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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.

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  1. Ive made this cake for 14 years.I make 5 of them.Its delicious,moist and tasty.I hate christmas cakes that have mixed peel.I forgot to buy ground almonds last year so added another 110g of cherries and beautiful it was too.Made 2022 4 cakes this year they look and smell so good

  2. Just to report in and say a big thank you. The cake is superb I made it on Sunday, soaked the fruit for 24 hours in brandy and yesterday evening gave the cake a little more after it had cooled. My tin was 7” wide and 3 and a quarter high so I had some mixture left . Poured this into a lined loaf tin and removed after an hour . The main cake I cooked at 350 for 1 and 3/4 hours it was done after then with it being smaller. I used Speckled Hen as advised.
    Main cake is for a contribution meal on Christmas day but I have just had a slice from my loaf tin extra cake. It is superb. A good taste and a lightness that makes it more pleasant than the traditional ones.
    I will certainly be making it again.

    • Hello let me update you.
      I must recommend cooking for the recommended time. Version two had two and three quarter house and was perfect.
      Regardless of a clean skewer and looking extremely ready version one was not cooked through in the middle. Version two is superb.

  3. This recipe instantly appealed to me, as I needed to bake a last minute Christmas cake, having not planned on baking a cake this year, but suddenly finding myself having to host a small Christmas party. I liked that it was a proper fruit cake, but lighter than a traditional & sometimes “heavier” textured Christmas cake. On reading reviews of the recipe, I decided to soak the fruit in just two tablespoons of brandy, and to lower the temperature to 135 Fan, I also lined the outside of the pan with brown paper. The cake has turned out absolutely perfect. I shall be using this recipe for many a year to come. Thank you for this brilliant Christmas cake recipe.

  4. Vannessa Kennard

    I have been making this Xmas cake recipe for the last 4-5 years, works extremely well every time and my family, who are not big Xmas cake eaters, really enjoy it. Back again this year for another go, because it is just to darn good!

  5. Joy Godson

    This is the best fruit cake I have ever made everyone loved it. My 5 year old grandson took a large chunk home with him. Will be making more of these.

  6. Joy Godson

    Used this recipe for the first time this Christmas and was nicest fruit cake I have ever made. Everyone loved it and will be making it again probably Easter.

  7. Great, easy peasy recipe for a limited baker like me! I have been using it for 8 years or so and tweak the fruit ratio depending on what’s in the cupboard that needs using up! If organised, I make it in September and “feed” it weekly, some years it’s a little closer to Christmas but it’s still as good. This year I may try some of our local brewery’s pale ale rather than Speckled Hen….thank you for a super recipe.

  8. My third year using this recipe. Don’t normally like Christmas cake, but this one is amazing!

  9. Tim Storr

    Used this recipe for the last 3 years and will be doing so again. Great recipe I use Rum for flavour

  10. Lesley Carway

    I haven’t made a Christmas cake for years as I always remember them as dry but this has been a roaring success, so moist. I’ve printed the recipe so I can make it again.

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