Monday, December 17, 2012

Traditional Christmas Cake

I think traditionally iced and decorative Christmas cake is a lovely thing. It brings joy to Christmas!

This is Nigella Lawson's recipe. It takes abit of time to make this. But you still have a week away. Still in time for Christmas! It bakes well, and can be iced beautifully, and is a satisfying way to get a Christmas really going on the dining table.

Aside religion, as usually only Christian or Catholic friends celebrate Christmas, which I'm not. Christmas is my favorite holiday season! It is the time when overindulgence is not just encouraged, it's pretty overdained. But it also need to be relished. I love it when I sees everything in red when I walk into the shopping centre. I love to see Santa, Rudolph, all the Christmas motif, Christmas food, and everything about Christmas! Now that I had my own residence. I wish and I'd like to try to make it a tradition - that my house celebrates Christmas every year. Just like Chinese New Year, we never failed having reunion dinner with our family. So that my future child will appreciate Christmas too!

This is the 2nd time I baked this recipe. The very 1st time I baked, that was 2 years ago. It is meant for Max birthday that falls on 26th December, boxing day. Last year's Christmas was hectic and I didn't even have time to feed myself well. So, I skipped all the cooking and baking. This year, I want to bake it again, and I pledge, I will try to bake it every year!

This ingredient uses 23cm Round cake tin or 20cm Square cake tin. But I baked TWO 6 inch round cake tin instead. So that I get 2 cakes :)

(Source : Nigella Lawson's Nigella Christmas, slightly modified)

Mixed fruits
  • 700g Raisins
  • 300g Currants
  • 50g Mixed Citrus Peel (This is not stated in Nigella's recipe, and it's optional)
  • 100g Glacé Cherries
  • 400ml Bourbon or Brandy (I used Brandy)
  • 150g Chopped Pecans (or Walnut as alternative), just roughly chopped will do
Wet ingredients
  • 300g Butter
  • 180g Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Lemon Zest, grated
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 2 tbsp Molasses or Black Treacle
  • 1 tsp Almond Essence (but I think this is optional)
Dry ingredients
  • 300g Plain Flour
  • 150g Ground Almond
  • ½ tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Ground Ginger
Icing (Optional)
  • 250g Snow White Fondant
  • 250g Marzipan
  • 1 to 2 tbsp Orange Marmalade

This is the shop-bought fondant and marzipan. Fondant can be found at Phoon Huat, while Marzipan can be found at Cold Storage.


In Nigella's original recipe, she place all the dried fruits in a saucepan, add bourbon or brandy. Bring to the boil, then take it off the heat, covering once cooled, and let it steep overnight, covered.

But for this particular step, I didn't follow Nigella's instruction. Because I don't wanna cook the Brandy. I pre-soaked the fruits (except Glacé Cherries) into Brandy, nicely sealed them in a big glass air-tight Tupperware. Occasionally give it a good shake, so that the fruits are well coated with Brandy. I did this 2 weeks before I bake them. So, I usually plan ahead. But well, you could just follow Nigella's way of doing it. Or you could just soak your fruits for a week, and then bake it a day before Christmas! It should be fine! :) 

On baking day, make sure eggs and butter is in room temperature.

  1. Prepare cake tin - line the sides and bottom of the cake tin. The paper should come up to a good 10cm higher than the sides of the tin. That's about twice as deep as the tin. This is to protect the cake from burning, because this cake takes longer time to cook in the oven. 
  2. Preheat oven to 150 degree.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the grated lemon zest. 
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the molasses and almond extract. 
  5. Sift the dry ingredients together, then under low speed, mix the soaked fruit alternatively with the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture, combining thoroughly. Fold in the chopped pecans.
  6. Put the cake mix into the prepared tin and bake in the oven until cooked. Cooking time is between 2hrs + 45mins ~ 3hrs + 15mins or until a cake-tester / skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanish.
  7. Once the cake is cooked, it will looks dry. So, do brush with couple of extra tablespoons of brandy. Wrap it immediately in it's tin - using double thickness of tin foil, as this will trap the heat and form steam, which is turn will keep the cake soft on top.
  8. When it's completely cooled. remove the cake from the tin and re wrap in foil (or clingwrap), storing, preferably in air-tight container for at least 3 weeks to improve the flavor. But I don't think I could keep that long. I'd probably just keep it for a week or two the most. I have a big mice in my house.
  9. The day before your party, take the cake out of the chiller (or freezer), make sure cake are thawed into room temperature before you do your icing. If you cake is cold, the fondant will sweat and end up melting. Spread a layer of marmalade, roll marzipan and cover it nicely. Cut away the excess. And then cover it with fondant by repeating the process. Roll fondant flat, cover the cake, cut away excess. Give the cake some nice deco's and you are done. 

Note :
  • I added mixed citrus peel to give this cake more citrus taste in overall. However, the choice is your's. It is not stated in Nigella's recipe tho. 
  • I didn't soak the Glacé Cherries in the Brandy, as for appearance wise, I want the cherries color to outshine in the cake. If the Glacé Cherries soaked with brandy for long time, it will turn dark in color. But of course, soaked Glacé Cherries taste better. So, this is an option for your consideration. 
  • For ground cloves, ground cinnamon and ground ginger - If you can't get all of them, just get a bottle of Mixed Spice. It's fine to use.
  • You could get all the ingredients from Phoon Huat or Cold Storage. But Cold Storage might not have everything listed above. Especially ground almond and mixed citrus peel. For Brandy, try to get it from duty free store at the airport. It's much cheaper. 
  • You can choose to ice your cake or you can choose to leave it naked. I usually don't ice my cake because I don't really fancy fondant. For this time, I ice it with fondant is because I needa take photos. But I didn't handle my fondant well. It is my first time using fondant, so, please forgive me for this awful fondant result.

The naked christmas cake...

Here's the "make-ahead tip" given by Nigella.
  • Make the cake upto 6 weeks ahead and wrap in a double layer of greaseproof paper and then a double layer of foil. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Chiller is the best place. You could add abit more brandy over this storage time to feed the cake and keep moist.
  • Or you could make this way even ahead! You could wrap it as above, freeze for up to 1 year. To thaw, unwrap the cake and thaw overnight at room temperature, or thaw it in the chiller for 24 hours (or more). Rewrap and store as above until needed. I tried this before. I baked earlier, freeze it and thaw it for later use. I can assure you, IT WORKS WELL!

With the make-ahead tip, you can now bake it ahead and store it for Chinese New Year! Once the cake is nicely thawed, you could decorate it with flower motif according to the festive season! Cool idea heh? I baked 2 cakes at a time. One for Christmas, another one freeze it for Chinese New Year. One stone kill two birds! Hehe... :D

This is my Mother-In-Law's idea. Full of candy cane. She says this can make people happy. She join in the fun when she sees me doing icing for my cake.

While for me, I'd prefer something simple :)

Let the scent of Christmas baking fill the air and bring joy to your home! 


  1. Annie, your cake really brings the X'mas mood out!

  2. Annie, beautifully decorated cake! Perfect for Christmas :)

  3. Hi Annie, your Christmas cake look cute and pretty. I love the candy cane.

    Have a nice day ahead,regards.

  4. The deco looks lovely to me.. Simple and elegant while the one with the candy cane would appeal to the children :)

  5. May I ask you whether Marzipan or Fondant is tastier?

    1. Hi Kium, some say marzipan taste better because marzipa has almond taste. But to me, both marzipan and fondant also doesn't taste good. Hahaha... It does looked good tho :)

  6. I was looking for the best recipe for christmas cake and I think that this is the right article for that, Thanks a lot for specifing such a brilliant article here.