How to make a traditional Christmas cake

Get into the festive spirit by baking an impressive Christmas cake centrepiece!

Brought to you by AO Life

AO Life shows us how to make a traditional Christmas cake, with easy step-by step instructions for you to follow.

This showstopper by AO Life is decorated with homemade frosted cranberries, but you can decorate it however you wish. Method 1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3. Grease a deep 18cm (7in) cake tin (preferably springform) with a little butter and line the bottom and sides with baking paper. 2. Put the sugar, golden syrup, milk, orange juice and zest, treacle and mixed spice into a large pot. Heat until it reaches boiling point, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. christmas cake step 1 3. Take off the heat then add the cubed butter, stirring until the butter melts. Christmas cake step 2 4. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir it in – it will froth up slightly. Christmas cake step 3 5. Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk together, then add to the batter and whisk them in. Add the flour and mix it in. Christmas cake step 4 6. Add the dried fruit and almonds and mix everything together until the batter is smooth. Christmas cake step 5 7. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 2-2½ hours, covering with foil after an hour or so to prevent the cake from browning too much. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Christmas cake step 6 8. Take the cake out of the oven. Drizzle a little brandy over the cake and let it cool in the tin. Once completely cool, carefully take out of the tin and keep covered with foil, feeding the cake a little brandy every 4-5 days and then covering it again. 9. Once the cake is ready to decorate, warm the apricot jam in the microwave for a few seconds. 10. If there’s a slight dome on the cake, level it off and flip the cake over to redistribute the brandy. Brush the top of the cake with the warmed jam. 11. Warm the marzipan in your hands so that it’s pliable. Dust a clean worktop with a little icing sugar so the marzipan doesn’t stick, then roll it out so that it’s slightly wider than the diameter of the cake. Invert the cake on the marzipan, pressing down gently so that it sticks. 12. Use a sharp knife to trim the excess marzipan around the base of the cake. 13. Carefully turn the cake the right way up and transfer onto a cake stand or plate. 14. Whisk the egg whites and lemon juice until frothy, then fold in the icing sugar. 15. Whisk again until the frosting is thick and forms firm peaks. 16. If you wish to decorate with the cranberries, whisk the egg white and sugar until frothy, then brush over the cranberries. Let them dry out for a few minutes, then sprinkle with granulated sugar to achieve the frosted finish. Leave until touch-dry. 17. Using a palette knife, smooth the frosting over the marzipan – you will have some leftover unless you cover the entire cake. The frosting will harden as it sets. 18. Place the frosted cranberries over the cake, then add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to finish.

Tip 1: This cake will happily keep for 3-4 weeks before you need to cover it with marzipan and frosting, but it can also be eaten soon after baking. Make sure you feed it with some brandy if you make it in advance, as the flavour will improve with time. Note that the cranberries are for decoration only – they’re a little too tart to eat! Tip 2: Frosted cranberries are so easy to make and give a wonderful festive feel to your Christmassy cakes and bakes...
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For the cake

  • 150 g soft dark brown sugar
  • 100 g golden syrup
  • 100 ml milk
  • 50 ml orange juice (about ½ an orange)
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1½ tbsp treacle
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice
  • 150 g cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 200 g currants
  • 100 g sultanas
  • 100 g raisins
  • 100 g dried cranberries
  • 75 g mixed peel
  • 50 g flaked almonds
  • brandy, to feed the cake

To cover

  • 500 g good quality marzipan
  • 2 tbsp smooth apricot jam
  • 400 g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
  • 2 free-range egg whites (60g)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

To decorate (optional)

  • a handful of fresh cranberries
  • 1 tbsp free-range egg white
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • granulated sugar, to sprinkle
  • fresh rosemary sprigs

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