Ho! Ho! Ho! The holiday season is here! And what’s Christmas without some Christmas cakes? It’s never too early to start planning your Christmas Cake. So we are going to share with you the best traditional Christmas cake recipe: its history, how to make it, and baking tips. Then we’ll show you 20 unique and straightforward ways to jazz up the traditional Christmas cake!
Photo By: SMC at Wikipedia
The Evolution of the Christmas Cake
Did you know that Christmas cake is an English tradition that was formerly referred to as plum porridge? People would eat the porridge on Christmas Eve to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Later, spices, honey, and dried fruits were added to the porridge, eventually rendering it a Christmas pudding. It wasn’t until the 16th Century that the oatmeal in the porridge was replaced by flour, eggs, and butter.
Before the availability of ovens, which made baking possible, the porridge was cooked by boiling. Another difference between the Christmas cake of the past and the one we’re familiar with, is that the cake was originally eaten during Easter. The Christmas cake as we know it evolved when spices and seasonal dried fruits were added. Once the cakes began to be eaten on or around Christmas Day, bakers of the Victorian era began to decorate the cakes with whimsical winter snow scenes. The cakes became a hit at Christmas parties and by the 1870s, the modern Christmas cake we know and love was created.
Today, Christmas cakes are made in a variety of different ways, but these are typically variations of the classic Christmas fruit cake recipe. The cakes can be leavened, unleavened, dry, moist, thick, spongy, light, dark, and more. They come in a broad range of shapes and sizes, with glazing, frosting, dustings of confectioner’s sugar, or just plain.
Here are a couple more fun facts about the Christmas cake: Traditionally, there are two types of Space Cakes: the classic fruit cake with icing and marzipan and the Scottish Dundee cake which is made with whiskey instead of icing or marzipan. The Scottish Dundee cake is a popular variation and is light and crumbly with cherries, raisins, currants, candied citrus fruit peel, and the whiskey.
A few traditions surround the Christmas cake. The “Stir Up” traditionally takes place on the last Sunday before Advent. The second tradition, the “feeding of the cake,” occurs when sherry, whiskey, or brandy is added in small amounts through tiny holes in the cake. Finally, it is traditional to not cut the cake before dawn on Christmas Eve.
Baking a Good, Basic Christmas Cake
Photo By: Kaboompics
This simple, all-in-one Christmas fruit cake recipe will show you how to make the perfect fruit base for your Christmas cake with just nine ingredients. It has been tested by the folks at the GoodtoKnow kitchen and is reportedly one of their favourites. Once you have mastered the basic Christmas cake recipe, you can get to work decorating it with your chosen topping – whether that is royal icing, fondant paste, or marzipan.
If you prefer to keep things simple, you don’t have to decorate the fruitcake at all. You can just serve it with a light drizzle of syrup, honey, or warm apricot jam.
Preparation and baking time: 3 hours Serves: 14 – 21 people
- 18cm square or 20cm round cake tin that has been lined with parchment paper
- 3 large eggs
- 8oz (250g) light muscovado sugar
- 10oz (300g) plain flour
- 410g jar of mincemeat (mincemeat is a mixture of dried fruit, distilled spirits, and spices)
- 1 tablespoon of ground mixed spice
- 80z (250g) softened butter
- 1lb (500g) dried mixed fruit
- 4 tablespoons of brandy
- A pinch of salt
- Set your oven to 140°C.
- Start by breaking the eggs into a mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients, except for the brandy. Beat the ingredients together until smooth and pour into your cake tin, smoothing out the top of the cake mixture to ensure it is level.
- Place the cake in the centre of the oven and bake for three to three and a half hours or until it feels firm to the touch. You can also push a skewer into the middle of the cake, and if it comes out without any mixture stuck to it, the cake is ready.
- Take the cake out of the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. You can then spoon the brandy over the cake and leave it to cool in the tin.
- Once the cake has completely cooled, remove it from the tin and remove the parchment paper. Re-wrap the cake in fresh baking paper and then a layer of foil.
- Store the cake in a cool place for as long as three months until it is ready to decorate and ice.
The best part? This cake has just 242 calories per serving, 2.0g saturated fat, and 11g fat. So, it is (mostly) fuss-free and guilt-free!
Making the Basic Christmas Cake Even Better
Here are several baking tips to ensure a decadently delicious basic Christmas cake. For more ideas on how to jazz up the cake further, hop over to the next section on 20 delightful ideas for you to decorate your best Christmas cake!
Ensuring a Successful Bake:
- Make your Christmas cakes as far in advance as possible so that it has plenty of time to absorb all the flavours from the alcohol and mixed fruit
- Double line your baking tin to stop the cake from burning
- Preheat the oven prior to baking. If your cake mixture goes into a cold oven, the cake will not cook properly
- Use unrefined sugar for better colour and flavour
- Soften your butter before mixing it into your mixture
- Begin the baking process at a high temperature for an hour and then reduce the temperature for the remainder of the baking process
- Use the best quality ingredients you can afford and a good quality tin
- Make a practice cake so you can experiment with the recipe
- A large grated carrot added to the mixture will keep your cake moist
Liquids to Add to the Mixture:
- Soaking your fruit in ginger beer gives the cake a deliciously spicy flavour
- Apple or orange juice, or even tea, makes a great substitute for the alcohol if you prefer an alcohol-free cake
- Marinate your almonds and fruits overnight in the juice, tea, or brandy, before baking your cake
- For a hint of apple flavour, add Calvados (a French apple brandy) or an apple substitute
Delicious Flavour, Fruit, and Nut Ideas:
- Roast your nuts before adding them to the mixture. This will bring out the flavours and add a little extra crunch
- Try a mixture of dried mango, pineapple, and ginger for an exotic Southeast Asian twist
- Add dried cherries, apricots, and cranberries to add rich colour to your cake mix
Finally, ensure that everyone in the family gets to stir the batter and make a wish. It is said to add a little extra magic as well as a better taste to your creation!
