Feeding a Christmas cake with alcohol

Make & mature Christmas cake

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(164 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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5th Dec, 2019
I first tried this recipe a few years ago. Since then, I have made it every December and has made me quite the fan of rich fruit cake when before I hardly touched it.
Lina Karpaviciute's picture
Lina Karpaviciute
30th Nov, 2019
Hi, thanks for the recipe. I would like to ask, if it is ok to add less sugar (and how much can I reduce the amount of sugar). I am afraid that this cake might be very sweet as my family does not like very sweet cakes. Thank you!
Rachel Palmer's picture
Rachel Palmer
17th Nov, 2019
This is my 2nd cake using the same method and ingredients, love it, smells devine, is eaten within days of given the go ahead (to my kids) there is nothing I would do differently, cooked in an electric oven, for the full two hours. Love it!! Thank you ♥️♥️♥️
Maria Butler's picture
Maria Butler
8th Nov, 2019
This sounds much easier than my usual recipe, but my husband hates almonds or any nuts. Any suggestion to replace the ground almonds, please?
28th Nov, 2019
Yes, I've sometimes used polenta in cakes when I have not had ground almonds to hand. Works pretty well!
8th Nov, 2019
Same here! And he runs a mile from marzipan. Wonder if the ground almonds can just be replaced with flour...
Less's picture
3rd Nov, 2019
Great recipe! I followed it step for step and it cooked in 2 hours! Didn’t have newspaper or brown parchment paper, but had lots of brown paper in the Amazon box which contained my air tight cake box that I ordered a few days a go to store this cake. This worked great and the edges & bottom didn’t brown/ burn. Will be feeding it with brandy until it’s time to decorate :)
Jennifer Thompson's picture
Jennifer Thompson
2nd Nov, 2019
Excellent. Just made this in two hours as a trial run for making it for Xmas. Added a tablespoon of treacle. Lovely moist cake. Perfect !!!
Pee's picture
23rd Oct, 2019
First one out of four baked today. As usual, I stuck to the recipe to the letter (it’s lovely as it is) and used my old faithful Kraken dark spiced rum! I use a 23cm tin and it’s always done in 2 hours. I have a new oven this year, which tends to brown cakes quickly despite the temperature being spot on, so I covered the top in foil after the first hour or so.
22nd Oct, 2019
I’ve just taken this out of the oven and it looks fabulous. I was concerned about how long it would take after reading the comments, but it’s perfect after the recommended 2 hours. I did follow the recipe to the letter, I doubled up on parchment and double wrapped in newspaper as suggested, it did not catch light! It was super easy to make and smells great, I hope it tastes good as the cost of ingredients was an investment! All I need to do now is feed it until Christmas week, but so far so good.


Annetta 55
9th Dec, 2019
I just made this cake but found when I cut it it crumbles any tips on what I can do or done wrong
10th Dec, 2019
Hello, Thank you for your question. May I ask what kind of knife you are using? Sometimes the wrong knife blade can cause the cake to crumble. Also, how long have you matured the cake for and how cool is it when you cut it? The cooler the cake the easier it should be to cut neatly, also if the cake has rested it should help the crumb firm up. The final possibility is that the eggs you used were on the small side, eggs can vary by 10g each within the size range. I hope this helps.
8th Dec, 2019
I've used the last of the sherry making the cake. Can I feed it with blackberry or sloe gin?
10th Dec, 2019
Hi, I often feed my cake with sloe gin, so yes you can. I hope this helps.
The Brady Bunch
24th Nov, 2019
If I made this as 2x 10cm cakes would I halve the cooking time?
25th Nov, 2019
Hello, Scaling cakes up and down is slightly complicated when it comes to cooking times. Though your cakes will be smaller across the base they may still be quite high so will still take a reasonable time to cook through right to the centre. You can check them after an hour (push a skewer into the centre and make sure it come out with no wet cake mixture on it) and then keep checking at 15 minutes until they are cooked. Don't worry about the holes you make, especially if you are planning on feeding the cakes. Do make sure you line and wrap the tins as suggested, this will stop the outsides overcooking. Let us know if you need any more help.
Remedia Fernandes's picture
Remedia Fernandes
20th Nov, 2019
By Butter, I am presuming you mean 'unsalted' butter, right?
4th Nov, 2019
Presumably as I have no ground almonds and no access to any in my part of Spain I can increase flour and/or fruit. Hlep by tomorrow 12pm Spanish time would be much appreciated.
goodfoodteam's picture
9th Nov, 2019
Thanks for your question. You can use an additional 100g plain flour.
1st Nov, 2019
Hi, what can I use instead of the alcohol please? Thanks!


Caroline Settle's picture
Caroline Settle
8th Dec, 2019
I used this recipe to make mini Christmas cakes to gift to family and friends over the festive period. I used the recipe as is, except I used pre-soaked brandy fruit which had been on the go for a couple of months. Using a 5cm diameter muffin tin lined with baking paper and no additional wrapping I found 50-60mins is perfect cooking time. No burning and lovely moist looking cake much better recipe to downsize than others I’ve used in the past. Feeding will only be 1 week due to the size of them.
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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