The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

It's already October! Time to start thinking about Xmas cakes...

copyu's picture

It's already October! Time to start thinking about Xmas cakes...

Hi everyone,

This is my first 'blog' and I'm so nervous...I want to include a spread-sheet in my post, but I haven't got a clue how to do that! Here we go!


Copyu's Xmas Cake Estimator
Ingredients 15cm round   6" round 17cm round    15cm square 22cm round    19cm square 25cm round   23cm square 28cm round 30cm round       28cm square
Raisins 125g/4.5oz 160g 250g 375g 500g 625g
Sultana raisins 375g/13oz 560g 750g 1kg 1.125kg 1.75kg
Dried currants 60g/2oz 90g 125g 185g 250g 315g
Mixed peel 60g/2oz 90g  125g 185g 250g 315g
Glacé cherries 60g/2oz 90g  125g 185g 250g 315g
Marmalade 1 Tblsp 1½ Tblsp 2 Tblsp 3 Tblsp 4 Tblsp 5 Tblsp
Brandy (Rum OK, too) 50ml/1.7floz 65ml 100ml 150ml 200ml 250ml
Options: replace some of the raisins with chopped dates, apricots, dried cranberries or blueberries, fruits preserved in rum, etc. Angelica can replace some of the cherries, if you like the taste 
Butter 125g/4.5oz 160g 250g 375g 500g 625g
Brown sugar* 100g/3.5oz 130g 200g 300g 400g 500g
Plain flour (APF) 120g/4oz 180g 240g 360g 480g 600g
Mixed spice ½ teasp ¾ teasp 1 teasp 1½ teasp 2 teasp 2½ teasp
Orange/lemon zest 1 teasp 1½ teasp 2 teasp 2 teasp 1 Tblsp 1 Tblsp
Eggs 2 3 4 6 8 10
Bake time (hours) 02:30 2: 30 to 3:30 3 to 3:30 4 hours 5 to 5:30  6 to 6:30
*NB: there are many types of 'brown sugar', so feel free to vary up/down by 20-25% according to taste

Oh, my gosh! It worked!

Above is the basic formula that I've used for many years...TOO many years! If you're interested in 'rich fruit cakes', [aka "wedding cakes" and "Xmas cakes" in the British Commonwealth] then this is must-read for you. If you've never made one of these rich, boozy, dense cakes before, then have a go and relax...there's nothing here to intimidate anyone over the age of 10. Everything here is very flexible, unlike the 'persnicketiness' of a lot of bread-baking and pastry-making, where everything has to be 'just-so'. Don't have an ingredient? Then substitute, within reason. Can't buy that stuff where you live? Then make your own, right at home! Don't have time today? Then do the next bit tomorrow! It's October, now, so it's not too early to be planning one or more of these scrummy items. Xmas cakes are traditionally made a month or two before eating, anyway...Once baked and cooled, they were usually coated with a thick icing and stored in air-tight 'cake tins' for a month or two. [In the 21st century, that means wrapped in aluminium foil and kept in an air-tight plastic container.] The un-iced cakes can also be stored for many weeks. People often pierce the cakes with a skewer and drizzle a little brandy on them once or twice a week before re-wrapping them in their foil 'cocoons'

Last year, I made this 'recipe' at least 6 times, but no two batches were the same. They were all good, but I will go into the gory details of my odd failures, as well, with some comments on what NOT to do. For non-metric bakers, I've estimated the ounce equivalents from the metric weights, but only for the 15cm (six-inch) ROUND cake form. If you want to make this cake in an 8"-9" round form, then you just need to double the ingredients of the 6" recipe. For the others, eg, square forms, you might need a metric tape measure or a calculator, or just look at the beautiful 'ratios', say, of the flour or the sugar and do things 'by feel'. If the sugar is 3 or 4 times higher than the first column, then the other weighed ingredients will be 3 or 4 times higher as well. What could be easier? It's not really difficult at all, with the spread-sheet to help you. Additionally, the cake form sizes are just a 'guide-line', so be flexible and use what you have on hand


