Best Traditional British Christmas Cake Recipe With Quick Instructions (2024)

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A traditional British Christmas cake is served throughout England during the Christmas season, and is the origin of our traditional fruit cake enjoyed throughout the States! There's something amazing about the warm spices, citrus, and soaked fruit in a Christmas cake that combine with the marzipan and royal icing to make a cake that can become such a long-standing tradition.

Best Traditional British Christmas Cake Recipe With Quick Instructions (1)
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  • Best British Christmas Cake Recipe
  • 🤔 What is a Christmas Cake?
  • ❤️ Why This Recipe Works!
  • 🥘 Ingredients
  • 🔪 Instructions
  • 🥡 Storing
  • ❓ FAQ
  • 📖 Recipe Card
  • 💬 Reviews

Best British Christmas Cake Recipe

These cakes are so popular in England, that a not-so-great sales year lamented only $40M in sales (2015)! Another amazing thing about the Traditional British Christmas Cake is that it is usually made several months in advance.

Talk about the planning...and that is definitely some love that goes into baking this holiday masterpiece!!

Ideally, you would start your Traditional British Christmas Cake several months (2-3 months) in advance. However, I have included notes for quick versions in the recipe instructions.

Likewise, decorating your baked Christmas Cake can be as quick as coating it with apricot preserves and dusting it with confectioners' sugar once cooled!

🤔 What is a Christmas Cake?

Christmas Cake is a rich, dense fruit cake filled with warm baking spices and soaked fruit (typically soaked in sherry, brandy, or rum), including currants (Zante currants or Corinth raisins), sultanas (golden raisins), and raisins. It is an English tradition to serve this cake during the holidays.

The Christmas cake has evolved from the English plum porridge (which combined savory meat with spices and dried fruit).

When the wealthier English families began baking in ovens, they would make this fruit cake and coat it with marzipan. The spices were exotic and meant to represent the eastern spices gifted by the Wise Men to Christ.

❤️ Why This Recipe Works!

Traditional! This cake is such a long-standing favorite for many - and for good reason! The flavors of the traditional Christmas cake are just rich in deliciousness!

Quick Version! Love the classic version but did you forget to get it started early? I've included my easy quick version notes here to make your Christmas cake on-demand or last-minute!

Holiday Flavors! Nothing screams 'Christmas!' more than the combination of warm baking spices and a holiday fruit blend encased in a tasty cake!

🥘 Ingredients

  • Soaked Fruit - (Currants, sultanas, raisins, glace cherries plus brandy or sherry - or use orange juice.) Start your fruit with plenty of time to get those flavors combined and all of the fruit nice and soft!
  • Cake batter - (Butter, brown sugar, eggs, molasses, almonds, zest from a large orange and large lemon, all-purpose flour, and my British Mixed Spice Blend.) A rich and flavorful cake batter that combines the fabulous warm spices of mixed spices with equally delicious cake ingredients!
  • Covering - (Apricot preserves, warm water, and marzipan or confectioners' sugar.) The base layer of your Christmas cake decorating.
  • Royal Icing - (Egg whites, confectioners sugar, cream of tartar, and fresh lemon juice.) The finishing touch and part of what makes this cake so amazing!

*Note that I have made this Traditional British Christmas Cake in all three methods, the longer brandy-feeding version with both marzipan and royal icing. Soaking the fruit overnight (I also use orange juice as a liquor alternative) - and then either a) dust with confectioners sugar or b) apply the marzipan covering and frosting with royal icing. All three versions are a delightful treat with amazing flavor!!

*Be sure to see the free printable recipe card below for ingredients, exact amounts & instructions with tips!*

🔪 Instructions

Don't let the lengthy instructions put you off from trying your hand at this Christmas Cake tradition!

The steps are simple; soak your fruit, make your batter, bake the cake, and decorate. See my tips above for a "quick version"!

How To Make The Christmas Cake

  1. Soak your fruit. In a medium bowl, combine all of the fruit (after rinsing). Pour brandy or sherry over, and top off with additional orange juice if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to soak overnight (at least) and preferably for 2 to 3 days, stirring daily.
  2. Preheat and line the pan. Preheat your oven to 275°F (135°C) and line a 9-inch round pan (springform or cake pan, with at least 2-inch high sides) with a double layer of parchment paper.
  3. Cream and mix. In a very large mixing bowl, preferably one that fits a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together until light, fluffy, and light in color. Add eggs, molasses, orange zest, lemon zest, and mixed spice. Mix until well combined.
  4. Add, mix, fold, and transfer. Add the all-purpose flour and mix until the flour is fully incorporated, then fold in the fruit mixture (soaked and drained).
  5. Bake. Bake at 275°F (135°C) in the center of the oven, for about 4 to 4 ½ hours. Check the cake halfway through baking to see how the top of the cake looks, and cover with aluminum foil to prevent burning, if necessary. The cake is done when an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  6. Cool, rest, and feed. Remove the cake and allow it to cool on a wire cooling rack in the cake pan until cooled. Once cooled, remove the cake from the pan and allow it to cool completely on the wire rack.
    Before storing, use a fine skewer to poke holes intermittently throughout the cake surface to feed brandy or sherry (2 - 3 tablespoon at a time) to the cake.
  7. Cover, wrap, store, and feed. Cover with a double layer of parchment paper, then wrap in aluminum foil to store in a cool place until ready to cover with marzipan, and apply icing before serving (up to 3 months for feeding the brandy or sherry to the cake). *Keep the parchment paper in place between feedings, as it will help to keep the cake moist.
  8. Cover with marzipan and royal icing. When ready to serve the cake, allow three days to cover with marzipan (similar to fondant, made using almond paste) and apply the royal icing.

