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)
  • 4 tbsp of Irish Whiskey/Whisky/ Brandy – when the baked cake has cooled


  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.
  12. If you would like to make your own marzipan – it’s very easy and so much better than bought. My recipe is here

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. Kate Wood

    It sounds good – I am going to give it a go!

  2. I have been searching high and low for a last minute recipe.So i would like to say thank you ,you have saved my life.I also liked the look of this recipe bcause it looked easy and my husband liked the [speckled hen bit]i will put another coment on when i have made it so wish me look.I am off to the shops now to get my ingredients.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Nancy

    Looking forward to your feedback.

    Thanks for dropping by and laving a comment.

  4. nancy henderson

    i havent made a christmas cake before and i like the look of your recipe i will let you know how i get on

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Irene

    So pleased that our Christmas cake recipe turned out well for you.

    Thank you for taking the time to leave such positive feedback.

    I think that I might copy you and make a double quantity this year. A small Christmas cake would be a great Christmas present for someone living alone.

  6. Hi

    I love baking though I had not made a Christmas cake before. I thought I™d make one this year as a surprise for a beloved ex-teacher and her headmaster husband, who are now in their 80s.

    I searched the net and liked what I saw “ both about your recipe & what you™d written. Trusting my instincts I decided to double the recipe and make enough cake to send to a few other people. [I used a 10 x 12 pan]

    The cake turned out beautifully; it is now divided into several pieces and stored in air-tight tins, laced [so far] with a cup of brandy. While cutting up the cake, I stole a couple of slices to have a taste of it. My 13-year-old son who confessed he is not a great lover of Christmas cakes found it ˜good™. I think it is excellent!

    Bravo for your recipe, and thanks for sharing it!

    Kind regards
    KC Yong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sharon,

    I’d love to hear how it turns out for you!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  8. Hi ,
    I havn’t made a Christmas cake for years , but this looks so quick and easy I will be giving it a try . I usually manage to burn the top and am cooking with electric for the first time , so fingers crossed ??

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Babs,

    If you are going to soak the cake with whiskey I’d say you could make it a month before Christmas.

  10. Hi,

    How long before Christmas can this cake be made?

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