Before baking time, your cake pans should be lined with one or two layers of brown paper and then some baking parchment (/wax-paper/silicone paper) that comes about 5cm (2") above the edges of the pans. Your oven should be set to a fairly 'slow' seting...150°C/300°F (or 20°C/50°F lower for fan-forced ovens)

The night before baking, decide on your dried fruit contents and chop coarsely, where necessary. Place into a large glass bowl and add the marmalade and brandy (or rum). Mix thoroughly with a spoon and add another little splash of the booze, if you like; cover with cling-film and refrigerate until it's time to make the batter. An hour or three would be enough, but I like to steep the fruit for a long time—12 hours or more. It's completely up to you, however! I've left my fruits for 24 hours with no damage

At your chosen time, beat the butter, sugar and citrus 'zest' together (with an electric mixer, if you have one) until they're just barely combined; add eggs, one at a time, and mix until just barely combined; then add this butter mixture to the steeped fruits and mix by hand, with a spoon, for a couple of minutes. Add sifted flour and spice to the contents of the bowl and mix again, by hand. Your batter is done

Push spoonsful of the batter right into the bottom edges of the cake-forms and then spread the rest of the batter evenly into the pans. Tap the cake-forms several times on a chopping-board or the counter, to 'settle' the ingredients. (If you're fussy, you can flatten the top of the batter with a wet spatula.) Bake for the times recommended in the spreadsheet. To test for 'done-ness', push a paring/fruit knife right into the centre of the cake to the bottom and remove it, slowly. If the knife is clean, it's done. If it has uncooked batter on it, return it to the oven for 15 minutes longer and test again

To cool the cakes, snip the paper level with the tops of the cakes, invert them onto a cooling rack covered with foil and wrap the whole thing in the foil, leaving the forms in place for about 20-30 minutes before trying to extract the cakes from the forms. This technique is used when you want to ice, or otherwise decorate the cakes...the cooling in foil makes a nice, flat surface to work from. [The 'bottom' of the cake becomes the 'top' that is destined for the decoration.] Otherwise, you can just flip them back over and dust the tops with some decorative icing sugar and add some holly leaves, or whatever you fancy 

Notes on ingredients:

'Raisins' means red California raisins, but can be any type you have available. I found 'Jewellery' raisins today, which are a golden colour...'green' raisins are quite cheap here in Japan. 'Sultanas' are just raisins made from seedless grapes and are fairly cheap, flovoursome, lighter in colour and somewhat juicier than other types. You can play with the different amounts of each, as long as you stick 'roughly' to the weights. I would encourage you to replace some of the raisins with other dried fruits and berries

'Citrus Zest' is best prepared fresh, with a micro-plane or another type of cheese grater. For best taste, I make mine with the rind of half an orange and the rind of one whole lemon

'Mixed Peel' is a standard supermarket item in Australia, NZ and the UK. If you can't find it, mix your own from any dried, candied or other preserved citrus peel. It may need chopping, if you buy the whole, dried type

'Mixed Spice' is another British item that may not be popular in some's a combination of the 'sweet' ground spices that you can find in any grocery—allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, <also mace, cardamom, coriander seed>...a half-teaspoon of each of the first five, shaken together, would make a very nice 'mixed spice' for this recipe. You can google for traditional mixes (and there are dozens!) with very minor variations

"As nutty as a fruit-cake" is a good old English expression. You can add nuts to this recipe as an option, without substitution for other dry ingredients...almonds, whole, blanched or slivered; walnuts; pecans; and cashews would be the top choices. You can add them to the 'boozy fruits' or leave them until making the batter...30g/1oz wouldn't affect anything in this recipe. Chopping is optional, as well...

