The home-baked Christmas cake is one of our enduring family traditions. Here I share with you my Christmas cake recipe adapted from ‘The Complete Margaret Fulton Cookbook’ (1974).
Our Traditional Christmas Cake
I have fond memories of being home from boarding school for the summer. But my memories of the forty-degree heat of central Queensland were not so fond! I have a mental image of my mother working over the hot combustion stove to prepare our favourite Christmas recipes. Stripped down to her (very modest) full slip, she would be chopping, stirring, mixing and cooking in the almost unbearable heat of our un-air-conditioned kitchen. This blog is my tribute to memories of my mother.
By the way, the best time to bake a traditional Christmas cake is in November. The cake will continue to darken and the flavours will mature with time. But do store your cake well wrapped on a shelf and in a cool temperature.
Christmas Cake Ingredients
My Christmas Cake recipe is adapted from the original Margaret Fulton recipe, p 346. I have changed some ingredients and added some, as well. Don’t be in a hurry with this recipe!
- 320 g candied citrus peel
- 320 g sultanas
- 250 g currants
- 150 g raisons
- 125 g candied cherries (cut into halves)
- 125 g crystalised ginger (sliced thin)
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 250 g unsalted butter
- 220 g soft brown sugar
- 200 g almond meal
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup rum
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons mixed spices
Prepare the Fruit in Advance
Weigh out all the dried fruits into a large 3 to 4 L bowl. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of rum over the fruit and then mix the ingredients well. Cover the bowl and leave the fruit in a cool place for several days.
Line the Baking Tins
Because I like to give small Christmas cakes as gifts, I use 500 mL cake tins. The 2.5 kg mixture will fill five tins (10 cm x 10 cm x 5 cm deep). To line the tins I cut ten 35 cm x 10 cm strips of baking paper. Then I use a squirt of spray oil on the sides of the tin to help fix the paper in place. Fold the strip in half so you can centre the paper in the tin.
Prepare the Cake Mix Ingredients
I like to get all the ingredients weighed out, before I start mixing the cake.
- Take the butter out of the fridge. Weigh out 250 g. Cut the butter into small cubes and allow it to soften at room temperature.
- Place the flour, spices and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients well.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl then lightly beat them with a fork.
- Weigh out the 220 g of soft brown sugar.
- Weigh out the 200 g of almond meal.
Put the Cake Mix Together
Cream the butter till it appears a light colour. Then, while still mixing, gradually add in the brown sugar. Make sure the sugar is well dissolved in the butter.
Add two heaped tablespoons-full of the flour mixture to the marinated dried fruit. Stir the flour in well.
Now mix in the eggs and flour alternately into the creamed butter and sugar. Use about one third of each ingredient at a time. In this way, the mix shouldn’t become curdled. Did you know there is a lot of well-though-out chemistry in cake baking?
Finally mix the almond meal into the batter.
Now for the Elbow Grease
If you have a domestic cake mixer similar to mine, then you won’t be able to fit all the mix in the mixing bowl. So I add the cake batter to the dried fruit. But don’t be in a hurry. To mix all the fruit thoroughly can take a little effort! Using a big mixing spoon, add large globs of batter into the fruit. Mix each addition well.
Slow Baking is the Secret
Because there is so much fruit and sugar in the cake mix, the cake can burn easily. I recall my mother wrapping the mixture-filled cake tin with several layers of brown paper tied up with string. She would curse, but very politely, at the unruly wood-fired combustion stove. My mother had her fair-share of ruined burnt cakes, and so have I. I apologise to all my friends who have received less-than-edible cakes for past Christmases. So really, do not be in a hurry!
Wrap the Cake Mix Well
Therefore my advice is to wrap the cake well, and here’s a hint… A friend of mine suggested using cardboard. However, you do need to find pieces of cardboard or a box that doesn’t have sticky tape or adhesive. Because you don’t want nasty chemical smells, or tape melting over the cake.
The Slow Bake
After you pre-heat your oven to 150 deg C, turn the oven temperature down to 125 deg C. Place your cake tins in the centre of the oven. Don’t use the fan-forced oven setting.
Now, do yourself a favour if you want the best flavours from my Christmas cake recipe. You should set your timer for 30 minutes, then check the cake, then check again. The cakes in the photo above were cooked after two-hours for the cake on the right and close to three hours for the cakes in the box. But previous batches have taken up to four or five hours. Of course, it depends on the size of the cakes, the oven temperature, the cardboard and other factors.
The Christmas cake is ready when it looks a golden brown colour. Furthermore, if you spike the cake with a fine metal skewer, the skewer will come out dry. The surface of the cake will feel bouncy. At this stage don’t be tempted to bake a little longer, or leave the cakes in the slowly cooling oven. Take the cakes out and let them cool down to room temperature. You should notice that the cakes ‘harden-up’.
Sometimes it is best to leave the cakes, in their tins overnight to cool. Now comes the final fun bit! You get to brush each cake lightly with rum. After the rum has soaked in, you should wrap each cake firmly in its baking paper, then some cling wrap or aluminium foil. The flavour of the cake will mature over a number of weeks. So place the cakes in a cool dry place ready for Christmas and your unwary gift-recipients.
Learn More about Tin Dragon Cottages
If you wish to learn more about our tourist accommodation in North East Tasmania, please explore our Tin Dragon Cottages web site. We look forward to hosting your next stay in Tasmania! You never know, if you stay with us over Christmas, you may even score some home-made Christmas cake.