The Cottage Smallholder

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Last minute Christmas cake recipe

angel decorationOver the years we have tried various Christmas cake recipes but the best by far was the one that we made last year, a week before Christmas. We wanted a cake packed with fruit but not a dark heavy traditional type of Christmas cake. We’d had to force down too many slices of these in the past.

My Mother used to make us these and bring one each Christmas. Then she decided to buy them. These were worse and not disguised by being fed with lashings of brandy. We’d cut a few slices at Christmas, give her half the cake to take home at the end of her stay and the rest would linger in the larder for weeks and eventually been tossed out with the rubbish. We tried feeding one particularly disappointing one to the birds one year, and even they turned their beaks up at it.

“Make a Christmas cake if you want. But I won’t be eating it,” said Danny, settling in a large armchair to watch the rugby. Faced with this challenge I was determined to bake a cake that even D couldn’t resist.

I skimmed though all our books and found a recipe for a Christmas cake that sounded lighter than usual and tinkered with the ingredients. I replaced the darker ingredients, molasses, stout and muscavado sugar with lighter alternatives. We didn’t cut it until Boxing Day, when I spotted Danny sneaking into the kitchen for a second slice. Slightly paler than a traditional cake, it was packed with fruit, tasted wonderful and kept well. The last slice was tucked into my lunchbox at the end of January.

If you fancy trying a more traditional recipe, here are two links to sites with Christmas cake recipes that look good:
There is a Mary Berry recipe here
Delia Smith has a range of recipes here

Last minute Christmas cake recipe:


8″ round cake tin (4″ deep), baking parchment.


  • 450g raisins
  • 285g sultanas
  • 110g currants
  • 180g glacé cherries (halved)
  • 110g ground almonds
  • 225g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 225g soft brown sugar (pale)
  • 285g plain flour (sieved)
  • zest of a lemon
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp of mixed spice
  • 2 tbsp of pale runny honey
  • 200 ml of beer (I used Speckled Hen)


  1. Preheat oven to 160c (140 fan)
  2. Line the base and sides of the 8″ cake tin with a double thickness of baking parchment. Cut the paper an inch deeper than the tin so that it is sticking above the top rim.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (I use an electric mixer for this).
  4. Beat the eggs well and add them gradually to the mixture, a little at a time, beating them well. If the mixture curdles beat in a teaspoon of the flour before continuing.
  5. Using a tablespoon, gently fold in the flour, lemon zest and spices.
  6. Fold in the beer and honey and stir gently.
  7. Add the fruit and ground almonds and stir gently.
  8. Transfer the mixture to the cake tin and make a hollow in the centre of the mixture (roughly 2″ wide and 1″ deep).
  9. Bake in the centre of a preheated oven for about 2.5 hours depending on your oven, it may need a little longer. Check that it is cooked by inserting a skewer into the middle – this should be clean when removed. The centre should feel firm and springy if touched.
  10. Turn out onto a wire rack. When it is cold, make a few holes in the top and bottom of the cake (using a skewer) and feed the cake with the Irish whiskey (brandy would be fine as an alternative).
  11. Wrap the cake in baking parchment and store in a tin or cover with foil until you need it.

Tips and tricks:

  • If you are going to cover the cake with marzipan and ice it, put the marzipan on a few days before it is iced so the surface of the marzipan can dry. Otherwise the marzipan can bleed through and stain the icing.
  • I sliced off the top of my cake before putting on the marzipan so the top would be flat. Or use the base as the top.

  Leave a reply


  1. Thank you so much for posting the recipe…. SAVED! Such a good recipe too, thanks. Dan.

  2. Hi Dan – can’t fix the problem quickly but I have pasted the recipe into the first comment that is obscuring the article. Hope that helps,

  3. hello and HELP!!!!! … i love this recipe and i used it last year BUT i want to use it now and there’s something wrong with the page, the text is obscured, it can’t be read !! please can you fix it… my Christmas depends on it!

  4. I’m always last-minute everything and came across this recipe – just taken my cakes out the oven (for some reason my mixture made a round and loaf tin!) – they smell delicious! Will give them a small feed of whiskey and ice on Christmas eve before everyone arrives. Thank you, you are a life saver!

  5. Anna Melland Davis

    Hi, I am trying out your recipe but baking one cake and dividing it in three…one piece for us at home, one to take to Spain for Xmas with my sister and the other third for my son -will let you know whatbtheynthinkmbut it smells good!

  6. I made this cake last year, I was fairly new to baking at the time as well as young (thinking I knew better) I added extra alcohol (beer and rum), obv. it took alot longer to cook but when it was done it tasted lovely (I dont like fruit cakes but could happily eat this one. I skewered it and fed it with rum instead alternating with pure orange to cut down the boozyness. I marzipaned it and left it to dry before icing, when I went back to ice it it had started to seep because I had added extra alcohol at the start. Lets just say it has made me a better baker and also its a good job its a last minute cake as I had to start from scratch!! Second time round after sticking to the recipe, other than changing the whiskey to rum and alternating with pure orange, it was perfect everyone loved it, it was passed round various families (some of which even had it for breakfast!), it even started to taste better the longer it sat, needless to say I have made two more this year. Thanking you so very much for sharing your recipe x

  7. Hi, I made this two years ago (last year was pregnant with my 3rd and too exhausted to bake!) and it was delicious! Now baby is here and 5 months old and I’m enjoying my maternity leave I’m in the mood to bake again and I remembered this recipe and how much everyone loved it! I’d googled this recipe and not saved it anywhere so I worried it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack! Thankfully I’ve found it! Will be making several as gifts for family and friends too! Thanks a lot!


  8. Maie duke

    Love this recipe! First time ever making Christmas cake an it’s turned out really well! Over how many days/weeks would you feed it brandy before putting the marzipan and icing on?

  9. Glenys Tucker

    Sorry! That last comment should have read ‘it reminded her of the cake her mother used to make’. I think I can type faster than I actually can! X

  10. Glenys Tucker

    Hi Irene

    Just thought I’d let you know that I have made this cake for a couple of years now and it is a firm family favourite. I also make about 12 small ones in 4 x 4 inch square tins and decorate them for elderly people in our village. One elderly lady said that when she finished the last slice she stood up and saluted it because it reminded her of the cake her used to make! High praise indeed, thanks so much for sharing your recipe, it’s perfect! X

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