'Icing' usually means 'marzipan' or 'royal icing'. These make an almost impenetrable barrier to air, preventing the cakes from going moldy. There are various ways to make an icing for a Xmas cake, but these are almost 'canonical' and any recipe you find through google will work. Completely optional, however...

I need to get some 'shut-eye' post, I'll give some weird mixtures that I tried last year with commentary...I don't think there are any pics available. They will come after this year's bake.

Best to all,








copyu's picture

2 teaspoons each of: ground allspice; ground cinnamon; ground cloves; ground ginger; ground nutmeg. OPTIONAL: 1 teasp each ground cardamom and ground coriander

Alternative: 1 Tablespoon each of: ground allspice; ground cinnamon; ground ginger; 2 teaspoons ground mace; 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Shake the ingredients thoroughly together. Store in cool, dark place, in a brown glass jar if possible (such as a vitamin bottle) or metal canister with a good seal. Many bakers suggest making only as much as you can use in the near future...several weeks at the most

There are probably dozens of other recipes for this, but the first is a classic and will do for all manner of Xmas cooking; cakes, puddings, (fruit) mince pies, perhaps even gingerbread



breadsong's picture

Hello, Christmas cake will be my Sunday project, if all goes according to plan, so thanks for your post! I like to use apricot brandy (the higher octane the better!) for 'boozy fruits', and to brush on the cakes after baking and then periodically during the resting period.
Happy baking to you and thanks for all the info! Regards, breadsong

copyu's picture

Apricot brandy sounds great!

My only rule for the 'spirits' used is that they're of the CHEAP variety. I save the expensive stuff for drinking. Best of luck with the baking!



copyu's picture

Fruit Mix (for two 15cm rounds)

255g Californial raisins

200g dried fruit mix with tropical fruits and raisins

110g glace cherries, red 70g, green 40g

1 small can preserved cherries, about 40g

90g red raisins

80g fruit mix in rum

70g orange peel in rum

50g dried lemon peel

55g dried apricots, chopped

approx 300ml brandy

Note: The 'funny numbers' were due to package sizes available in Japan and not having a scale at the time. Hardly any of the items in a fruit cake are 'normal' supermarket items, here; you take what you can find. I had to visit at least 6 different towns in the Tokyo area to get everything I needed

TOTAL: 950g fruit for two 15cm (6") cakes. (Results were delicious!)

Cake Mix (I used some cup measures!)

150g butter

1 cup brown (raw) sugar

2 cups plain flour

4 small eggs

1 teasp mixed spice

Zest; grated rind of half an orange and a whole lemon

Batch #2

My next effort was a variation with even more fruit (1.13kg). I used marmalade and added 50g of slivered almonds. I cut the amount of flour slightly and substituted shortening for some of the butter. MISTAKE! The cake was very delicious, but was crumbly and did not slice well.

Batch #4 

I made another mistake with this one. I tried a different brand of dried tropical fruit mix, as I'd enjoyed that taste before. This one contained dried papaya which did not soften at all from the lengthy soaking or baking time and there were some scary moments...people thought they'd broken a tooth when they got a piece of papaya. Avoid it!

All of my other batches, apart from #1, used marmalde, some slivered almonds, about 60g of currants and a few cranberries and blueberries. You can see how flexible the recipe is and it's pretty hard to mess up. There are no strict 'rules' here, just guidelines and a little common sense. Give it a try, if you like fruit cakes

Best wishes,


jackie9999's picture

Thank you for this recipe!

I'm not much for xmas cake, but hubby loves fact he already *snuck* one home from the grocery. They're very expensive here in Canada, but this recipe doesn't look like it would cost too much to make. One question I have before I make up my shopping list - here we buy 'light' or 'dark' Christmas cake - he always goes for the dark - what, in your recipe, would determine which it will turn out like?

