Christmas Cake

Want more from Genius Kitchen?

Watch on your Apple TV, Roku, or Fire TV and your iOS, Fire, or Android device.

Learn More
“This is from the McDougalls cookbook. I think it's Christmas Cake 2 (the richer of the two recipes it lists) The original recipe calls for only 2 oz of cherries, but I think we normally use nearer 4 or 5 oz. You're also supposed to add a couple of tablespoons of alcohol at the cooking stage, but we always feed this cake as we go along. Normally, we give this cake a couple of months to mature before Christmas comes. Regarding the gravy browning....during and after WW2, when the UK had rationing, rich fruit cakes were often "dyed" to a darker brown colour with gravy browning since dried egg, grated potato, grated carrot, etc don't make a proper rich fruit cake. I suspect that this was originally an austerity recipe which has had it's butter, eggs and sugar added to it again but no-one thought to remove the gravy browning. To me the search for the browning that we haven't used since last time is part of making the cake ;o) so I'll leave it in, even though it really isn't necessary any more!”
1 cake

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 8 ounces butter
  • 8 ounces soft brown sugar
  • 8 ounces plain flour
  • 12 teaspoon gravy mix, powder (eg Bisto)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 12 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 4 eggs
  • 24 ounces mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel etc)
  • 4 ounces glace cherries
  • brandy (or similar alcohol for feeding the cake) or sherry wine (or similar alcohol for feeding the cake) or whiskey (or similar alcohol for feeding the cake)
  • marzipan, for covering it
  • apricot jam, for covering it
  • royal icing (Royal Icing has the right proportions)


  1. Might as well do the boring stuff first. Grease and line an 8-inch (~20cm) square cake tin.
  2. Half, wash and flour the cherries.
  3. Sift the flour, salt, browning and spices together into one bowl.
  4. Cream the sugar and butter together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  5. Add an egg and about quarter of the flour mixture and beat until just mixed. Repeat until you have no more eggs or flour left.
  6. Stir in the fruit and cherries. You may make a wish at this point, if you want - although you can't tell anyone what it is if you want it to come true! It often helps if there's someone big and strong in the house in time to do the final stir as the mixture is very thick and heavy.
  7. Put the mixture in the prepared cake tin, making sure that a large hollow is left in the centre to make up for the cake rising when it's cooked.
  8. Cook on gas mark 1 (140°C, 280°F) for 4 1/2 hours (yes, you did read that right, although check that it's cooked by sticking a knife in it from about 4 hrs onwards) If the cake is cooked, the knife will come out clean.
  9. Leave the cake to cool before taking it out of the tin or trying to remove the stuck bits of greaseproof paper. A large corner of my 21st birthday cake (made to the same recipe) was held together with wooden toothpicks because it'd been taken out of the tin too soon!
  10. When cold, wrap in greaseproof paper and place in an airtight tin.
  11. A month to 6 weeks before Christmas, start dosing the cake with alcohol by making holes with a skewer and dribbling teaspoons of alcohol into the holes. Repeat at least once a week and make sure you dose both sides of the cake over the month. It is up to you how much alcohol you wan to feed your cake. Re-wrap the cake after dosing.
  12. About a week to 10 days before Christmas, marzipan the cake (using apricot jam as the glue) and leave it out (covered by a clean teatowel) for a few days to dry out.
  13. About 3 or 4 days before Christmas, Ice the cake and leave out until the icing is completely solid.

Watch more

Join the Conversation

  • all
  • reviews
  • tweaks
  • q & a