This old fashioned fruit cake is my great-grandmother's recipe. It is easy to make and makes a fantastic Christmas cake for the festive season.
There are many ways of making boiled fruit cake. This is one of my family recipes and has been passed down for four generations. My great-grandmother passed it on to my grandmother, who passed it onto my mother, who passed it on to me.
We have always made our Christmas cake without marzipan icing. Instead we use a lighter, pretty glaze of jam and brandy with blanched almonds for decoration. Like most Christmas cakes it keeps extremely well and can be made weeks in advance of Christmas day. You can 'feed' this old fashioned fruit cake if you like by basting it with alcohol such as brandy or rum every week in the weeks leading up to Christmas. But it also keeps well without doing this for up to a month or can be eaten straight away and will still be delicious.
This cake is similar to a Dundee cake, a rich Scottish fruit cake make without glace cherries and decorated with blanched almonds.
Is Christmas cake the same as fruit cake?
In many parts of the world, particularly commonwealth countries, yes, Christmas cake is the same as fruit cake. Fruit cake is made with dried fruit, nuts and spices. In many parts of the world they are served as Christmas cakes and wedding cakes.
Fruit cake can sometimes be eaten at other times of the year but the rich, moist, heavy fruit cakes are typically eaten at Christmas.
When should you make a Christmas cake?
Whenever you want to. Any time from just before eating to up to two to three months before Christmas. Making Christmas cake this far in advance apparently gives the cake time to mature and develop a denser, less crumbly texture.
If you run short of time you can however make old fashioned fruit cake a short notice. I have eaten this cake within a few days of baking and up to four weeks after baking. Either way it has been delicious.
How do you age a fruitcake?
Once the cake is cooked, peel back the foil and baking paper and brush the sides and tops with brandy, rum or your preferred alcohol. Re-wrap with the baking paper and foil, then wrap all over with another layer of baking, then foil and store in a cool, dark, dry place.
Then about once a week unwrap the cake, brush the sides and top with alcohol again, and re-wrap.
How long does Christmas cake last?
Christmas cake that is stored correctly and 'feed' regularly can be stored for weeks and even months. The nature of the dried fruit, butter and alcohol makes it very shelf stable at room temperature, even for months at a time.
Dried fruit: this recipe uses mixed dried fruit including sultanas, currents, raisins and mixed peel.
Dates (optional): dates add a lovely richness to this cake. You can replace it with more mixed dried fruit if you prefer.
Dried apricots (optional): give some extra tang to this recipe. You replace it with more mixed dried fruit if you prefer, or add some glace cherries.
Orange juice: I use orange juice from a freshly squeezed orange in this recipe. You can use regular orange juice instead if you like.
Butter: I use unsalted butter in this recipe.
Brown sugar: also known as light brown sugar, adds to the caramel notes of this recipe. You could use white sugar if you prefer, or experiment with dark brown sugar.
Self-raising flour: white self-raising flour is best for this recipe, I haven't tried it with wholemeal flour. You could also use all-purpose flour mixed with baking powder if you prefer to make your own.
Mixed spice: ground mixed spice helps add to the flavor of this recipe.
Cinnamon: ground cinnamon is a traditional spice to add to this fruit cake.
Ginger: ground ginger adds some lovely warmth to this recipe.
Eggs: I use large eggs in this recipe, approx. 55 gms each with shells before cracking.
Apricot jam: gives this cake a lovely shiny glaze and flavor without marzipan icing.
Brandy: helps preserve the cake and keep it nice and moist.
Blanched almonds: are an easy and pretty way of decorating this cake if you want to make a Christmas cake without icing. You can blanch your own almonds by soaking natural almonds in hot water, cooling and peeling them yourself. Cheaper but a lot more time-consuming! Or you can buy almonds that are already peeled.
How to make old fashioned fruit cake
Chop the apricots and dates into small pieces. Measure out the allspice, cinnamon and ginger.