How To Make The Marzipan

  1. Combine dry ingredients. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 1 ½ cups (5 ounces or 142 grams) of finely ground almond flour with 1 ⅓ cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) of confectioners' sugar. *Use your food processor if needed to make the almond flour finer in texture.
  2. Add wet ingredients. Add in 1 teaspoon of almond extract and a generous ¼ cup (3 ounces of 85 grams) of light corn syrup. Blend until it combines, about 1 minute. *Add a small drizzle of corn syrup at a time if your marzipan seems dry.
  3. Knead until smooth. Knead the marzipan on a working surface, use about a tablespoon of softened butter to keep it from sticking. You should have a smooth, fairly stiff marzipan that is still a bit sticky when it's ready to chill.
  4. Chill. Wrap the marzipan in plastic cling film and transfer it into a plastic storage bag. Refrigerate for at least an hour before topping your Christmas cake.

How To Cover Your Christmas Cake With Marzipan

  1. Strain and apply the preserves. Turn the cake upside down so that the flat side up is facing upward. Combine the apricot preserves and warm water, stir to thin the preserves, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Use a pastry brush and apply the strained preserves to completely coat the bottom and sides of the cake.
  2. Roll out the marzipan. Use confectioners' sugar (not flour!) to coat a working surface and roll out marzipan with 2 additional inches than the cake width (9-inch baking pan + 2 inches to cover the cake sides). The marzipan layer should be ½ inch in thickness when ready to apply.
  3. Cover the cake with a marzipan layer. Roll the marzipan layer up on your rolling pin and transfer to cover the cake. Use your rolling pin to level and smooth the top of the cake and marzipan, then work to smooth the sides of the cake.
    Your marzipan should cover the cake completely, use a sharp knife to trim any excess marzipan away from the bottom of the covered cake.
  4. Cover and allow the marzipan to set. Cover the cake again with parchment paper and allow the marzipan to set up (it will dry out a bit) for a few days before spreading the royal icing and finishing the cake decorating.

How To Make The Royal Icing

  1. Whisk egg whites. Using a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until frothy and foamy. Add sifted confectioners' sugar with cream of tartar to the whisked egg whites gradually, adding 1-2 tablespoons at a time on a low setting.
  2. Add lemon juice. While still on a low speed, drizzle in the lemon juice and then beat until stiff peaks are formed, and you have a thick and glossy royal icing.

How To Decorate Your Christmas Cake with Royal Icing

  1. Apply to cake. Transfer the royal icing to the top of your Christmas Cake and spread it out over the surface and sides evenly if desired, or use an offset spatula to form roughed-up peaks for a textured finish.
  2. Set and cover. Allow the royal icing to form a skin (will not transfer to your finger when touched), then cover loosely with plastic wrap until ready to serve. *I like candied orange peel added to my mixed spice blend, and that is what is used here on my Christmas Cake for garnish.

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Best Traditional British Christmas Cake Recipe With Quick Instructions (2)

💭 Tips & Notes

For a quick version of this traditional Christmas cake.

  • Soak the fruit overnight (12 hours) and follow the cake baking instructions. Allow your cake to cool in the baking pan, then transfer the Christmas cake to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • Coat with apricot preserves and either dust the top with confectioners' sugar (and serve) or spread royal icing and serve a few hours after the icing has been set up.

Allow the cake to dry out a bit before decorating.

  • If you are feeding your cake with brandy, sherry, or rum you will need to stop the 'feeding' or 'maturing' process a week before coating it with marzipan. This will allow the cake surface to dry out enough for icing.

To prepare your baking pan, fully line it with parchment paper.

  • Cut out two rounds of parchment paper, and place them in the bottom of your pan.
  • Next, cut two long strips of parchment paper about the same width as your baking pan is in height (around 2-inches) and fit both layers on the inside rim of your baking pan.

To prevent your Christmas cake from baking up with a dome, use this trick!

