TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CAKE
Part 1 – Preparing The Dried Fruit
So this year in the Facebook group GBBO Fans (The Great British Bake Off or Baking Show in the states & Canada), I decided having another group bake-along would be good for preparing a Traditional British Christmas cake. We often have bake-alongs running over weekends where we all do the same recipe, but since making this Christmas cake is done in stages, I decided to call it a Bake-together. You soak the dry fruit for about a week, and then bake the cake, brush on alcohol for a few months, every week or so, before then decorating the cake. So I thought I could show you how I am making one for the first time this year, and if you like, bake along, a week or so behind me.
WHY I CHOOSE THIS CHRISTMAS CAKE RECIPE
Now since it’s my first time making a traditional Christmas cake, I am using my good friend Christine’s family recipe, (she is known as CJ in the Facebook group she created 3 years ago. I joined 2 years ago and I then stepped in a year ago to help her out with the admin and she never got rid of me yet!) Any way, this is an old Be-Ro recipe. And for those that don’t know, it’s a book that’s been around for a long time, with lots of editions and they also make baking products like flour being one example. This particular recipe has been used for at least 3 generations, every year and so as close to a traditional Christmas cake as you will get. You can read more about this recipe in my article 100 YEARS OF FAMILY MEMORIES PRESERVED IN ONE CHRISTMAS CAKE RECIPE
INGREDIENTS FOR A TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CAKE
I know that in the states and Canada, some things are not as easy to come by as in the UK. Examples being the citrus peel and Glacé cherries. Maraschino cherries can also be used and for the citrus peel, that’s similar to candied citrus. There are recipes on the internet to make your own, which of course you can try, or add another dried fruit, such as cranberries. The recipe for the cake also uses self-raising flour. But I have included how much baking powder to add if using Plain or All Purposes flour instead and tested it out. There is also caster sugar used, (extra/super fine sugar being the equivalent), but because the cake is baked for a long time on a lower heat, granulated sugar can also just as easily be used. This Traditional Christmas Cake also uses ground almonds. By that we mean almond meal. Almond flour is finer, but if you have to use it, this can be used too. Note though that the texture will be slightly different, as the ground almonds provide note just moisture but also structure for the bake. Lastly, mixed spice is very similar to US/Canadian Pumpkin Spice.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A U.S. FRUIT CAKE & A BRITISH CHRISTMAS CAKE
For our US & Canadian readers who might not have made or had one, they are not like American fruit cakes. They indeed have fruit and are a cake, but the composition, structure, texture and taste are different. Also the way it’s decorated provides some more tastes and textures making it very different too. But enough about that. I can discuss it more when making the cake. This Part 1 of the Bake-together, is for preparing the dried fruit for the cake batter.
INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT FOR A CHRISTMAS CAKE
Below are the ingredients and equipment required for preparing your dried fruit for the Traditional British Christmas Cake. I have also included the ingredients needed for making the cake batter too, so you can source the ingredients if need be.
Fruit Soaking Ingredients
- 8 oz Currants ***(226g, 1 & 2/3 cups)
- 8 oz Raisins (226g, 1 & 1/2 cups)
- 8 oz Sultanas (226g, 1 & 1/2 cups)
- 4 oz Glacé Cherries or Maraschino (113g, level 2/3 cup, chopped)
- 4 oz Mixed Citrus Peel, cut (113g, 1 & 1/2 cups Candied Peal)
- 750ml Alcohol, such as Brandy, Port or even Whiskey. (25.3 fl oz, or 3 cups + 2 tbsp)
You can also use less alcohol or none at all. I used a combination and added 300ml of Orange juice, partly because I don’t like too strong an alcohol taste and because I didn’t have enough alcohol in the cupboard. This amount is approximate. You need to have enough to cover the top of the fruit once all added together.
**NON ALCOHOLIC VERSION – Use pure orange juice and add some orange and lemon zest to the fruit when soaking.***
Equipment For Fruit Soaking
- Measuring cups or digital scales
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Knife and chopping board
- Big spoon
- Measuring Jug
- Large jar (optional)
- Cling Film/plastic wrap (optional)
Christimas Cake Batter Ingredients
- 12 oz Self-Raising Flour* (340g, 2 & 3/4 cup)
- Plain/All Purpose Flour & 4 & 1/8 tsp baking Powder)
- 1 tsp Mixed Spice **(Pumpkin Spice)
- 4 oz Ground Almonds/Almond Meal (113g, 1 & 1/4 level cups)***
- 8 oz Butter, unsalted & softened (226, 1 cup, 2 sticks)
- 8 oz Caster Sugar (226g, 1 & 1/8 cup)
- OR Granulated Sugar (same as above)
- 4 Medium – Large Eggs, beaten with –
- 8 tbsp Milk (or 1/2 milk & 1/2 Brandy) (120ml, 4 fl oz or 1/2 cup)
- 32 oz Dried Fruit, Soaked as per the above ingredients & directions below.
FRUIT SOAKING FOR A CHRISTMAS CAKE
1. So for today, we just concentrate on soaking the dried fruit for the Traditional British Christmas Cake. But the rest of the cake recipe is there for you to know what other ingredients to have in.
2. Start by chopping the cherries and mixed peal if in strips. My mixed peel was already chopped. I didn’t have quite enough cherries so added cranberries to make up the difference and a few chopped apricots. All to about the same size and to the correct weight. In the recipe it said to chop the cherries in half, and I know Christine quarters them, but since I had less and like cherries, I cut into 1/6 or 1/8 depending on the size of the cherries, as some were bigger than others. This also gave a better distribution of them.
3. Add the dried fruit to a large mixing bowl or a container that you can store it all in. I made a double batch to make more than one Christmas cake and didn’t know how big a container I would need so used a big mixing bowl first. I then simply used a big spoon (or spatula) to mix it all up.
4. Then I added in the alcohol and fruit juice (if using). Gave it a good mix and then checked where it came to in the bowl. If it covers the fruit that’s enough. Mine was just covered, but when I transferred to another large jar, it needed more orange juice. So be sure to fully cover the fruit in liquid.
NON ALCOHOL VERSION
For a non alcoholic Christmas Cake, add pure orange juice to cover the fruit, and also add in the zest of 1 or 2 oranges & of 1 lemon to the fruit.
For non-alcohol infused fruit, store in the fridge or somewhere quite cool and in a tightly sealed jar.
5. Leave in the same bowl if you like or transfer to another container. I managed to get into a big plastic jar, ones I am using for storing flour. It gave me enough room to be able to shake it periodically. If leaving in the bowl, cover with cling film/plastic wrap.
6. Leave out or in a cupboard for about 1 week to 10 days. With alcohol, it does not need to be in the fridge, just make sure it is somewhere cool and dark. During that time you can give a mix or a shake to make sure all the fruit is getting an even soaking.
7. Once the week to 10 days is up, you will use the fruit to prepare the cake.
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VIDEO OF SOAKING THE DRIED FRUIT FOR A CHRISTMAS CAKE
So that’s the fruit soaking part of making a Traditional British Christmas Cake complete. Next stage will be Part 2 in the Bake-together. Click here for Christmas Bake-together
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DIFFICULTY LEVEL: super simple, beginner
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