I will be sure to add marzipan (the best part of the Christmas cake) to my shopping list..would that go on as soon as it's cooled, before wrapping in it's foil cocoon?

copyu's picture

I'm not really 100% sure how they make those 'light' cakes, which I've tasted, but I guess they're also lighter on the raisins, especially. (They used to sell both types in Australia, as well, but the dark cakes were the number one sellers, as far as I remember. If it's not a "rich" fruit cake, it's just a 'fruit cake'!) 

French Champagne is made from 'black' grapes, but the wine looks 'white', because the juice is removed from the skins as quickly as possible. There is a large quantity of grape-skins and very little flour in this recipe, so I think that's the simple answer...I'm guessing, though...

If you want to make a 'lighter' cake, increase the flour 20-50%, use white sugar, reduce the raisins (or avoid red raisins completely...use a smaller amount of golden, green, or sultana raisins instead) and reduce the soaking time to one hour and baking time to about 1.5hr. Adding an extra egg may also give a 'lighter' cake...I've just noticed Yolandat's response...I think she's got good info there, as well...about how to make rich fruit cakes even darker! Wine, Port and over-proof rum. YUM! For a lighter cake, you'd be on your own, unless someone else chips in

I don't ice my cakes at all, so more guesswork from me. I've seen wedding cakes that were obviously iced (with royal icing) long before the cake was served. There is a little bit of leaching of the cake's dark colour into the white icing. Still, royal icing is usually about 15mm (1/2") thick! It does not affect the taste at all, but it's a matter of aesthetics. To be safe, I'd wait until 2-3 weeks (1 month max) before the intended serving time before icing. The rich, dark cakes keep very well!

Cheers, jackie,


EvaB's picture

uses molasses, and black coffee in the mix, some people put in melted chocolate, but not me.

The light fruit cake I make has only golden raisins, and more flour, it also has candied fruit, and chopped dates, but in smaller quanties than my dark cake, which is mostly fruit and nuts held together with a tiny bit of batter.

Fruit cakes are not exactly cheap to make, but then again, I use butter and eggs in mine, and make huge batches as I give them to family as part of their gifts.

They keep very well, and you can freeze them, in fact this is what my sister in law does, and they have fruit cake into the next summer. Her family loves it with cheese, and since I never ice or put almond paste on mine, it freezes well.

I never wrap my cakes in straight foil, always overwrap a wax paper wrapped cake, and especially if I use a whiskey or rum to soak with, it unfortuantely tastes of the metal foil if you don't.

Traditionally the cake would be wrapped in a soaked cloth (soaked with the rum or whiskey) and then wrapped in stout brown paper or heavy linen cloth and stored in a cool dry place to facilitate keeping the cake and having it absorb the flavour.

I start about now putting all my fruit and most of the nuts (almonds and pecans by choice) into a large bowl (I actually use a bread pan that was my MIL's) and pouring on the soak, I use a red wine or whiskey for the dark and white wine for the light. These are left to soak covered (the pan came with the cover) and stirred up to make sure all the wine is absorbed. After that the rest of the cake is mixed and the baking proceeds. Since my large dark cake recipe will use a huge amount of fruit and butter, I also use a bread mixer the hand cranked bucket kind to mix the cakes and then they are weighed out into the pans (I just use aluminum foil bread tins around 8 x4 inches) and then the tops are smoothed out, and decorated with whole almonds, pecans and glace cherries in a sort of flower or star design. These are popped into the oven at around 325 F and baked for around 2 hours or until a pick inserted into the tops comes out clean.

I weigh out the raw dough into 12 ounce pans, and when they come out of the oven, take them out of the sprayed pans (I love Baker's Joy but can't find it anymore) and place them on racks to cool overnight! You have to let them cool completely and dry slightly on the surface. I generally don't use any rum or whiskey on them, simply bag into large ziplock bags and store in the cool basement until I can deliver them. The white or light cakes are made next and done the same way. I have eaten three year old stored in the fridge cake and its great. Don't recomend that, but it got lost in the fridge.

