Christmas Cake is a traditional fruit cake with a rich, velvety texture that’s so full flavoured and moist it can be eaten plain. But no one turns away a slosh of custard! Usually Christmas Cakes need to be started the day before, with overnight soaking of dried fruit. But not mine!
Terrific made on the day, keeps for ages, and it’s just as delicious made with or without alcohol. Go wild with the decorations – or keep it simple!
I’m fussy about Christmas Cake because (speaking frankly) there are too many not-so-great-ones out there. Here’s how I like / don’t like my Christmas Cake:
With or without alcohol – cake has to be just as good with or without booze (I mostly make it without – so it can be widely shared!);
Not too much peel or citrus flavour – I’m just not a fan of biting into giant chunks of orange rind. I just like a subtle hint of citrus flavour;
Soft and velvety is how I like the texture to be when you slice through it – it’s how “good fruit cakes” should be. As opposed to “crumbly” with a muffin-like texture. I make muffins all year round, I don’t want my Christmas Cake like that!
Moist and fudgy – but still distinctly cake like, not brownie-like. Some cakes I tried to compare leading up to sharing this recipe were just far too dry.
Quite dense but NOT brick like! Some Christmas Cake recipes are WAY too dense, and you feel like you’re cutting into a block of firm fudge. No thank you!
Decorating is optional!! The cake should be tasty enough and moist enough to eat plain, without any frosting / fondant or custard.
So if that sounds good to you, then I think you’re really going to love this Christmas Cake!
This fruit cake uses a highly effective FAST fruit soaking method by heating in the microwave then soaking for just 1 hour. Works 100% perfectly!
What goes in Christmas Cake
You need a LOT of dried fruit and very little cake batter ingredients!!
1. Soaked Dried Fruit
Here’s what you need for the Soaked Dried Fruit. The fruit is soaked in either apple juice OR a combination of apple juice and brandy (for those who like boozy Christmas Cake).
Use any dried fruit you want – as long as it weighs 855g / 30 oz in total. You could even use a store bought mix of pre chopped dried fruit – but just know that chopping your own will yield a more moist cake (pre chopped is not as moist), but having said that, this cake is ULTRA moist so has the flex to use pre chopped!
Mixed peel is a store bought mix of dried, crystallised (ie sugared) lemon and orange peel. Usually it comes pre chopped – I like to chop it a bit finer. I like less citrus peel than some recipes because I’m too scarred by all those times I bit into a huge piece of orange peel. Just not to my taste! Don’t use FRESH orange and lemon peel, it will be too strong and too bitter. I do not know how much fresh peel to substitute this for.
Juice and/or booze – for a traditional boozy Christmas Cake, just switch 1/3 of the apple juice with brandy. Can also sub apple juice with orange juice if you want a stronger��citrus flavour.
2. Christmas Cake Batter
And here’s what you need for the cake batter part. The cake has very little baking powder because it’s quite a dense cake. But it’s still got a distinct “cake” texture – unlike some Christmas Cakes that are so dense, you’d swear you were eating a block of fudge!
Dark brown sugar – makes the cake a rich dark brown colour. Can sub with normal brown sugar – will make cake lighter (also looks nice as fruit stands out!)
Molasses / golden syrup – adds to the richness of flavour and colour of cake. Either is fine – I interchange year on year;
Walnuts – sub with any nuts of choice, or leave it out completely;
Oil AND butter – oil is what gives this cake a superb moistness. Butter is for flavour!
How to make Christmas Cake
And here’s how the making part goes down.
The key step that makes this so much faster to make than other fruit cakes is the fruit soaking step. Most recipes call for dried fruit to be soaked overnight.
I take a speedy approach: just microwave the dried fruit with juice and/or brandy, then stand for 1 hour to soak up the liquid. So much faster – and just as effective!
Other than that, there’s nothing unusual about how this fruit cake is made.
Because it’s a dense cake, it needs to be baked long and slow in order to cook it all the way through without drying out the edges and surface (without fussing with water baths). 3 hours 15 minutes, to be exact!
