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Traditional English Christmas Cake Recipe

Stir-up Sunday is nearly upon us and although some years I am mega organised and have my Christmas Cake baked in October half term other years this is the weekend that I get the kids into the kitchen and we make our traditional English Christmas Cake, stirring and making wishes for Christmas and the next year. So, as I prepare the ingredients for another year I thought it was about time I shared our Christmas Cake Recipe with you.

Christmas recipe for Old Fashioned Christmas Cake
Old Fashioned Christmas Cake a delicious Christmas Recipe to Slow Bake for full rich flavour

Old Fashioned Christmas Cake Recipe

A traditional Christmas Cake is rich in dried fruits and spices. You slice through the royal icing, marzipan and into the moist rich cake which has been feed in the months leading up the Christmas.

I love using a real mix of dried fruits, peels, nuts and spices to make ours and the kids love the smell in the house whilst it cooks.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got enough time to go before Christmas – our Traditional Farmhouse Fruit Cake works just a well. Just make it and freeze it. It also contains no alcohol and you don’t need to feed it in the months leading up to Christmas.

Stir-Up Sunday

Stir-Up Sunday traditionally falls the last Sunday before Advent starts. It gives enough time for cakes to mature and you to “feed” them as well as the Christmas Pudding to ripen and become full of flavour.

This year 2019 Stir-Up Sunday falls on 24th November and we will be making our Christmas Pudding and Cake that weekend too.

Top Tips for Making a Good Moist Christmas Cake

Whenever, I speak to someone about Christmas Cakes they always tell me that they find them too crumbly, dry and a little yuck!

However, the people that have been willing to try have always been amazed at the one that I’ve been cooking since I was a teen.

Over the years I’ve shared my top tips with friends and family so I’ve put them all below to help you make the best Christmas cake you can.

What Spices Are Good for an Easy Christmas Cake?

I know that both my grandmothers disagreed on which spice combinations were ideal Christmas cake spices but I’ve merged their ideas into what we think is the perfect combination for the ultimate family Christmas cake.

I like mixing ground nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice together with a tiny pint of ground cloves.

As the cake cooks the smell is amazing.

spices for Christmas cake ready to be added to the flour
Spices ready to be added to the flour for making homemade Christmas Cake

If you don’t have a cupboard full of spices though you can just use mixed spice as this will work as well. Swap all the spices listed in the ingredients for 1 teaspoon of mixed spice.

Of course, you can’t cook it without playing Christmas music and as soon as that starts my kids know that we are getting in the spirit for the holidays.

How to Soak Fruit for Christmas Cake?

One of the mistakes that people often make when they make their Christmas cakes is that they don’t soak the fruit beforehand.

This makes the cake dry and crumbly especially if you forget to feed it in the lead up to decorating it nearer Christmas.

It’s really important that you soak your dried fruit beforehand. It needs to soak for at least 12 hours.

soaked dried fruit ready for adding to a Christmas Cake
Don’t skip the soaking the dried fruit phase or you will end up with a crumbly Christmas Cake instead of rich and delicious.

I put all the fruits together add in the alcohol and then mix as much as I can.

Then… cover with a clean tea towel and leave to the side.

What Dried Fruit to Use in your Christmas Cake?

It really is up to you the dried fruit that you choose to you as well as the nuts. I’ve made this with dried mixed fruit as well as the separate fruits.

The original recipe I used called for 1lb of currants however, I loved dried cranberries so instead of 450g of currants for a few years now I’ve been making the cake with 225g of dried cranberries and 225g of currants.

Lining your Cake Tin Properly

Probably the most important tip for making your Christmas cake is to line your tin properly so I’ve put this guide on how to line the tins.

This cake is going to cook for at least 4 hours if not longer. Sometimes it takes me up to 5 and a half hours other times less.

But with the cake in the oven for that long you have to avoid it burning and that means you have to line your cake tin properly.

I use greaseproof paper for lining my cake tin and grease the tin with the butter wrapper.

How to Line an 8 Inch Round Cake Tin (20 cm)

lined 8 inch round cake tin
Lined Cake tin ready for Christmas cake to bake in.
  1. Cut a strip of paper that is longer than the circumference of your round cake tin. It needs to be at least 5 cm higher than the tin as well.
  2. Stand your tin on the paper and draw a circle around the base of the tin.
  3. On the strip of paper fold 2-3 cm in along the bottom.
  4. Now cut up to the fold all along. This will make it easy to fold.
  5. Grease the 20 cm round.
  6. Press your strip around the outside with the cut edge folded in.
  7. Place the circle in the centre.

Top Tip – At the same time you will need to cute another circle the size of the base. You will place this on the top whilst cooking.

