As unappetising as it sounds, a boiled fruit cake is the easiest way to get the taste of a Christmas cake with minimal effort.
Just like mincemeat, it’s wonderfully fruity, boozy, and chock full of Christmas spices.
For a traditional Christmas cake, you first bake up the cake, then spend weeks or even months “feeding” it with brandy or rum. It’s the alcohol that keeps the cake moist and the dried fruit plump and juicy.
In this shortcut version, much of the steeping work is accomplished by boiling the dried fruits. Again, I have to credit the original recipe to Nigella Lawson, but I’ve tweaked the recipe for myself. I make my fruit cake non-alcoholic, although I’ve recently discovered liqueur essences which do quite a good job of imitating boozy flavours in baked goods.
You can choose to make one really substantial 8-inch cake, in which case make sure that your tin has walls that are tall enough (at least 3 inches tall). I also make 7-inch versions – with this recipe, you’ll get two smaller cakes. Baking temperature and time remain the same.
350g prunes, chopped
175g dried cranberries
175g dark muscovado (brown) sugar
175g unsalted butter
225g (about 3/4 cup) honey
1/2 cup coffee liqueur (e.g., Tia Maria), or 1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee
Zest of 2 oranges
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp groundcinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
150g all-purpose flour
75g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
(If you’ve used coffee instead of coffee liqueur) 1 tsp rum essence
Makes one tall 8-inch cake, or two thinner 7-inch cakes.
Step 1: Put all the dried fruits, sugar, butter, honey, coffee (liquer), orange juice and zest, spices, and cocoa powder in a large saucepan.
Bring everything to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from the stove and leave to steep and cool for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Preheat your oven to 150°C (300°F). Grease and line your cake tin(s).
Step 3: Add the remaining ingredients to the cooled batter and stir to combine.
Pour into your tin(s) and bake for 2 hours. Cool and decorate.
As you can see it’s a really simple cake to make. Because you bake it for a long time at such a low temperature, this cake is incredibly moist. It also has a really long shelf-life if stored properly in an air-tight container.
I’ve been giving this Christmas fruit cake as gifts. I like to brush the tops with some heated jam and stick on Christmas sugar decorations. Here’s three that I decorated differently:
It’s less than an hour till Christmas on my end, so wherever you are, I hope that you’re spending Christmas in the company of loved ones. Merry Christmas!