Christmas Cake Decoration ideas
A plain Christmas Cake does look like a big, dark brown block so it is nice to decorate it! Here are some ideas – but remember, it’s purely decorative. This fruit cake is full flavoured and very moist so unlike other cakes, you don’t need a frosting to make it ultra delish to eat!
Simple – just dust with icing sugar, or pile on cherries or other fruit and dust with icing sugar;
Christmas TREE decorations – yes, really. Inedible decorations is FINE!!
Drippy white glaze – use the recipe in this Lemon Cake with Drippy Glaze but skip the lemon in the glaze. Flip cake upside down for a perfectly level surface;
Traditional white fondant (pictured above) – I know some people really don’t like fondant. Too many bad wedding cake experiences!! But nowadays, store bought fondant is actually much nicer than it was in the past. It just tastes like a softish sheet of plain sweet frosting. See below the recipe card for a step by step visual of how to apply the white fondant on your Christmas Cake.
The cake in the photos is the 2nd time in my life I’ve used fondant. So if I can do it, you can do it too!
How to serve Christmas Cake
This Christmas Fruit Cake is rich and moist, with a ton of flavour from the fruit so it’s absolutely delish eaten plain. No frosting, no fondant – nothing needed – and it’s certainly how I pick away at the leftovers for weeks and weeks!
But if you really want to make it special, serve it with custard. Homemade custard, if you can. But if you opt for store bought, do my little pimping up trick – just stir in some vanilla bean paste. The little black specks gives it a little “extra special” look and it does wonders to freshen up the flavour too!
And lastly, you’ll be very happy to know this keeps for weeks and weeks! 3 months in the fridge, a year in the freezer.
Will yours last that long??! – Nagi x
PS How did I get all the way down to here without telling you where all my Christmas recipes live?? Right here -> Christmas Recipes
Watch how to make it
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Christmas Cake – EASY moist fruit cake
Fast soaked fruit (Note 1):
- 300g / 10 oz raisins
- 150g / 5 oz diced dried apricots , chopped 8 mm / 1/3"
- 75g / 2.5 oz mixed peel , diced 5mm / 1/5
- 150g / 5 oz glace cherries , chopped 8 mm / 1/3"
- 180g / 6 oz dates , diced 5mm / 1/5"
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp apple juice, OR 1/3 brandy + 2/3 juice (Note 2)
- 115g / 8 tbsp unsalted butter , softened (1 US stick)
- 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar , packed (Note 3)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or canola, peanut, grapeseed)
- 3 tbsp molasses or golden syrup (Note 4)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp all spice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 2/3 cups plain flour (all purpose flour)
- 3/4 cup walnuts , chopped (optional)
For serving (optional)
- 500ml / 1 pint pouring custard , homemade or store bought (Note 5)
White Christmas Cake decoration, as pictured (optional)
- 250g / 8 oz "ready to roll" marzipan
- 250g / 8 oz "ready to roll" white fondant
- Cherries dusted with icing sugar
Other Decorating Options (optional)
- Cherries or other fruit dusted with icing sugar (on plain cake, looks very pretty!)
- Drippy white glaze (directions below)
Fast Soaked Fruit:
- Place dried fruit and juice/brandy in a large microwavable container. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes on high or until hot.
- Stir to coat all fruit in liquid. Cover then set aside for 1 hour (to plump up/soak and cool).
- Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F (140°C fan). Grease and line a 21 – 22 cm / 8 – 9" round cake pan with baking paper (parchment paper) (7 cm / 2.75" tall).
- Using an electric beater, beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute on speed 5).
- Add oil and molasses, beat until combined.
- Add salt, spices and baking powder – beat until incorporated.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated
- Stir in the flour.
- When mostly incorporated, stir in the fruit mix (including all the extra liquid in bowl) and walnuts (if using).
- Pour into cake pan, cover with foil and bake for 3 hours 15 minutes, removing foil the last 45 minutes. Skewer inserted into middle should come out clean with no batter on it.
- Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Cool completely before serving.
- Cake is moist and so full flavoured, it can be eaten plain. But see below for decorating and serving ideas (traditionally served with pouring custard).
