> Skip to content

Recipe  •  13 May 2016

 

Last minute Christmas cake

Try this free recipe from Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery.

With the best intentions in the world, I never seem to get my Christmas cake made when I hope to (being a cook and food writer I probably shouldn't confess to this!). Every year, come September, I have great plans to get all my Christmas shopping and baking well underway, however, by mid-December little seems to have happened. Last year, having finally accepted that this is just the way things are, I decided a little lateral thinking was in order and started experimenting with all sorts of cakes. The result is this rich, dense fruitcake – it tastes mellow and rounded, just like it's been baked months ahead, and has an irresistible, spicy flavour.

You needn't use exactly the same dried fruits that I mention – I often put in whatever happens to be in the pantry; as long as the quantities are the same, it doesn't matter. However, I always try to include currants as they add a deep wine-y richness to the mixture. As a personal quirk, I never, ever add mixed peel as its one of the best ways I know of to spoil a perfectly delicious cake.

 

LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS CAKE

Serves 16-20

Ingredients 

  • 300 g unsalted butter
  • 420 g raw sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups (380 g) raisins
  • 180 g pitted prunes
  • 1 cup (160 g) sultanas
  • 90 g dried currants
  • 90 g pitted dates
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) brandy or overproof (dark) rum
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) cool water
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups (375 g) stone-ground wholemeal plain flour
  • 150 g pecan halves and 120 g whole almond kernels, for decorating
  • 1/2 quantity Apricot Glaze (see page 246), (optional)

 

Method

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan large enough to eventually hold all the cake ingredients. Add the sugar and stir to partially dissolve it so it's wet and slushy. Tip in all the dried fruit, the bicarbonate of soda, brandy and water. Increase the heat to high and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once it has, stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 4 minutes. You need to keep an eye on it and adjust the heat as it froths up considerably because of the bicarbonate of soda. When it's ready, turn off the heat and leave it to cool in the pan. I often make this in the evening and leave it to cool overnight. However, if you do this, cover it well; I once left the lid slightly askew and woke to find an army of very inebriated ants weaving their way to and from the pan!

Preheat your oven to 150°C. Butter a 23 cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with two layers of buttered baking paper. Set aside.

Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and eggs to the dried fruit mixture and stir them in well. Mix in the flour, then leave the batter to sit for a few minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake to level the top.

Now comes one of the most enjoyable things to do – decorating the top of the cake. I love doing this; you can create all sorts of different patterns by marching alternating bands of pecans and almonds across the top, either curving them into waves or creating rings of concentric circles.

Bake for 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 hours or until the cake feels quite firm in the centre when pressed and a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. After an hour or so of cooking, it's a good idea to check the top; if it's a good rich brown then cover it loosely with a sheet of foil to stop it getting darker.

Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack. When it's cool, remove it from the tin, wrap it tightly in plastic film or foil and store it in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 6 weeks. For a light sheen, brush the top with a little warm Apricot Glaze before serving.

Feature Title

Mix & Bake
This revised paperback edition celebrates ten years since this absolute classic baking bible was published and includes 20 new delicious recipes. As baker Nadine Ingram says 'If you only own one baking book in your life, make it this one!'
Read more

More features

See all recipes
Recipe
Chocolate, malt and cocoa nib cake

Try your hand at this rather remarkable chocolate cake recipe from Belinda Jeffery.

Recipe
Super-soft courgettes with harissa and lemon

A courgette recipe that will convert even the most courgette-iffy eaters.

Recipe
Plant-based pho

Try your hand at this delicious recipe from Sahara Rose Ketabi.

Recipe
Sesame ginger miso bowl

Perfect for summer, enjoy this quick and delicious recipe from Sahara Rose Katabi.

Recipe
Baked orzo with mozzarella and oregano

A luxurious take on the pasta bake.

Recipe
Turmeric fried eggs with tamarind dressing

A simple but delicious egg recipe that’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Recipe
Jenny's famous mince pies from Ranger's Apprentice

Learn how to make the mince pies that Jenny brings to the Harvest Day picnic with her fellow apprentices.

Recipe
Zucchini Noodles with Thai Pesto

A great make-ahead lunch or picnic dish.

Recipe
Honey orange traycake

Almonds, vanilla, yoghurt & a kiss of rose water

Recipe
The Best-Ever Chocolate Brownies

These are the perfect gooey, chocolatey addition to any sleepover (or afternoon tea!)

Recipe
Poached wagyu beef short-rib with coriander and horseradish relish

A delectable summer recipe from The Agrarian Kitchen.

Recipe
Double Chocolate and Hazelnut Quinola

Who said delicious dessert had to be unhealthy?

Looking for more recipes?

See all recipes