Christmas may still be nearly two months away, but for those who like a nice rich, moist, homemade Christmas fruit cake, the work starts here.
- Many fruit cakes need making at the very least three weeks in advance, ideally much longer
- 6-8 weeks allows time for the cake to be “matured”
- Fruit cakes also require “feeding” during this time, often with alcohol such as brandy
- Eaten too soon before reaching maturity, the cake can be dry and crumbly
- For a very rich fruit cake, be prepared to make 12 weeks (three months) ahead of time
I always remember October half-term holidays here in the UK for one thing – my Mum used to make the Christmas cake. The ingredients would be weighed out and seemed to cover all parts of our relatively small kitchen. Part way through mixing, my brother and I would both be allowed to give the cake a stir and make a wish, while also helping lick the bowl clean once the cake went in to the oven.
The unmistakably sweet and warming smell of the cake slowly cooking would fill the house, and I’d wish Christmas was just around the corner so that I could dive in.
After cooking, it would be left to cool, unattended. The temptation to pick a tiny part of cake off, while still warm, was often too much to resist. The taste of that warm, sugary cake, usually with a slightly overcooked currant clinging on, was divine.
With half-term next week for most (week commencing 26th October), Christmas cakes will be getting made up and down the land.
It’s the perfect time to do so. A well matured fruit cake provides the perfect indulgent festive treat for those with a sweet tooth. It also screams ‘tradition’.
Many recipes for a proper, old-fashioned Christmas cake require the cake to be made well in advance. Some say as long as three months is ideal. As the weeks go by to Christmas, the cake would occasionally need to be “fed” with alcohol, often brandy, bourbon or whisky. This kept it moist, and helped give it an unmistakably Christmassy flavour.
We’ve pulled together some of the best recipes the internet has to offer for a rich Christmas fruit cake.
- Luxury Christmas Cake
We found this on allrecipes.co.uk, and it’s a belter. The person who submitted the recipe recommends it be made four months in advance, so you’re already a little late, but two months will still produce great results.
Get the recipe: allrecipes.co.uk Luxury Christmas Cake
- Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake
One of Mary Berry’s classics, this can easily be found around the internet, it’s everywhere. Also, for those less organised or pushed for time, Mary claims you can leave it to mature for just three weeks if required, although obviously the longer, the better.
Get the recipe: goodtoknow.co.uk Mary Berry Christmas Cake
- Delia’s Classic Christmas Cake
Another classic recipe from another of the UK’s leading bakers. This version does not give a specific maturing time, but does recommend feeding at odd intervals until you are ready to ice or eat.
Get the recipie: Delia Smith’s Classic Christmas Cake
- Make & Mature Christmas cake, by James Martin
This recipe is pretty standard, as most are, but it does carry tips about maturing and icing. It’s on BBC Good Food and comes from James Martin, another celebrity UK chef. We haven’t yet tried this ourselves, let us know if you give it a whirl!
get the recipe: BBC Good Food – Make & Mature Christmas cake
- As You Like It Christmas Cake
Last but not least is this recipe by Sarah Cook on BBC Good Food. The recipe includes nuts, the option of adding tea and suggests leaving it to mature for a whole six months! Again, a little late in the day for that perhaps.
Get the recipe: BBC Good Food – As You Like It Christmas Cake