A holly jolly recipe for Christmas cake

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a festive looking cake, right? Fruit cakes tend to get the short end of the cracker but this cake certainly has its merry merits; you can bake it weeks in advance and thanks to the preserving alcohol, it just gets better with age. Hearty thanks to our festive cake champion, Sam Lynch, for her winning recipe. Ho ho ho.

traditional christmas cake


For the cake

360g butter
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
180ml brandy
1 cup raisins
1 cup sultanas
1 ½ cups almond slivers
1 ½ cups crushed pecan nuts
1 ½ cups cherries
1 ½ cups crystallized orange peel
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 eggs, beaten
6 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon

Ingredients for Christmas cake

For the brandy butter cream

60g butter
3 cups icing sugar
30ml brandy


2 x cake pans (ideally 20cm diameter)
Tall pot like a pasta pot
Cake tester or flavour injector
Palette knife


1. In a tall pot, bring butter, sugar, water and brandy to the boil.
2. Add raisins and sultanas and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add nuts, cherries and peel and simmer for a further 3 minutes.

ingredients for Christmas cake

4. Remove from stove and add bicarb. Take care as it bubbles a lot, hence the tall pot.

mixing in bicar to the cake batter

5. Allow to cool and add eggs, flour, salt and baking powder.

egg and flour added to the mix

6. Mix well with a whisk and add the lemon juice.

Christmas cake batter

7. Grease 2 x 20cm cake tins with butter and then coat with flour.
8. Pour the mixture into the tins and bake at 150°C for 1 hour and then reduce temperature to 120°C and bake for a further 1 ½ hours.
9. Allow to cool for 25 minutes before removing from the tins.
10. If your cake has a mound in the centre, carefully slice off the top as you want a straight finish to make decorating easier.
11. Allow to cool completely before icing.
12. Should you wish to keep the cake for up to 3 months, inject with brandy at regular intervals around each layer of the cake before icing. Or… just inject with brandy because it tastes oh so festive. If you don’t have a flavour injector, simply pierce with a cake tester or skewer and spoon the brandy over the cake.

infusing cake with brandy

13. Now for your brandy cream frosting. Cream butter and ½ icing sugar. Add brandy, mix well and add the rest of the icing sugar. Keep adding more icing sugar if you want it to be thicker.
14. Spread a layer of your brandy butter icing over the bottom cake layer before placing the top layer.

layer of brandy butter cream icing

15. Now to decide on how you want to decorate your cake. If you don’t want to ice your cake, you can leave it as is and serve with custard or cream. If you’re an icing fan but you don’t want to go the whole hog and ice with fondant, give your cake a thin coating of brandy butter cream (a crumb coating), wait for it to dry and then ice again to get your desired finished.

crumb coating for cake

And, if you want an all-singing-and-dancing fondant cake, you also need to give your cake a ‘crumb coating’ of buttercream so that the fondant adheres smoothly.

Head this way for a step-by-step masterclass in decorating your Christmas cake with a ribbon and bow.

Chef Sam's winning festive cake

Huge thanks, Chef Sam. You certainly are a festive cake icing champ.