Nancy’s Rudolph Christmas cake

Nancy’s Rudolph Christmas cake

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(4 ratings)

Prep: 1 hr, 15 mins Cook: 2 hrs plus soaking and cooling

More effort

Serves 12 - 15

Nancy Birtwhistle's last-minute Christmas cake is packed with fruit and festive spices, then iced and decorated with three edible reindeer

Nutrition and extra info

  • un-iced

Nutrition: per serving decorated (15)

  • kcal1004
  • fat23g
  • saturates10g
  • carbs187g
  • sugars171g
  • fibre3g
  • protein10g
  • salt0.7g
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  • 2 x 500g packs mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 100g glacé cherries, washed, dried and cut into quarters
  • 4 tbsp Cointreau, brandy or Madeira (or the juice from the orange, below), plus a little extra for soaking, if you like
  • 250g pack salted butter
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
    Golden syrup

    Golden syrup

    goal-dun sir-rup

    Golden syrup is a translucent, golden-amber coloured, sweet syrup, which can only be produced…

  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten



    The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition packed with protein and a…

  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ whole nutmeg, finely grated



    One of the most useful of spices for both sweet and savoury

  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • zest 1 orange



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

  • zest 1 lemon



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

To decorate

  • 85g smooth apricot jam, melted
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • 750g marzipan
    Marzipan cake



    One of mankind’s oldest sources of sweet pleasure, marzipan needs to contain only ground…

  • 1.2kg ready-to-roll white icing
  • brown, red and black food colouring
  • 3 pretzels, halved
  • gold string
  • sparkling red ribbon, to tie around the base
  • a pin


  1. The night before making the cake, put the mixed fruit and cherries in a bowl, add your chosen spirit or orange juice, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 8-12 hrs. If you don’t have time to soak the fruit, put the bowl in the microwave for 5 mins, stir, then microwave for 5 mins more before leaving to cool completely.

  2. Grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 3. Using a large bowl and electric hand whisk, or a stand-alone mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Spoon in the golden syrup, then add the beaten egg in 4 additions, whisking well after each and adding 1 tbsp of the flour to prevent the mixture from curdling. When all the eggs have been incorporated, gently fold in the rest of the flour and the spices. Finally, fold in the soaked fruit and the orange and lemon zest. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with the back of the spoon. Bake for 2 hrs or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Your kitchen will be filled with lovely Christmas smells!

  3. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 mins. Remove from the tin and place on a wire rack until completely cold. If not decorating straight away, wrap the cake in foil to store. If you’ve made your cake a few weeks before you want to eat it, you can brush the cake with a little extra alcohol every week for up to 4 weeks. This will keep it moist and add flavour.

  4. To decorate the cake, brush all over with a little melted jam. Lightly dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan to a circle, large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Lift the marzipan by hanging it over the rolling pin and drape it over the cake. Smooth the marzipan down the sides of the cake, then trim away any excess from the bottom. Brush the marzipan all over with the remaining apricot jam, then roll out 1kg of the fondant icing and, using the same method as for the marzipan, cover your cake with the icing. Trim the edges and smooth out any marks with the palm of your hand, rubbing the icing to give it a shine.

  5. Knead the remaining icing, then cut off a small piece, about the size of a small marble, and set aside. Colour the large piece of icing with brown food colouring, adding a little at a time and kneading in well, until you have the desired colour. Divide the icing into 3, then shape a reindeer – body, head, 2 feet and a tail – from each piece. Mix 1 tbsp icing sugar with a tiny splash of water to use as a glue. Stick the head onto the body and squash down a little. Use a small knife to make three indents in the feet, then stick to the reindeer body, along with the tail.

  6. Remove a small piece from the reserved icing to make Rudolph’s red nose. Colour with red food colouring, then use the icing glue to attach to one of the reindeer heads. Colour the remaining icing black and shape into two more noses and two eyes for each reindeer, then stick onto the heads. Poke half a pretzel into either side of the reindeers’ heads to create antlers. Use a little of the icing sugar glue to stick the reindeer to the top of the cake, then tie the gold string around their bodies to create reins. Finish the cake by tying a sparkling red ribbon around the base and securing it in place with a pin.

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Comments, questions and tips

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20th Oct, 2018
I made this Christmas cake last year after being loyal to Delia’s classic recipe for 20 - this cake is glorious and I’ve made it this evening to bake overnight yum yum. It already smells deliciously spicy and seasonal. Although the recipe suggests this is a last minute cake, last year I made it in early November and fed it with brandy right up until the week before Christmas and it was divine hence the even earlier October bake this year. Delighted with this!
22nd Dec, 2016
This is the best Christmas cake recipe I have ever made.It is great for a last minute cake if you are short of time. This will be the 3rd year running I have used this recipe. I always use the overnight method - only one layer of baking parchment required and no burnt sides!
23rd Oct, 2015
Made 2 last year - had to taste test the first :-) - delicious and made both overnight, the smell was heavenly. Looking forward to making again this Christmas.
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