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. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Anne,

    Most deep Christmas cake tins are 8″. This cake works well in one of them. My other tin (inexpensive from Tesco) is 7″x 3.75″ and the cake works well in this too. Just make sure that you have a double layer of baking parchment that stands at least an inch and a half above the rim.

    It is a good recipe and we have never fed this cake to the birds.

    Hi Sarah,

    The first time that I made this was a week before Christmas and it was great. It™s not the traditional dark cake that takes months to mature. I do splash out on the fruit for it. Choosing the most succulent looking raisins, Provencal cherries etc. I am sure that these make a big difference.

    After feeding it with the Whiskey or Brandy I would leave it on the kitchen side (on a rack, covered with a tea towel) for a couple of days before covering with marzipan. Our recipe is here

    Then leave the marzipaned cake on the side (on a rack, covered with a tea towel) as the marzipan needs to dry out a bit before icing or the marzipan will bleed through into the icing.

  2. Hi,

    I’ve looked at the receipe and it looks really good, i was just wondering though, due to my job i will not get an opportunity to make a cake till the 21 dec, do you think it is too late?



  3. Anne Fielden

    For years I threw out the remains of Christmas cake which were too rich and too big. Then I gave up and bought one from a Farmer’s market in Hexham – it was delicious and we have had it for several years. Unfortunately I have just learned that the small firm has stopped working. I am going to try again myself, but I am starting late in the day. I very much like the sound of your recipe. Can you advise me about cutting the recipe to fit a 7” tin? Anne

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pamela,

    The eggs make it rise. As you can see from the comments above it works!

    Thanks for dropping by

  5. The recipe calls for plain flour and has no baking powder, is this correct? what will make it rise? Curious in Canada.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Dawn,

    I don’t see why not. You would be adding fluid to the ingredients so subtract the amount of fluid that you used to soak the fruit from the quantity of beer that you add.

  7. Hi,I really liked the look of your recipe, it seems to simple to make, but i just wondered, if you can used fruit that has been soaked in alcohol, as your recipe doesn’t state this.

    Thanks Dawn.

    • Wendy Hall

      I always soak fruit in brandy overnight. Sometimes need to adjust later liquid to compensate.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Angela,

    The gas temperature for this recipe is just over gas mark 2 (baking it at 2 would be fine – you may need a bit longer)

  9. Hello,

    What would be the gas temperature please.


  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sue,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I hope that the recipe works well for you.

    I’d love to hear how you get on.

    Hi Kate,

    These comments have reminded me to make our Christmas cake! Time seems to be flying by.

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