  • Transfer the batter to your prepared cake pan, then level the top of the batter so that it has a slightly concave surface to prevent the cake from forming a small dome.

Notes on storing your Christmas Cake once the marzipan layer has been applied.

  • I cover my marzipan layer with parchment paper, however, you can also use aluminum foil or plastic cling film. Alternatively, you can wrap the cake with a marzipan layer in a clean tea towel.
  • The cake should be stored in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 2-3 days to let the oils from the marzipan escape, drying it out and 'setting' the layer. Store your cake, once covered with marzipan, for a maximum of 7 days.

🥡 Storing

At Room Temperature

Some say that a Christmas Cake (fruit cakes) can almost store indefinitely! However, with the royal icing on your cake, this Christmas cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

Refrigerating

The best way to store your leftover Christmas cake is in the refrigerator. Your royal icing is best used within the first 3 days of being refrigerated.

Your cake can last for a few more days beyond this, but your icing, marzipan, and cake consistency can begin deteriorating.

Freezing

You can easily freeze your baked Christmas cake and save it until closer to the holidays. Be sure to wrap it securely in plastic cling film or heavy-duty aluminum foil, then place it into a freezer storage bag or container.

Set your Christmas cake out to thaw, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator, within three months of freezing. Once thawed, continue with the decorating steps in the instructions.

Without Alcohol

If you made your Christmas cake using fruit juice and/or tea for the soaking, you need to store it more carefully than a liquor-soaked version. If stored at room temperature, the cake should be eaten or discarded within 3 days of serving.

If refrigerated, the Christmas cake can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container. Or freeze your remaining cake (tightly wrapped as noted in the freezing section above) and keep it for up to 6 months.

❓ FAQ

Can I use fondant instead of marzipan on a Christmas Cake?

Yes, definitely! Since fondant is available to purchase at quite a few stores, it can be an easy substitution. Homemade fondant tastes better, so try my fondant recipe with marshmallows or fondant without marshmallows instead.

What to do with leftover marzipan?

Store your leftover marzipan for making delicious tarts or galettes, making a mince pie filling even more delicious, or taking your next crisp or crumble recipe to AMAZING!
Securely wrap your leftover marzipan trimmings from covering the Christmas Cake in plastic cling film. Then, store it in an airtight container or plastic storage bag and keep it in a cool, dry, dark place. The marzipan will last for up to 3 weeks when stored properly.

How long does royal icing take to dry on a Christmas cake?

Your royal icing will be set to the touch (enough to cover and allow to fully set) within 30 minutes. It can take between 4-8 hours to set fully, so be sure to decorate your cake the night before!

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Best Traditional British Christmas Cake Recipe With Quick Instructions (3)

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4.99 from 78 reviews

Traditional British Christmas Cake Recipe

Traditional British Christmas Cake is served throughout England during the Christmas season, and is the origin of our traditional fruit cake enjoyed throughout the States! There's something amazing about the warm spices, citrus, and soaked fruit in a Christmas Cake that combine with the marzipan and royal icing to make a cake that can become such a long-standing tradition.

Author | Angela

Servings: 18 cake slices

Calories: 675kcal

Prep 30 minutes minutes

Cooking 4 hours hours

Overnight Soaking 8 hours hours

Total Time 12 hours hours 30 minutes minutes

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Ingredients

Christmas Cake

  • 3 cups dried currants
  • cups sultanas (golden raisins)
  • cups raisins
  • cups glace cherries (red or a combination of red & green candied cherries)
  • ½ cups brandy or sherry (+ more for feeding the Christmas cake - use orange juice to cover fruit completely for soaking overnight, if desired)
  • cups butter (salted - softened, at room temperature)
  • cups light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 3 oz almonds (chopped)
  • 1 zest from one large orange
  • 1 zest from one large lemon
  • 2 teaspoon British mixed spice blend (see recipe)
  • cups all-purpose flour

Covering

  • 2 tablespoon apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • lbs marzipan

Royal Icing

  • 3 large egg whites (use the best, fresh eggs available)
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar (sifted)
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (sifted w confectioners sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice of half a large lemon (fresh, squeezed)

Help Us Out!If you love a recipe, be sure to come back and share your ratings. This helps future users, and allows me to continue sharing free recipes! Angela

Instructions

Traditional British Christmas Cake

  • Combine all of the fruit including 3 cups dried currants, 2½ cups sultanas, 1½ cups raisins, and 2½ cups glace cherries (after rinsing) in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour ½ cups brandy or sherry over, and top off with additional orange juice if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to soak overnight (at least) and preferably for 2 to 3 days, stirring daily.

