Mary Berry’s classic Christmas cake recipe

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Mary Berry's Christmas cake recipe is the ultimate festive treat. Although it's time-consuming, it's a much easier bake than you might think...

Christmas cake recipe
  • Vegetarian
Serves12–15
SkillMedium
Preparation Time30 mins (plus 3 days for soaking the fruit)
Cooking Time4 hours (may need an extra 15 mins)
Total Time4 hours 30 mins
Cost RangeMid
Nutrition Per PortionRDA
Calories884 Kcal44%
Sugar117 g130%
Fat31 g44%
Salt0.6 g
Protein10 g20%
Carbohydrates142 g55%
Salt0.6 g

This Christmas cake recipe by Mary Berry is a classic. Rich, moist sponge, bejewelled with raisins, glace cherries, and currants, generously soaked in sherry and lifted by orange zest.

This traditional Christmas cake recipe is the ultimate festive treat made by the queen of baking Mary Berry. Although it requires four hours of cooking time (almost double the time of Mary Berry’s fruit cake (opens in new tab)), the end result is well worth the effort. Mary recommends baking your cake three months before the big day. "Making your Christmas cake in September is perfect, as too fresh a cake crumbles when cut," says Mary Berry. But of course, you can make it whenever suits you in the run up to Christmas. You can keep the cake extra moist by regularly ‘feeding’ it with sherry

Ingredients

  • 175g (6 oz) raisins
  • 350g (12 oz) glace cherries, rinsed, thoroughly dried and quartered
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) currants
  • 350g (12oz) sultanas
  • 150ml (¼ pint) sherry, plus extra for feeding
  • Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 250g (9oz) butter, softened
  • 250g (9oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 75g (3oz) blanched almonds, chopped
  • 75g (3oz) self-raising flour
  • 175g (6oz) plain flour
  • 1½ tsp mixed spice

To finish and decorate Mary Berry's Christmas cake you will need:

  • About 3tbsp apricot jam, sieved and warmed
  • Icing sugar
  • 675g shop-bought almond paste
  • Packet royal icing mix to cover 23cm/9in cake

WEIGHT CONVERTER

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Method

  1. Put all the dried fruit in a container, pour over the sherry and stir in the orange zest. Cover with a lid, and leave to soak for 3 days, stirring daily. Grease and line a 23cm (9in) deep round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140C, 120C fan, gas 1.
  2. Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well. Add the flours and mixed spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
  3. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 4-4½ hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after 2 hours, and, if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
  4. When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little extra sherry. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place for up to 3 months, feeding at intervals with more sherry. Don't remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist.
  5. When you’re ready to decorate the cake warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan or briefly in the microwave. Roll the almond paste to a thin circle that is bigger than your cake and will allow the sides to be covered. Alternatively, some people prefer a thicker disc of almond paste that sits on top of the cake, in this instance roll it to approximately 23cm diameter.
  6. Brush the cake all over with the warm jam then cover the with almond paste and use a cake smoother to make the paste flush with the cake. Spread the cake with royal icing using a small palette knife. You can opt for a completely smooth texture, or use the palette knife to flick the icing upwards and create peaks.
  7. Alternatively, you can use the back of a spoon to create texture by pushing it against the icing and pulling away from the cake. Leave to set, then dust with icing sugar and top with your chosen cake topper or decoration.

Top tips for making Mary Berry’s Christmas cake recipe

If you can’t find shop-bought royal icing, you can make your own by combining 300g icing sugar with 50g egg white. You can use any leftover icing to decorate gingerbread biscuits or small festive cupcakes. Store leftover royal icing in the fridge covered with a damp cloth or clingfilm. When you’re ready to use it again bring to room temperature and stir well. You will need to mix with a spoon or whisk until the icing regains a thicker texture.

When should I make this Christmas cake recipe?

For the ultimate Christmas cake, Mary recommends baking your cake in September. Some recipes say that six weeks is fine, but this may result in a more crumbly texture and the cake won’t have the chance to soak up the full quota of booze it needs for a full festive flavour.

How long should you soak fruit for Christmas cake?

"Remember to allow three days for marinating the fruit in sherry," says Mary Berry. "This is essential to plump up and flavour the fruit. If you cut the soaking time, there will be surplus liquid which will alter the texture of the cake."

What alcohol do you soak fruit in for Christmas cake?

This recipe calls for sherry, but brandy and rum make for nice alternatives. Don’t be tempted to go too cheap on the booze, as it tends to pack a flavourful punch.

Can you wrap Christmas cake in foil?

Yes, but make sure you wrap it in a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment first as the cake may react with the foil. Two layers of foil should keep the cake airtight.

Can I wrap Christmas cake in cling film?

Yes, although greaseproof paper and foil are preferable. As you’ll be regularly unwrapping the cake and dousing it in sherry, foil and paper will be much easier to rewrap.

How does Mary Berry feed Christmas cake?

Pricking the cake all over with a fine skewer allows the sherry to be absorbed into the depths of the sponge. Feed it once a week, without removing the greaseproof paper as this keeps it moist.

Can I make an alcohol-free Christmas cake?

Absolutely. Simply replace the alcohol with orange, grape, or apple juice. The end result won’t have quite the same flavour, but it will still be rich and fruity.

Please note, nutritional info is per person based on this cake being divided by 15 people equally. The nutritional values also include the icing, almond paste, and jam used to decorate this Christmas cake.

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