Make & mature Christmas cake

Make & mature Christmas cake

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(65 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 the dried fruit, zests and juice, alcohol, butter and sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Tip into your prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hrs.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 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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11th Nov, 2017
Made this cake for the third consecutive year. Great recipe!
15th Oct, 2017
I always make 25% extra by scaling up the recipe and then split into two smaller cake tins. Cooks in 1.5-1.75 hours and always comes out perfect
3rd Jul, 2017
Posting out of season I know - but found this recipe in my web favourites so posting before I forget to.....baked a cake for the first time in my life last Christmas and followed this recipe using Remy Martin. Gorgeous cake even if I say so myself. Decorated with bought marzipan and icing - maybe next year!
8th Jan, 2017
Followed the recipe exactly, turned out perfectly. Very pleased, especially as it was my first ever Christmas cake. Very easy.
8th Jan, 2017
First Christmas cake. Foolowed recipes exactly. Perfect. (Used spiced rum).
7th Jan, 2017
I have tried quite a few different recipes and this year I chose this recipe. My cake was delicious and cooked. I did use an oven thermometer to check on the temperature and probably gave it 30 mins longer as it still looked a bit pale. I didnt feed any more brandy after it was cooked at all.. It seemed very moist . I marzipanned and iced the cake and we are loving it.
6th Jan, 2017
I'm not sure what I was doing right, reading the comments re. undercooked, heavy, soggy etc - first time with a totally new recipe, relatively new oven, perfect! I was bored with a boozeless recipe that has been in my family for donkeys years, this was the first of a Google search - I left it in the oven for an extra 20 minutes, and am ecstatic at the result. It only had 1 injection of brandy, a week before marzipanning (next year I'm determined to be more organised, stir-up Sunday's already marked on the kitchen calendar!), and was lovely. Not particularly light - it's a fruit cake, right?! - wonderfully moist, properly cooked, and a delicious flavour. No complaints at all, just huge thanks to James Martin for my happy-ever-after Christmas cake recipe.
1st Jan, 2017
Same as Petrol44. Followed recipe to the letter (and I used to be a Home Economics teacher) and the cake is woefully undercooked. Although I checked with skewer - came out clean. Complete waste of money, and I'd also already bought marzipan and icing. I would say it needed another hour. Very unhappy!
31st Dec, 2016
Very disappointing. Made two cakes, one using Delia as usual and this one. Sadly, this cake was soggy, heavy and unappetising. I think the lack of creaming butter and sugar makes it stodgy. It was moist, but that was the only redeeming feature. Normally like James M recipes, but not this one.
31st Dec, 2016
Very disappointing. I made two Christmas cakes, (one son has a nut allergy so I don't marzipan one of them) and so I thought I'd use two different recipes as an experiment this year. So I did one using this recipe and the other using the Delia recipe. I followed James' recipe to the letter, and the cake is soggy, dense and unappetising. It's moist, no question, but I think that not creaming butter and sugar is an issue. James' recipes are normally great but this one doesn't compare to the trad way.


23rd Nov, 2017
Hi. I am allergic to almonds what could I replace to make this cake. Thanks
30th Oct, 2017
I've had mine in for 2 hours and 20 mins and it's still raw I was just wondering if anyone else has had this problem and how to fix it thank you Chloe
goodfoodteam's picture
8th Nov, 2017
Sorry we weren't able to get back to you while your cake was still in the oven. We're wondering if the oven wasn't fully up to temperature when the cake went in. It's fine to leave it in for longer. Bear in mind that if inserting a skewer into a fruit cake, sometimes the skewer will be sticky as it pierces the fruit. It doesn't necessarily indicate it is uncooked. A good indication of when a fruit cake is cooked is feeling firm to the touch in the centre of the cake.
14th Oct, 2017
Could I double up the quantities to make one large cake? And how long should I bake it?
goodfoodteam's picture
20th Oct, 2017
Thanks for your question. You can double up the recipe. We can't give you an exact size or time as we have not tested this. You'll need to experiment. However as fruit cakes are pretty stable, you don't need to worry too much about opening the oven door later in the cooking time to give you an idea of how much longer you need to cook it.
11th Oct, 2017
What diameter cake tin is best? I see depth noted but not size (square) or diameter (round). Thank you.
goodfoodteam's picture
20th Oct, 2017
Thanks for your question, you need a 20cm round cake tin for this recipe.
10th Oct, 2017
I make a few Christmas cakes to give to friends and colleagues and have always fed them with brandy to mature. This year I want to give one to some Muslim friends in return for their kindness at the end of Eid. I am happy that the alcohol in the rum and brandy the fruit is soaked in will be cooked off but what non-alcoholic alternatives are there to keeping the cake moist as it matures? I am more concerned about the moistness and taste than the keeping qualities of the cake. It will get eaten fairly quickly I am sure. I am not sure that orange or lemon juice would work, or tea with a rich cake. How about rosewater or orange blossom water? Could I heat up some brandy to reduce it by 40% to take out the alcohol? If so at what temperature and for how long?
goodfoodteam's picture
11th Oct, 2017
Thanks for your question, although alcohol can be burned off we would suggest using juice or tea or you can even use a little milk to soak the fruits. For feeding the cake after cooking, we suggest tea as a neutral but complementary flavour.
16th Apr, 2017
Hi. I want to make a 6'' cake. I'm going to scale the recipe by 0.6. Does anybody know how long this will take to bake?


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...