Dundee cake is a a fruit cake from Scotland which only has raisins, and almonds, and that cake I do wrap in the soaked cloth, the butcher's paper and then foil and store in the fridge for a couple of weeks before cutting. I use a whiskey that is single malt (not cheap) and very smokey tasting so the flavour is more intense!

Yolandat's picture

I make  a dark fruit cake every winter with my mother. It is an old recipe that from my grandmother used. We will start to soak the fruit soon. It will soak in a mixture of overproof rum, wine and port for about a month or so. The fruit absorbs the moisture and flavour from the alcohol. I use a mixture of Thompson raisins, currents, prunes, as well as almonds cherries and peal. the darkness comes from the fruit and alcohol mixture as well as the dark brown sugar. 

I have never wrapped my fruit cakes in foil though I was always told it would grow moldy in foil.  I wrap them in waxed paper and put them in tins. They never get dry or loose flavour.  I have had them last into February. 

copyu's picture

February! I bet the cakes tasted as good as on Xmas Day, too! I usually start baking Xmas cakes round about now, because of their long 'keeping' qualities and the actual improvement in flavour over time. I've never tried the wine/port or the one-month 'steeping' trick. Thanks for that tip!

I know that, in the "cake-tin" days, British housewives had a concoction of red-currant jelly that they used to brush on their (un-iced) cakes at intervals. I suspect there was a little alcohol in the mix, as well, but haven't located any reliable information yet...Maybe this was just a form of 'glazing' the cake before icing it...If they were boiling the jelly before application, which I think is standard practice, I imagine it would have eventually turned into a hard toffee-like covering for the cake





EvaB's picture

brushing the cakes imediately after removing from the oven (mine are not iced) with a combination of white or dark rum, and corn syrup, since I won't use corn syrup anymore I use golden syrup which is simply cane syrup or as my brother called it, table molasses, not strong tasting and beautiful gold colour!

When you do this they hiss and sizzle and develop a marvelous deep gloss, so bet you could use the jam instead of the syrup.

copyu's picture

From a 1974 Aussie cookbook...


4 Tblsp apricot jam

3 Tblsp water

1 teasp lemon juice

Simmer jam and water for 4min, strain if necessary. Add lemon juice and simmer until the mix coats a wooden spoon easily. Brush glaze on top and sides of cake

Almond Paste:

375g (12oz) ground almonds

185g (6oz) caster sugar

185g (6oz) icing sugar

1 teasp lemon juice

1 large egg

1/2 teasp almond essence

Sift almond powder and sugars into a bowl, add lemon juice, egg and essence. Mix into a stiff paste and knead lightly until a soft and pliable consistency is obtained. Divide into two; roll one piece into a round to fit the top of your cake and the other into a rectangle to cover the side(s). Pinch edges together. Wrap in al-foil and leave at room temperature for at least 2 days before coating with royal icing


copyu's picture

500g (approx 1lb) icing sugar

2 egg whites (from large eggs preferred)

1 teaspoon lemon juice (or another acidic component, eg, 1/2 teasp cream of tartar or vinegar)

Sift icing sugar. Whisk egg-whites to soft peaks and add icing sugar, a spoonful at a time and whisk between each addition. Stir in lemon juice (or substitute) and beat until the icing mix forms stiff peaks.

Spread the icing over the cake using a spatula. You may wish to reserve a little icing, add food colouring, and make decorative pine-cones, Xmas trees, or an inscription...



EvaB's picture

I have an antique breadpan which was my MIL's I think she said from the 1930's, I use it mainly for the large batchs of dark Xmas cake I make.

The pan is about 19 inches across the top, and about 8 inches tall on a base that is about 1.5 inches, the fruit in the pan is 5.625 kilos, and is about 3 inches from the top of the pan.