How to Line a 7 Inch Square Cake Tin (18 cm)

This same Christmas Cake mix will make a 7 inch (18 cm) square cake tin as well. Although I like our Christmas cake’s round I’ve made this in the past. To line the tin you follow the instructions below.

  1. Measure the length and depth of your square cake tin.
  2. On some greaseproof paper draw out a square that is the length + 2 x the depth by length + 2 x depth.
  3. Place your tin in the centre of your greaseproof paper.
  4. Cut from the edge of the paper to the edge of the tin on the 4 sides.
  5. Grease the tin.
  6. Place the paper inside and fold it to form a box in the base with the corners overlapping.

Again cut a square the same size as the bottom as you will need it to go on the top of the tin to prevent the cake burning.

How to Feed your Christmas Cake

Making the cake on Stir-up Sunday gives you lots of time to feed your cake. To do this follow the instructions below

  1. Make holes in the top and bottom of the cake with a skewer.
  2. Spoon teaspoons of Brandy into the holes and allow to soak through.
  3. Repeat every week till Christmas.

How to Store Your Christmas Cake

Making your Christmas cake ahead of time instead of using our fruit cake just before Christmas means that you need to store it.

  • Wrap it in Greaseproof Paper twice.
  • Then cover with foil so that air can’t get in.
  • Store in an air-tight container and bring out to feed once a week between Stir-Up Sunday and Christmas when you come to decorate the cake.
Traditional Christmas Cake Recipe to bake on Stir-it up Sunday
Traditional Christmas Cake to make on Stir-Up Sunday

Traditional Fruit Christmas Cake Recipe

Cerys Parker
Delicious and easy to make Christmas Cake Recipe filled with dried fruit and spices this is ideal to make ahead of time, feed and then ice in time for Christmas.
3.84 from 18 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Fruit Soaking Time 12 hours
Total Time 16 hours 30 minutes
Course Cake
Cuisine Christmas
Servings 12 slices


  • 8 inch cake tin
  • clean tea towel
  • small pan


Dried Fruit Soaking Ingredients (12hrs before hand)

Ingredients for Christmas Cake


Soaking the Dried Fruit

  • In a bowl measure out the ingredients for the soaking of fruit from the list above.
  • Pour in the brandy.
  • Stir well and cover with a tea towel overnight.
    soaked dried fruit ready for adding to a Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake The Next Day

  • Preheat the oven to 140C.
  • Line am 8inch round cake tin following the instructions above.
    lined 8 inch round cake tin
  • In a bowl measure out the flour, salt and spices.
  • Mix these together well.
  • Add the brown sugar and stir.
  • In a small pan melt the butter.
  • Pour the melted butter in with the dry ingredients and mix.
  • Then add in the beaten eggs and combine together.
  • Into the bowl add in the soaked fruits, almonds and cherries and mix thoroughly.
  • Now add in the black treacle and zest of the orange and lemon and combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin.
  • Place in the centre of the oven for around 4hrs.
  • Check if a skewer in the centre comes away clean it is done. If it needs more then return to the oven for 10 – 15mins at a time. You may need to cover with foil to prevent it burning.
  • When cooked remove from the oven and alow to cool slightly (around 30 minutes) in the pan. Then turn out to finish cooling onto a wire wrack.
  • Follow the instructions for feeding the cake and storing above.
Keyword Christmas, Christmas Bakes, Christmas Cakes
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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  1. Tony Dmello says:

    Could you please give me recipe for allspice

  2. Anonymous says:

    For instance if I don’t have the allspice than what quantity of spice must I take to get the flavour of allspice

    1. All spice is a spice – it’s a berry that is dried and ground up rather than mixed spice however you can customise your own for a similar flavour with equal quantities for nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon the taste is similar but there is a slight difference not really noticeable though.

  3. Melba Burwell says:

    This will be my first time making a fruit cake. I have questions. Being American (lol) what does Stir-up Sunday mean? How many days should you feed your cake with alcohol? Do you also store it in a refrigerator or on the counter at room temperature? One last question (lol), do you drain the fruit before mixing it in the cake batter? I’m sorry for all the questions. I’ve never made it before, and I would love to make it for my Aunt who loves it.
    Thank you! ?
    Melba Burwell

    1. Hi, Stir-Up-Sunday is a traditional day before Christmas where people make their Christmas Cakes in the UK. It’s the last Sunday before Advent starts. I feed my cake about once a week in the lead up to Christmas – but this year as forgot about a cake in the cupboard I haven’t done it once and it has been repurposed as an Easter Cake absolutely delicious. I store wrapped in parchment paper and foil in a cool dark cupboard. And no draining, add in the fluid there won’t be a lot left as the dried fruit absorb much of it. I hope that helps and look forward to hearing how you got on.

3.84 from 18 votes (16 ratings without comment)

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