  • Preheat your oven to 275°F (135°C/Gas Mark 1) and line a 9-inch round pan (springform or cake pan, with at least 2-inch high sides) with a double layer of parchment paper. *Cut out two rounds of parchment paper and place in the bottom of the pan. Cut two long strips from parchment paper about the same width as your baking pan is in height, and fit both layers on the inside rim of your baking pan.

  • In a very large mixing bowl, preferably one that fits a stand mixer, cream the 1¼ cups butter and 1¼ cups light brown sugar together until light, fluffy, and light in color. Add 4 large eggs, 1 tablespoon molasses, 3 oz almonds, 1 zest from one large orange and1 zest from one large lemon, then add 2 teaspoon British mixed spice blend. Mix until well combined.

  • Add 2¼ cups all-purpose flour and mix until it is incorporated, then fold in fruit mixture (soaked and drained). Transfer the batter to your lined cake pan and level the top of the batter with a slightly concave surface to prevent the cake from forming a small dome.

  • Bake at 275°F (135°C/Gas Mark 1) in the center of your oven for about 4 to 4½ hours. Check the cake halfway through baking to see how the top of the cake looks, cover with aluminum foil to prevent burning, if necessary. The cake is done when an inserted skewer comes out clean.

  • Remove the cake and allow to cool on a wire rack in the cake pan until cooled. Once cooled, remove it from the pan and allow to cool completely on the wire rack. Before storing, use a fine skewer to poke holes intermittently throughout the cake surface to feed brandy or sherry (2 - 3 tablespoons at a time) to the cake.

  • Cover with a double layer of parchment paper, then wrap in aluminum foil to store in a cool place until reedy to cover and apply icing before serving (up to 3 months for feeding the brandy or sherry to the cake). *Keep the parchment paper in place between feedings, as it will help to keep the cake moist.

  • When ready to serve the cake, allow three days to cover with marzipan (similar to fondant, made using almond paste) and apply the royal icing.

Covering your Traditional British Christmas Cake

  • To cover the Christmas cake, turn the cake upside down so that the flat side up is facing upward. Combine the 2 tablespoon apricot preserves and 1 tablespoon warm water, stir to thin, and sieve through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Use the remaining mix to coat the bottom and sides of the cake.

  • Use confectioners' sugar to coat a working surface and roll out 1½ lbs marzipan with two additional inches than the cake width (9-inch baking pan + 2 inches to cover the cake sides).

  • Roll marzipan layer up on your rolling pin and transfer to cover the cake. Use your rolling pin to level and smooth the top of the cake and marzipan, then work to smooth the sides of the cake. Your marzipan should cover the cake completely, use a sharp knife to trim any excess marzipan away from the bottom of the covered cake.

  • Cover the cake again with parchment paper and allow the marzipan to set up (it will dry out a bit) for a few days before spreading the royal icing and finishing the cake decorating.

Royal Icing

  • Using a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk the 3 large egg whites until frothy and foamy. Add sifted 6 cups confectioners sugar with ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar to the whisked egg whites gradually, adding 1-2 tablespoons at a time on a low setting.

  • While still at a low speed, drizzle in the 1 tablespoon lemon juice of half a large lemon and then beat until stiff peaks are formed, and you have a thick and glossy royal icing.

  • Transfer royal icing to the top of your Christmas cake and spread out over the surface and sides evenly if desired, or use an offset spatula to form roughed-up peaks for a textured finish.

  • Allow the royal icing to form a skin (it will not transfer to your finger when touched), then cover loosely with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Equipment You May Need

Notes

*For a quick version, soak fruit overnight and follow the cake baking instructions. Allow cake to cool in baking pan, then transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely. Coat with apricot preserves and either dust the top with confectioners sugar (and serve) or spread royal icing and serve in a few hours after the icing has set up.

**The cake pictured here is made the day after soaking the fruit and skipping the marzipan layer, for a faster version. It still tastes incredible but will lack the texture from the time spent feeding the cake brandy or sherry.

Nutrition

Calories: 675kcal (34%) | Carbohydrates: 150g (50%) | Protein: 11g (22%) | Fat: 27g (42%) | Saturated Fat: 10g (63%) | Cholesterol: 81mg (27%) | Sodium: 167mg (7%) | Potassium: 690mg (20%) | Fiber: 6g (25%) | Sugar: 110g (122%) | Vitamin A: 489IU (10%) | Vitamin C: 3mg (4%) | Calcium: 98mg (10%) | Iron: 3mg (17%)

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Christmas, Fruit Cake, Holiday desserts, marzipan, recipes using British mixed spice blend, royal icing, Traditional British Christmas Cake, Twelfth Night Cake

Course Cake Recipes, Dessert Recipes, Holiday Recipes, Icing

Cuisine English

Best Traditional British Christmas Cake Recipe With Quick Instructions (4)

Angela @ BakeItWithLove.com

Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!

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Best Traditional British Christmas Cake Recipe With Quick Instructions (2024)
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