Christmas Cake Recipe


 Dubbed one of the most beautiful cakes in the world – not  just because of the religious significance of this period but  the fact that Christmas Cake contains so many beautiful ingredients – luxurious in their quantities- it is almost impossible for this Cake to flop.

south african christmas cake

Although Christmas Fruit Cake is often associated  with  England  it is also enjoyed in its former ‘Colonies’ and  there are also several (less decadent) varieties of this Christmas treat including Stollen in Germany and Panettone  in Italy. Christmas Cake was one of Amma’s Signature Recipes. We did not celebrate Christmas but  it was customary to have a Christmas Tree and Christmas Cake in our household .These traditions came about as a result of my fathers employment on an English owned farm between (1972-1981). The cook from the farmer’s household ( named Japan) was one of Amma’s only culinary teachers sharing his secrets to making perfect Scones and Christmas Pudding.

Amma would usually make  Christmas Pudding two  weeks or even a few days before Christmas. The recipe I am sharing today is Christmas Cake. There are a few slight variations between Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding. Pudding is usual much denser yet moist, it also contains suet (plant or animal fat) and the most distinguishing factor is that Christmas Puddings are steamed rather than baked. Christmas Cake contains a balanced ratio of flour and binding agents and fruit to make a soft textured treat.


Some Notes:

Second to Briyani, Christmas Cake has one of the longest list of ingredients so be sure to tick off ingredients or else it is easy to miss one. The process of making Christmas Cake begins the day before you intend baking the Cake. This can be done up to 6-8 weeks prior to Christmas Day or the day you intend to serve the cake. If you want to make the authentic Christmas Fruit Cake then it needs to be cured with alcohol hence  should be made a minimum of 2 weeks before Christmas. This will give the Cake enough time to absorb the alcohol and develop a rich moist texture.

If you want an Alcohol free Cake then you can substitute the alcohol with black coffee, black tea or orange Juice in the recipe. Alcohol free Fruit cake won’t keep as long as one that is cured with rum or brandy so it is best to make this a day before you intend serving it.

You can use Rum or Brandy to cure Christmas Cake.I prefer and recommend Rum! Theres just something about the combination of rum and raisins that results in a medley of flavor and aroma!

Christmas Cake Recipe


  •   125ml Rum or Brandy 
  • 220g cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice
  • 225g butter or margarine
  • 225g brown sugar
  • 4 eggs 
  • 50g chopped almonds,walnuts or pecan nuts
  •  2 tablespoons treacle 
  • 1 grated lemon zest 
  • 1 grated orange zest
  • 500g currants
  • 175g sultanas 
  • 175g raisins
  • 50g red cherries 
  • 50g candy peel
  • Additional rum or brandy for curing


1. The day before you intend making Christmas Cake you will need (from the list above)

  • 500g currants 
  • 175g sultanas 
  • 175g raisins 
  • 50g red cherries
  • 50g candy peel 
  • 125ml rum or brandy 

Weigh then combine all ingredients in a large flat dish. A casserole dish works best. Pour the alcohol over the fruit mix then gently mix until the alcohol is infused. Cover and set aside until the next day.


2. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius.

3. Prepare a cake tin. This recipe is suitable for a 20cm diameter cake tin. I used a 18cm tin and was able to make 4 muffin sized mini cakes with the remaining batter.(A good strategy for those like me- who can’t wait until Christmas to taste this yummy cake). I prefer to use baking paper rather than simply greasing the pan. Line the pan with paper.

4. Sift the dry ingredients i.e. flour, cocoa salt and all spices.


5. Combine the butter and sugar .An effective way to handle butter if it is not soft enough is to grate it-this makes it softer and easier to cream.


6. Whisk the eggs then add a little at a time into the butter. Once a smooth mixture is formed add the flour into this mixture.


7. Add the chopped almonds and treacle then gently fold the mixture to combine.
8. Fold in the fruit mixture then spoon into your baking pan. Amma was fond of adding coins into the cake.Whoever found the coin was considered lucky for the day. One of the most effective ways of cleaning the coin is to immerse it in some tomato sauce. Apart from shocking revelations on the acidity of tomato sauce – it does clean the coin. Simply insert the clean coin in the batter then mix before pouring into the baking pan.


9. Cover the pan with baking paper. This will help keep the cake from drying out. Make small indents with a tooth pick to allow the steam to escape.


10. Place in the oven-on the lowest rack. Bake for 4 hours. I used the fan function in my oven so the cooking time may vary depending on your oven. Mine seemed to cook just right after four hours. You can use a tooth pick to test if the cake is cooked.

11. Allow to cool before you remove the cake from the pan. Once cooled make a few holes in the cake using a toothpick then pour rum or brandy into the holes. Cover the cake in baking paper then wrap in foil then store in an airtight container.

12. The Christmas Cake needs to be ‘fed’ with rum or brandy until Christmas Day or whenever you intend serving it-you can use your discretion. I plan to cure mine every 2 days using 3 tablespoons of Rum.

Christmas Cake FAQ

When Should I Make A Christmas Cake?

It is usually recommend that Christmas Cake be made up to 8 weeks in advance-in case you were busy enjoying Spring to be concerned with a Christmas Cake-it’s still not too late to bake one at least 4 or 5 days prior to serving day.

What is Suet?

Suet is fat-it is available in both plant and animal forms. In the case of animals it is fat from the liver and loins. You can find Animal Suet in your local Butchery while plant suet is available in some supermarkets or specialty stores.

What is Treacle?

Treacle is a dark sugar syrup-much like Golden syrup only darker in colour. Suitable substitutes for treacle include Molasses.

Can I Make An Alcohol Free Christmas Cake

Yes you can. In the recipe itself you can substitute Brandy or Rum with orange juice, black tea or black coffee but don’t try to cure the cake with any of these it will only accelerate its decomposition.

How much Alcohol should I pour over the Christmas Cake?

You can use your discretion. Ideally you should have at least two weeks before you intend serving the cake. This allows sufficient curing time. I use 3 tablespoons or Rum every 2 days.

How to Decorate A Christmas Cake 

Christmas Cake can be decorated in several ways. Popular decorative techniques include using Royal Icing or Marzipan. I find the cake rich enough to enjoy plain.
Christmas cake is best served with Nestle Cream (desert cream). If you find yourself in a non –(former)commonwealth nation then you can use vanilla ice cream or double cream or enjoy plain.


Food Like Amma wishes all readers well over the Festive Season!Happy Holidays and Happy Baking!


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