...I start the process in January by putting mixed fruit, fresh lemon, orange & lime ride and juice, I then pour in a mix of spirits, normally what's left over from new year, including: brandy, rum, peach schnapps, Bacardi, vodka, whiskey, Tia Maria, drambui etc. The only spirit I don't put in is gin, I've tried it before and it leaves a funny taste! Then through the year, I stir it, adding more fruit and the dregs left over from parties. I use this mix for my cake, my Christmas pudding and mincemeat. I made a batch of Christmas puddings 3 years as an experiment to see how long they would last. Last years was the 2 year one and it was absolutely out of this world, so I am so looking forward to year 3! I will be making a spare just in case.
18th Oct, 2016
I have the newspaper/brown paper extending 3 or 4 cms above the top of the tin then rest a double piece of brown paper, with a 3 cm hole cut in the centre, on top of the newspaper/brown paper. This prevents the top from browning too quickly but the air can still escape through the centre hole.
27th Dec, 2015
I made this cake in Seattle for my English sweetheart. He suggested a few modifications based on his mom's technique. I soaked the fruit and peel overnight in 100ml of brandy. I added a couple of spoonfuls of dark treacle and a splash of almond extract. While this horrified the family in England, I did not ice it. I glazed the cake with apricot jam and covered it in marzipan, but he doesn't like the sugar in the traditional icing. I decorated the cake with holly designs made of sprinkled green sugar, placed a ring of blanched almonds around the edge, and lightly dusted it all with white icing sugar. Once fed with brandy, my cake was declared the genuine article. My American family loved it, too! Much nicer than the overly sweet dense fruit cakes we grew up on...
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