Christmas Cake is a non-negotiable for our family at Christmas. The richer, and the boozier the better. Fair warning – this is not a waistline friendly recipe, so slimmer friends turn away from temptation now! 

I can’t think of Christmas Cake and not think of my Dad. He loves them so much that you’d be lucky to get a piece when I make him one, as he’ll hide it away and take a little chunk to work with him everyday until he’s eaten the lot. When his mother died, he kept the last fruit cake she made him for many years, unable to bear cutting it. Sadly, I never met her or had her recipe, but I hope this recipe of mine would measure up favourably in her estimation. 

Dark & Rich Christmas Cake

The first thing I do is to pre-soak my dried fruit, which I feel is totally non-negotiable. If you think fruit cake is something dry and dusty, then you need to soak for longer or add more liquid to your batter. The desiccated fruit will suck all the moisture out of the cake if you don’t do this crucial step. To keep it affordable, I use strongly brewed tea. 

Apart from adding moisture by pre-plumping up my fruit, I make sure that no matter what selection I use, that I always have at least 100g worth of prunes. These are some of the softest and squishiest dried fruits and really do add a wonderful squidge factor to the finished cake. 

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Learn how to make the perfect Last Minute Christmas Cake!” quote=”Learn how to make the perfect Last Minute Christmas Cake! “]

Amaretto is my chosen liqueur for many Christmas bakes but you can of course use more traditional spirits like brandy, rum or whisky. We are almond nuts in my family so it always goes down a treat. One question I get is what you can use if you don’t want to bake with alcohol – here I would simply use an extra 50ml tea. 

Can you see how much more moist the batter is for this cake than your standard Christmas cake? 

Dark & Rich Christmas Cake

To ensure that the cake bakes beautifully, I adopt a low and slow baking temperature and time. I line my tin with two layers of reusable silicone cake tin liners which is the first step in preventing the cake from burning around the edges. 

Dark & Rich Christmas Cake

Plus, I put a baking dish filled with water in the bottom of the oven to create a moist baking environment at least initially. I also use a soaking wet baking belt (or two skinny ones) to slow down the baking, encourage the cake to cook evenly and without the outsides scorching.

It also has the added benefit of making the cake rise beautifully flat so if you want to use this cake in, say, a tiered wedding cake or simply cover it with sugarpaste, you can do so with little to no levelling required. 

Dark & Rich Christmas Cake

I like my fruit cake really dark so I use both treacle and dark muscovado sugar plus plenty of my homemade mixed spice. This recipe reminds me of my Malt Loaf in some ways, as it’s so moist it is almost fudgy in it’s texture. It is the perfect last-minute Christmas Cake as whilst it does improve with keeping, it is moist and juicy, ready to be served as soon as it’s cooled if you simply can’t wait! 

Dark & Rich Christmas Cake

It’s perfect washed down with a cup of tea (or a wee dram of something stronger), especially when it’s freezing cold outside. I will be trotting it out for afternoon tea over the holiday period and also at dinner time in the days after Christmas, when it shall be eaten in dainty little pieces off the same plate as a selection of cheese, cold cuts and chutney. If you have never had fruit cake with a little nugget of mature cheddar, you must do so this Christmas! That is, if Daddums hasn’t beaten you to it 😉

Yield: At least 10 slices

Dark & Rich Christmas Cake

Dark & Rich Christmas Cake

This rich & dark Christmas cake can be made at the very last minute but it keeps very well also. My go to recipe for many years.


For the fruit:

  • 500g mixed dried fruit*
  • 100 prunes, pitted and chopped into small pieces
  • 3 tea bags (English Breakfast)
  • 300ml boiling water

For the cake:

  • 200g soft butter
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • 4 large eggs
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 50ml amaretto + extra to douse the cake in when cooked


The day before baking:

  1. Brew the three tea bags in 300ml water for a good 5 minutes until it is good and strong. Squeeze the bags and discard them.
  2. Put the fruit in a large bowl and cover with the tea, stirring well. Cover and leave for 1-2 days until most of the tea has been absorbed into the fruit.

The day of baking:

  1. Double line a deep 8-inch round cake tin preferably with two reusable silicone cake tin liners (see below) or baking parchment. Fasten a fully saturated baking belt around the outside of the tin.
  2. Preheat the oven to 140˚C. Put a baking dish with an inch of water in on the very bottom shelf of the oven to get some steam building up in there as it heats up.
  3. Cream the butter, sugar and treacle until very light, pale brown and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Don't worry if it starts to curdle a little with the final egg.
  4. Sift over the flour and mixed spice, then tip in the dried fruit plus any remaining tea they are soaking in. Add the orange extract and 50ml amaretto then fold everything together gently but thoroughly.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 3 hours.
  6. Approximately 2.5 hours in, check the top of the cake isn't browning too quickly - if necessary, cover with an extra large silicone liner or a piece of baking parchment. Continue to bake until well risen, pulling away from the sides of the tin and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
  7. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool and pour over a couple of tablespoons worth of amaretto and leave to cool completely in the tin. This is likely to take until the next day. When cold, remove from the tin and wrap tightly in waxed paper or more parchment, then follow with a layer of foil. Feed with extra Amaretto when you remember! Once or twice in the week before Christmas works a charm for me.


Recipe Notes:

*= use any combination of dried fruit you like. I tend to chose mine based on what I have in the pantry! Good choices include:

  • Sultanas
  • Raisins
  • Currants
  • Glacé cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Dried apple or pear slices, chopped

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