Photo By: Prettyhairu
20 Delicious Cake Variations
One of the best things about Christmas cakes is that, when it comes to decorating, you are only limited by your imagination. From royal icing to marzipan, icing sugar, and fondant, there are tons of designs and twists you can add to classic Christmas cake recipes. Here, we show you 20 ways to make your Christmas cake extra-pretty this year.
The Classic Christmas Cake You can’t go wrong with a classic winter fruit cake. Here’s a gorgeous version that is crowned with plenty of fruits, swirly snow white icing, and sprigs of holly.
Bauble Cake Not every cake you have at Christmas has to be fruit-based or wrapped in sugar paste. This cake sprinkled with frosting and sugar shimmer is a creative offering from Sweetapolita. The cake has a refreshing peppermint flavour and is topped with festive decorations made from fondant icing and sprinkled with edible glitter.
Disco Ball Cake ‘Tis the season to be festive, so go all out with a party theme with this delectable Disco Ball cake that has modeling paste and flower snowflakes along with colourful duck egg icing. This variation is bound to brighten up any festive table.
Snowflake Cake This is one of those irresistible Christmas cake recipes complete with beautiful silver pearl trails. It’s an easy cake to create and all you need to add your final touches is some ready to roll coloured fondant.
Sugar Plum Cake Nutty almond flavours, gingerbread, and chocolate orange – what could be more Christmassy? Don’t overlook these flavours for traditional Christmas cake recipes. This plum jam sandwich cake is smothered in decadent frosting and decorated with a simple sugar plum, which can be fashioned out of marzipan and coloured fondant.
Lace Cake For something classic and vintage, this Lace Cake makes for a classy centrepiece for your Christmas table. All you need are some moulds and gold dust!
Christmas Cupcakes Topped with a Tree If you’re short on time for decorating your Christmas cupcakes or cake, purchase a couple of Christmas tree cake decorations and stick them on top of your goodies. Or buy regular cupcakes and jazz them up with fondant flourishes and finish with an edible Christmas tree on top of each cake.
Spice Cake with Cranberry Filling This festive and fabulous cake is an excellent addition to any holiday table. Try piping a ring of frosting around each cake layer and just along the top edge. This will stop the cranberry filling from popping out.
Gingerbread Cake and Buttermilk Frosting Nothing says Christmas like the taste of zingy ginger. Try your hand at this variation of gingerbread cake complete with tangy buttermilk frosting.
Mary Berry’s Victorian Festive Cake If you’ve watched The Great British Bake Off, you’ll know just how much baking authority Mary Berry has. Try her mouth-watering Victorian Christmas cake with loads of fruits.
Three Trees Christmas Cake This cake is perfect for getting the kids involved with decoration. Create a simple design and let them help with placing the trees, baubles, and stars. The perfect finishing touches!
Frozen-Inspired Christmas Cake Do you have plenty of little ones coming over for Christmas? Excite them with this Frozen-inspired cake!
Rudolph Cake Nothing says cute and Christmassy like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer! Top one of the simple Christmas cake recipes with this adorable Rudolph design that the kids are sure to love.
Igloo Christmas Cake If your family isn’t particularly keen on fruit cake, tempt them with this fun and festive igloo cake this Christmas. In fact, let them help make the penguins!
Pleated Shimmer Christmas Cake If you’re hosting a classy Christmas party this year, why not impress your guests with this delightful, and really simple, pleated shimmer cake? It looks complicated, but it’s not. All you have to do to form each pleat is to layer a triangle made out of Royal Icing around the cake.
Fill Your Boots Christmas Cake Feeling creative this year? Try this Christmas stocking-shaped cake! Although this cute cake requires advanced decorating skills, it’s worth the extra effort to see the reaction you’ll get from your friends and family.
Christmas Cake is Snow Much Fun to Make! As easy Christmas cake recipes go, this cranberry fruit and apricot recipe is the basis for a delicious Christmas delight.
Mini Cakes If you’re not too keen on making a big Christmas cake, you could try mini puddings instead. They’re quick, easy, and ultra-delicious.
Wrap It up Serve up adorable little parcels at your Christmas party, or stick them in your guest’s party bags!
Left It to the Last Minute Christmas Cake Forgot to start on your Christmas cake early? Don’t worry! Here is one of the simplest Christmas cake recipes you can make the night before your Christmas party. These are just some of the delightful variations of traditional Christmas cakes that can add panache and pizzazz to your Christmas table this year. But you don’t have to stick to traditional Christmas cake recipes if you don’t want to.
Consider these scrumptious alternatives:
- Red Velvet Cinnamon Layer Cake – you are sure to love the seasonal cinnamon flavours of this delicious Red Velvet cake from Sweetapolita.
- Gingerbread Roll – served with a hot cup of cocoa, this classic gingerbread roll from The Baking Pan is sure to be a treat for the entire family.
- Eggnog Buttercream and Spice Cake – an irresistible festive treat that takes a traditional Christmas cake to a different level with eggnog buttercream icing.
- Log cakes are another popular type of Christmas cake. Try this delicious delight!
See, there are options galore! Do you have a favourite Christmas cake recipe you would like to share, or tips for making the perfect cake?
For more festive ideas, check out our Christmas page.