What makes a Christmas Cake? the dried fruit! - Died and Gone To Devon

The Perfect Christmas Cake Recipe?

A couple of weeks ago I made this year's Christmas Cake.  Fruit cake is one of my favourite cakes and in my mind, Christmas Cake is the king of all fruit cakes.

I use the same recipe each year using the same recipe donated by my mother.  In fact this recipe is the basis for all the fruit cakes I make.  The only difference for Christmas is that the fruit going into the cake maybe pre-soaked in sherry, and a few spices are added to give the cake the aroma and flavour associated with this time of year.

I think this is such a simple cake to make, (with just a bit more time to turn it into a Christmas Cake) that I had to share it with everyone.  So here's the recipe!



Easy to make, versatile, delicious, moist and packed with fruit


  • 675 grams Mixed Dried Fruit
  • 250ml Orange juice, Sherry or Ale for soaking the dried fruit
  • 200 grams Glace Cherries
  • 225 grams Butter
  • 225 grams Soft Brown Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs (we use duck eggs, but large chicken eggs will do)
  • 250 grams Plain Four
  • 25 grams Self Raising Flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves (optional but good for Christmas Cake)
  • 1.5 tsp Cinnamon (optional but good for Christmas Cake)
  • 3/4 tsp Ground Ginger (optional but good for Christmas Cake)

Double the above ingredients for a large cake, which we do at Christmas.


  • Large Cake Tin (For double the ingredients, I've used a 30cm x 30cm, which produces a cake about 12cm high)
  • Large bowls to mix the ingredients
  • Grease proof paper
  • Mixing spoons (electric mixer is optional but very time saving!)
  • Brown paper and string for wrapping around the side of the tin which is useful to stop over cooking.


  • Soak the dried fruit for 24 hours before starting.  See the recipe below.
  • Leave the butter out of the fridge for 12-24 hours to get to room temperature.
  • Remember to grease and line the cake pan as described below.

How to make a great Christmas cake!

  1. Soak the dried fruit overnight (for 24 hours) in the orange juice or beverage of your choice. Remember to stir frequently to ensure all the liquid is absorbed by the fruit.
  2. Take the butter out of the fridge for a few hours, so that it warms to room temperature;
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 150°c
  4. Grease and line a cake pan with grease proof paper (see recommended size above);
  5. Rinse the cherries and roughly chop;
  6. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, gently mix in the whisked eggs;
  7. Sieve the flours and spices together, and then gently mix in the flour to the creamed mixture;
  8. Once the flour has been mixed, fold in the fruit until evenly spread through the mixture;
  9. Place the mixture in the greased and lined baking tin. Slightly hollow out the centre ..... this will help to produce a level cake;
  10. Place a band of brown paper around the outside of the tin and secure with string;
  11. Place in the oven and bake for 2 hours at 150°c;
  12. If well coloured after 1½ hours, cover the top with a double layer of grease proof paper;
  13. After 2 hours, test if cooked by pushing a metal skewer down into the cake.  If it is clean when removing, the cake is cooked.  If not, continue cooking for another 15 minutes and then re-test.
  14. Once cooked, leave to cool in the tin.

So that's your basic Christmas cake.  You can use this recipe to make a fruit cake too.  If you prefer, don't add the spices, and soak the fruit in orange juice instead of alcohol.

If you want to embellish your Christmas cake further, read on ......


I like to feed a Christmas Cake with sherry to give an extra special flavour

To give the cake an extra special taste, (and in theory to help preserve) you can feed it with either dark rum, brandy or sherry.

Feeding involves soaking the cake with alcohol, not too much so to make it soggy and over powered by the beverage, but small amounts to ensure the cake is moist with a hint of your chosen drink.

Feeding your cake

I feed my cake with amontillado (medium dry) sherry.  I do this with a small syringe (without the needle) as follows:

  • Pierce the cake with a skewer, for a 30x30 cm cake I pierce one side with about 12 holes evenly spaced over the surface of the cake;
  • Pour a glass of sherry, take a sip (this has to be done to make sure it is not off 🙂 ) and fill the syringe with about 2.5ml to 5ml of the beverage;
  • Gently inject into each hole the full syringe, refilling after each hole has taken its dose of sherry.  Refill the syringe and take another sip of sherry, repeating for each hole;
  • Once one side of the cake has been done, wrap the cake in foil or beeswax wrap and leave pierced side-up for a week;
  • After a week, turn the cake over and repeat for the underside.

Your Christmas cake is baked and fed, now its time to make marzipan and ice.  See my next blog on making marzipan.

Tom Good

View posts by Tom Good
Read my blog about buying a Victorian farm house in Devon, England. What started as a dream of self sufficiency, is now a midlife reality.

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