- Cutting: Either cut into thin wedges, or cut cake into thin strips (2cm / 0.75" or so), then cut those strips into serving size pieces.
Christmas Cake Decorating options:
- Traditional White Christmas Cake (pictured in post) – Marzipan and fondant, see Decorating Note.
- Simple – pile top with fresh cherries or other fruit, dust with icing sugar (powdered sugar). Wrap a ribbon around the cake for extra touch!
- Drippy white glaze – use the glaze in this Lemon Cake recipe, but leave out the lemon juice (ie make a plain sweet white glaze). Flip cake upside down for flat surface then glaze per that recipe.
- Serving – serve with custard for a traditional experience! Either homemade custard or store bought pouring custard (jazz it up by mixing in vanilla seed paste!).
- Best to use a cake turntable or similar (I used a small lazy susan!)
- Marzipan layer mainly for creating perfect smooth surface for fondant layer.
- Dust work surface with icing sugar. Shape marzipan into a disc then roll out so it’s large enough to cover cake and sides (250g/8oz marzipan covers this cake perfectly with some excess).
- Roll marzipan onto rolling pin, then unroll it over the cake.
- Drape over cake, stretching and pressing to cover sides with as few pleats as possible. Use wet table eating knife to smooth pleats, doesn’t need to look perfect – this is Layer 1 to smooth cake, plus also for the subtle almond flavour.
- Use something with a clean edge but not as sharp as a knife (I used a cake server).
- Press on a 45 degree angle on side of cake about 2.5 cm / 1″ apart all around the cake, then 45 degrees in the opposite direction to create “diamond”.
- Dip the blunt end of a wooden skewer into water, then press a light indent into fondant on intersection of diamond.
- Then press in a silver ball (water makes it stick). Repeat all around.
- Top with cherries, dusting with icing sugar, give it a grand spin to admire your work and serve!
Originally published December 2019. Republished December 2020 – no change to recipe, just tidied up some of the writing!
How to ice Christmas Cake with fondant
The pictured cake in this post is decorated with a layer of marzipan (almond flavoured frosting) then topped with white fondant. This combination of marzipan + fondant is a traditional way to decorate Christmas Cake. Marzipan is for flavour and also to create a smooth surface for the fondant.
A visual of the steps is included in the recipe video above the recipe card, and below in photos.
What you need
250g / 8oz of each “ready to roll” marzipan and white fondant, sold in the baking aisle of grocery stores.
How to apply marzipan and fondant to Christmas Cake
Use a cake turn table, if you have one. I used a lazy susan!
Dust work surface with icing sugar (powdered sugar) and shape marzipan into a disc;
Roll marzipan out so it’s large enough to cover the sides of the cake;
Roll the marzipan lightly around the rolling pin (best way to handle because marzipan is prone to tearing, can’t pick it up);
Then unroll it over the cake;
Gently press down around the sides, making it as smooth as possible and stretching / adjusting as needed to avoid “pleats”. Don’t get too hung up about perfection here – this layer is to create a smooth surface for the fondant layer;
Trim off excess using a knife;
Roll out fondant the same way as the marzipan, including rolling it around the rolling pin to transfer to the cake;
Unroll over the cake, then gently press down the side of the cake, stretching gently as needed to make it fit with no pleats.
TIP: If you have cracks / crevices / tears, just wet a table knife then use it to “smear” the fondant to seal the cracks. Use small pinches of surplus fondant if needed.
How to decorate side of cake
Here’s how I decorated the side of the cake:
Use something with a clean edge but not as sharp as a knife (I used a cake server).
Press on a 45 degree angle on side of cake about 2.5 cm / 1″ apart all around the cake;
Then 45 degrees in the opposite direction to create “diamond”;
Dip the blunt end of a wooden skewer into water, then press a light indent into fondant on intersection of diamond. Then press in a silver ball (water makes it stick). Repeat all around; and
Top with cherries, dusting with icing sugar, give it a grand spin to admire your work and serve!
Life of Dozer
Too much Christmas cheer – and not enough cake, according to him! No Christmas Cake for Dozer. Dried fruit is bad for dogs!
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