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. I used this recipe for the first time last year as generally I make a cake & my husband will have one ‘token’ slice. This is great as it’s still full of flavour but lighter & enjoyed by all the family. Also lasted well through into January. Just about to make it again today ready for Christmas

  2. Linda Maddox

    Hello. I’m about to make your cake as it sounds so good, but please could you tell me what size the eggs should be – large or medium?

  3. kath ball

    looks quick and easy will be giving it a try.

  4. Hi
    I have put the fruit in to soak in the beer overnight, I have never made a Christmas cake before and all the recipe say to soak fruit overnight, will this work alright?

  5. Michelle

    Hi Ann, any English beer or ale you can get providing it is not too dark or stout… ????

  6. Ann Olivia Andrews

    I loved your recipe but I live in Cyprus and cannot get the old speckled hen, any sugestions for an alternative. Please help. Best regards Ann

  7. Kirsty Haisman

    Hi thanks for this have made 3 years in row best one ever and just about to make this year merry xmas xx

  8. I made this late last night (knocking on the door of midnight 22nd December!) it’s now iced and beautiful and tastes delicious. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  9. Graham Wall

    I have made this cake for the last four Christmases and each year I forget that it takes far longer to cook than the rscipe says. This year it was 3.5 hours, in a fan oven, before the skewer came out clean, by which time the sides were on the verge of burning. My theory is that an 8in. tin is too small. The cake comes out much deeper than the average Christmas cake so if it were spread out over a larger area it would still be acceptably deep and would cook more quickly. Any comments?

    • Graham, I agree mines been in 3hours now ,springy on top but no clean knife after 2.5 hours. I put parchment on top of cake to prevent burning will take it out soon. Smells divine though I must say.

  10. What an easy recipe, it was a pleasure to make and straight forward. I am looking forward to the results when it’s out of the oven.
    Many thanks

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