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How To Make Christmas Cake

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Christmas is a time of indulgence; embrace the festive season with an authentic home-made Christmas cake. This rich, spicy and moist cake will stand out from any shop-bought version.
What you'll need: 
300g sifted plain flour
300g soft brown sugar
300g unsalted butter
350g of both raisins and sultanas
100g each of halved walnuts, glacé cherries and mixed peel
4-5 fresh eggs
250ml brandy/rum/armagnac
1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
Vanilla and almond extract
Christmas cake requires a large number of ingredients. Don't be intimidated by this fact as the cake-making process is a relatively simple step-by-step affair.
Place your chosen spirit in a large bowl and add the raisins and sultanas. Set aside and allow to soak until needed. It is a good idea to allow the fruit to soak overnight if possible. Remove the fruit from the bowl and retain the alcohol. Turn your oven on and pre-heat to 150C/300F/Gas2.
In a large, clean bowl cream the softened butter and sugar by whisking together until the mixture thickens and becomes pale. Add the eggs and continue to mix thoroughly. Sieve the flour and spices into the bowl and beat until completely mixed. No flour should be left unabsorbed.
Add the raisins, sultanas, chopped peel, glacé cherries and nuts to the mixture. Begin folding the ingredients in while slowly adding the vanilla and almond extract and half of the remaining spirit.
Grease the bottom and sides of a cake tin 18-20cm in diameter. Line the surfaces with non-stick baking paper. Place a circle of baking paper over the top of the tray and place the cake on the lowest tray of your oven. Ensure that you don't overfill the tin as the cake will expand as it cooks.
Cook for at least three hours before piercing the cake with a knife to check if it's done. If the knife comes out clean the cake is ready. If not, return to the oven and check periodically.
Once the cake is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and place on a cooling rack until fully cooled.
Position a plate underneath the the cooling rack before piercing small holes all over the top of the cake with a small knife or skewer. Slowly drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of the alcohol over the whole surface of the cake.
Store the cake in an airtight container, repeating the alcohol drizzling process every week until you are ready to either serve the cake or ice it, depending on your preference.
If serving your cake without icing decorate with glacé cherries, halved walnuts and a sprig of mistletoe. If you prefer your cake iced, 'How To Ice a Christmas Cake' will lead you through the process.
Making a Christmas cake at home isn't simply a goal-oriented task; it is a festive activity in itself. By combining all the flavours of Christmas and tending to the cake over a period of time the end result is all the more satisfying.
Start the process of making your Christmas cake well in advance. This will allow you to gradually season it and will result in more developed flavours and a moister cake.


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