This is soaking in about 5 cups of wine, which is mixed this year, its a blackberry merlot (abt 3 cups) and concord grape Kosher wine (abt 2 cups) which was sitting about not being drunk! So its rehydrating my dried fruit, some of which is really dry! The currants were so dry they sounded like ball bearings hitting the metal measuring cup.

So this will get stirred up a couple times a day for the next week or so, then the rest of the stuff will get mixed up and go into the pan, and then the bake, and then the cooled cakes will be wrapped and left to meld until they are given out.

Once the dark cake is done, I will set fruit for the light cake I make as well, and then that will be baked the end of the week after, so the next two weeks will be busy, all sorts of appointments, baking and room renovations!

jackie9999's picture

Yours looks WAY better than ours.  We realized we cut the cherries too small - I like the chunks better - we'll know better next time. I didn't even think of wine - we used brandy and it really does smell nice.  It's been sitting for a week is assembly day :)

copyu's picture

...and I STARTED this thread! Not fair! (Just kidding!)

I'm envious of Eva's green cherries, especially...I didn't have any in stock and didn't find any at the nearest bakers' supply shop for my first batch of Xmas Cakes 2010

I didn't cut my [red] cherries at all, this year, as they were so tiny! I also like big cherry chunks in a slice of fruit cake and I always used to cut them into quarters...Not so for this batch...WHOLE cherries only. (I'm happy about that, though!)



PS: Happy Hallowe'en, everyone! copyu

(edited for greeting)

EvaB's picture

I am experienced with this, so it should look like I know what I'm doing. I was very upset as this year I couldn't find any yellow cherries, not even any mixed! I use the whole cherries to decorate the tops of the cakes before baking. I am seriously considering making my own candied fruit, the pineapple chunks were over 4 dollars for under half a cup, and no longer large pieces which I also use for decorating the tops of the cakes.

It does get expensive to make them, but hey its once a year, and everyone I give one to, simply loves them, (I can take it or leave it really) so will keep on doing it. It sure does make it better if you can buy the stuff at the cash and carry though, the raisins were much cheaper than in the stores, and the currants, I can't believe the prices in the stores for about 3/4 of a pound, over 4 bucks in one store, and I got 12 bags for 28.50, and currants keep just fine, in fact the ones I used are probably anywhere from 1 to 3 years old.

EvaB's picture

But I've been doing this for years and always use the same recipe, not always the same soak, some years is homemade wine, some years is a mix of whatever I have on hand. Last year is the first year since 1984 that I didn't make cakes, and that was because my brother died.

The recipe says to cut the cherries in half, and I use a pair of scissors, pick up the cherry and snip into the bowl, this has almost  3 pounds of mixed peel, about the same in chopped mixed fruits, and cherries, so it has lots of coloured bits. Then there is the 2 kinds of raisins, and the dates, and currants, altogether around 11.5 pounds of fruit in these cakes. Full of eggs butter and some sugar and very little flour, really just enough to hold the fruit together! LOL

This year the only things I actually measured was the raisins currants and dates, the rest of the stuff was in 225 gram packages so I figured them for a cup each, and when it got to the halved cherries, going by experience, I used 3 packages of each to make 1.5 cups of each colour, since they will be more in a cup of halved cherries over the whole cherries, smqaller bits fit in the cup and fill up more spaces. I did measure the slivered almonds, (it actually calls for sliced almonds, but the cash and carry only has slivered) and it used 400 grams for 3 full cups.


jackie9999's picture

Well ours is made..and let me tell you the house smelt very festive here :)

We made the 2nd column in your spreadsheet and found that it was done at the lower limit of the bake time (2:30). I didn't use convection in my gas oven and it was beginning to get a little dark on the top. I was thinking I'd have to put a piece of foil on it if it needed more time, but the knife came out clean, and a poke sprang back, so it was done.

I've wrapped in wax paper the put in a ziplock bag, there are conflicting posts on how to store it, hopefully it will be fine.

I'm wondering if I should maybe make another now.... :)