Traditional Christmas Cake - a Family Recipe

Every family have their own Christmas traditions, and foods that are inherent to those traditions.  For as long as I can remember my Great Aunt has presented my parents every year with a homemade Christmas cake as her gift to our family.  The images of that cake are ingrained in my memories over the years.  From the peaked royal icing to the shiny kitsch snowmen or Santa decorations that normally adorn the top of the cake.   I remember my Dad venturing out in the snow a couple of days before Christmas to deliver presents and returning with The Cake.  It was normally kept sealed until Christmas morning when the first slices would be cut and served with a mid-morning cup of tea before the main lunch preparations began.  After Christmas had passed if there was any cake remaining it would be served under custard as a delicious dessert.

The recipe was always thought to be a guarded secret (although I am not sure if anyone had ever actually requested it!) and wasn't written down anywhere.  Since moving to Asia, and having my daughter, our Christmases have changed somewhat, and whilst we have been making our own new Christmas traditions, I am keen to incorporate and pass on my family's traditions.  So last year I decided it was time to make my first Christmas cake and there was only one recipe that I wanted to use.  I requested the family recipe from Auntie Peggie and she was happy to share.  I made my first cake last year and it tasted exactly as I remember it ...well maybe not quite as good, but not far off!  Word quickly spread within the family that The Recipe was written down and this year myself, my sister, my cousin and my aunt are all making Peggie's cake.  A new family tradition is born.

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I have given quantities in ounces as well as grams as the original recipe is in ounces.

9oz (255g) Raisins

9ozs (255g) Sultanas

8ozs (225g) Currants

3ozs (85g) Glace cherries, chopped

8ozs (225g) Plain flour

8ozs (225g) Butter, softened

8ozs (225g) Soft light brown sugar

4 Eggs

1 Level tsp baking powder

1 Tsp Ground mixed spice

1 Tsp Ground ginger

1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

5 Tbsp Brandy (Ideally I use cherry brandy if available but normal brandy is fine)


  1. Two days before you plan to bake the cake place all the dried fruit in a bowl with the brandy.  Cover and allow to soak for approximately 48 hours.
  2. When ready to make the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs one at a time.  
  3. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.  Grease and line a deep 8" (20cm) cake tin.
  4. Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices.  Fold the flour mixture into the butter and sugar.
  5. Finally, add the fruit and mix well.
  6. Pour or spoon the mixture into the cake tin.  Bake for 3 - 3/12 hours.
  7. Auntie Peggie always wraps 2 layers of brown paper around the outside of the cake to stop it cooking too quickly.  I used 2 layers of greaseproof paper.
  8. After 1 1/2 hours place a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the cake to stop it getting too dark.
  9. Check the cake regularly from about 2 1/2 hours as ovens vary greatly and cooking time can vary.  Peggie cooks her cake for between 4 - 4 1/2 hours but I find that mine is done in 3 1/2.
  10. When cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the tin.  Allow to cool completely and then store until ready to ice just before Christmas.
  11. I try to make my cake 4 - 6 weeks* before Christmas so that it has time to mature.  To store it I wrap it in a layer of greaseproof paper, a layer of clingfilm and then store it in an airtight cake box.
  12. Auntie Peggie doesn't actually feed her cake with any alcohol after it is baked but if you want your cake to be a little bit boozier, and also to help keep it moist, then drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp brandy once a week before you are ready to ice.
  13. I will post a follow-up before Christmas to give you detail on how best to ice your cake. 

*I know it is now less than 4 weeks to Christmas but please don't let that put you off making a cake.  It will not have as much time to mature but will still taste great.

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