Add the mixed dried fruit, dried apricots, dates, brown sugar, butter, spice mix and orange juice to a large pot. Heat on low heat and stir until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Increase to medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat and allow it to cool completely, for about two hours.
Line your cake tin with foil first then parchment paper. This will help stop the cake from dry out and is better for storage.
Move the oven tray in your oven so there is enough height for the lined cake tin. Preheat oven to 335°F (170°C) (fan forced).
Lightly beat eggs in a separate bowl, add brandy if using. Add eggs, brandy and flour to the cake mix in the pot. Mix well and pour into the lined cake tin.
Use blanched almonds to decorate the cake top. I like to make a pretty circular pattern.
Bake in the oven for one hour or until starting to go brown on top and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Hot tip: this recipe was made in a fan forced oven at sea level. All oven can vary, so adjust them temperature and baking time as needed for your oven and location.
While the cake is still warm pour one shot of brandy over the cake. Mix the apricot jam and brandy together in a bowl. Brush liberally over the cake with a pastry brush. Allow the cake to cool completely.
How to serve
To serve unwrap, or partially up wrap the cake from foil and baking paper, slice and enjoy! If you are serving after a Christmas feast you can wrap some pretty Christmas ribbon around it for a stunning centerpiece. It's perfect to serve after a Christmas dinner, as part of a festive dessert bar or when friends and family pop over during the festive season.
How to store
This Christmas cake will store well for up to a month if left wrapped in the original baking paper and foil it was baked in and wrapped in some extra foil and baking paper.
Once unwrapped it should still keep for at least two weeks, so you can eat it over the Christmas season.
Have you made this recipe? Tell me how it went in the comments below and tag me on instagram so I can see your delicious creations! @keep_calm_and_eat_icecream
Looking for more yummy Christmas dessert recipes?
Why not try making
- Ice cream Christmas pudding
- Gingerbread men
- Chocolate red velvet cake
- White Christmas
- Gingerbread ice cream
Old fashioned fruit cake
- 1 x 8 inch cake tin
- Extra butter or margarine to grease the cake tin
- 2 and ⅓ cups (12 oz /340gms) packet dried fruit mix
- ½ cup (70gms) chopped dates
- ⅓ cup (65gms) dried apricots
- ½ cup (125mls) orange juice or water
- 2 sticks plus one table spoon (250gms) butter or margarine
- ¾ cup (165gms) tightly packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon (15mls) brandy (optional)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups (300gms) self raising flour
- 1 cup (110 gms) whole blanched almonds
- ¼ cup (125mls) apricot jam
- ½ tablespoon (7.5mls) brandy (optional)
- Chop apricots and dates into small pieces.
- Combine dried fruit, dates, apricots, brown sugar, orange juice, butter, mixed spice, cinnamon and ginger to a large saucepan.
- Stir over a low head heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves.
- Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat, cover and allow to cool completely, about two to three hours.
- Pre-heat oven to 335°F (170°C) (fan forced).
- Heavily grease and line an 8 inch square or round cake tin with butter or margarine, then line with foil, then baking paper, allowing plenty of over hang.
- Lightly beat eggs. Add eggs, self raising flour and brandy if using to cold boiled fruit mix and mix well. You can add this directly to the pot if you like, or transfer to a mixing bowl first.
- Pour cake mix into prepared cake tin. Decorate with blanched almonds if using. I like to do a pretty circular pattern.
- Bake in the oven for one hour. The cake will be cooked when its starting to go a lovely golden brown color on top and a skewer will come out clean when inserted.
- Optional: to help preserve the cake and keep it moist you can pour one shot (30mls) of brandy over the cake while it is still warm. For a lovely shinny glaze mix apricot jam with brandy and brush liberally over cake.
- To store this cake leave it wrapped in the foil and baking paper. Fold over the over hang at the top, then gently remove from the cake tin. Wrap well with baking paper, then foil. This cake will keep for up to a month a room temperature.
Nutritional information is an estimate based on an online database. The nutritional content of ingredients may vary by brand. If you require accurate nutritional information, you should calculate this based on the specific brands and products you are using.
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