Arts and Life

Stir-up Sunday 2022: recipes for Christmas cake

A traditional Christmas cake is a popular addition to the festive treats menu. Made in many different ways, they are generally “variations on the classic fruitcake”, said the English Tea Store. Christmas cakes can be “light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy, leavened, unleavened” and even come in many different shapes, with “frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or plain”.

If you want to make a “mature” festive fruit cake, bake it in advance of Christmas, said James Martin on BBC Good Food. Then you can “feed it regularly” with rum, brandy or whisky to “build the flavour and keep it moist”. 

Here we look at the top tips for baking a Christmas cake and pick out some tasty recipes for traditional and gluten-free varieties. 

1

Tim Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo

When is Stir-up Sunday in 2022?

The last Sunday before advent is Stir-up Sunday (this year it falls on 20 November 2022), the designated day to make the Christmas cake or Christmas pudding. It was customary for each member of the household to stir the mix and make a wish, with a hidden silver sixpence bringing the lucky finder wealth and good fortune for the coming year.

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Tips 

Eric Lanlard’s Christmas cake baking tips 

Eric Lanlard, master patissier and owner of the Cake Boy bakery, shares some expert seasonal advice for making your Christmas cake.

Have you got any tips for baking the cake? 

Use the finest ingredients – this will ensure that your cake will taste delicious – and roast your nuts in advance as it brings out the flavour. Put a small dish or bowl of water in the oven to create steam when you bake, which will stop your cake from drying out and will keep it nice and moist.

How should you store your cake? 

In my kitchen, we wrap our cakes with cling film. I would recommend doing the same at home and, once wrapped, store the cake somewhere cool and dark. 

How often should you feed your cake and what should you feed it with?

You should feed your cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, maybe a couple of times before Christmas Day and then just before you are going to decorate. Use neat alcohol – brandy or Cointreau.

How long will a Christmas cake keep? 

Unofficially forever; officially it has a three-month shelf life.

Festive baking: tips for creating the finest Christmas cake

3

Recipe 

Doves Farm traditional Christmas cake 

A recipe for traditional Christmas cake with marzipan and fondant icing from UK organic flour brand Doves Farm.

  • Makes 1 cake 
  • Cooking time: 2-2½ hours 
  • Temperature: 150C, Fan 130C, 300°F, Gas 2

IngredientsFor the traditional fruit cake

  • 150g raisins
  • 150g sultanas
  • 100g currants
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 150g Doves Farm Organic Plain White Flour
  • 125g butter
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp brandy or apple juice
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 lemon rind and juice

For the marzipan and fondant icing

  • 3 tbsp apricot jam
  • 500g marzipan
  • 500g fondant icing
  • icing sugar, to dust
  • edible gold leaf sheet (optional)
  • gold ribbon (optional)

Method For the traditional fruit cake

  • Pre-heat the oven.
  • Weigh the raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, mixed peel and almonds into a mixing bowl.
  • Add the flour, stir to combine and set aside.
  • Line a 20cm/8″ deep, round cake tin with parchment paper or insert a baking liner.
  • Chop the butter into cubes.
  • Put the butter cubes and sugar into a mixing bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.
  • Break the eggs into the bowl one at a time, and beat well ensuring it is well incorporated before adding the next.
  • Add the brandy or apple juice, mixed spice, lemon rind and the juice to the bowl and beat again.
  • Stir in the prepared fruit.
  • Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, pushing it down and smoothing the top.
  • Bake for 2-2¼ hours.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 12 hours.
  • Carefully remove the cake from the tin.
  • When quite cold, wrap the cake in kitchen foil and store it in an airtight tin.

For the marzipan icing

  • Warm the apricot jam and spread it over the cold cake.
  • Cut off a quarter of the marzipan and roll it into a 20cm/8″ circle, put the cake tin in the marzipan and cut around the tin.
  • Lift the marzipan circle onto the top of the cake.
  • Roll the remaining marzipan into a 40cm/16” circle.
  • Carefully lift the marzipan onto the cake allowing it to cover the top and sides of the cake.
  • Press and shape the marzipan to cover the cake. A cake smoother can help with this but is not essential.
  • Trim away any excess marzipan around the base of the cake.
  • Loosely cover the cake and leave it for at least 12 hours for the marzipan to set.
  • Wrap the cake in kitchen foil and store in an airtight tin until you are ready to add the icing.

For the fondant icing

  • Lightly dust a clean work surface with icing sugar.
  • Roll the fondant icing into a 40cm/16” circle.
  • Carefully lift the fondant icing over the marzipan allowing it to take the shape of the cake.
  • Press and smooth until it is flat on the top and sides of the cake. A cake smoother will help get the icing very flat.
  • Trim away any excess icing around the bottom of the cake.
  • To store the cake, wrap it in parchment paper and a double layer of kitchen foil before storing it in an airtight container where it will keep for several weeks.
  • Decorate the cake with small pieces of edible gold leaf and a ribbon, or other decoration of your choice.
Doves Farm Christmas recipes 

4

Recipe 

Bonne Maman Rudolph reindeer cake

This cake recipe by Bonne Maman is gluten-free, dairy-free and you can even use aquafaba instead of egg whites to make it vegan. Bake the mixture in small baked bean tins to make cute individual red-nosed reindeer cakes to give away as gifts or to put out for Santa and Rudolph on Christmas Eve! 

Ingredients 

  • 400g mixed dried fruit 
  • 300ml dry cider or apple juice 
  • 225g stoned whole dates 
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice 
  • 2 tbsp Bonne Maman Apricot, Mirabelle Plum or Fig Conserve 
  • 1 large ripe banana finely grated zest 
  • 1 orange and 1 lemon 
  • 120g fine polenta 
  • 2 tsp baking powder (use gluten-free baking powder if wished) 
  • 2 large egg whites or 5tbsp chilled aquafaba 
  • 2 tbsp brandy or dry sherry, optional

Method For the Rudolph reindeer cake

  • Put the dried fruit in a large mixing bowl and pour in 100ml of the cider or apple juice. Leave to soak overnight.
  • Heat the oven to 180C, 160C fan, gas 4. Line an 18cm round, 10cm deep cake tin or 6 small 220g baked bean tins with baking parchment.
  • Put the dates, spice, conserve and remaining 200ml cider or apple juice into a saucepan and simmer gently for 5 mins. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
  • In a blender or processor, puree the date mixture with the banana. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the citrus zest, soaked dried fruit, polenta and baking powder.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites or aquafaba into soft peaks and fold into the fruit mixture. Spoon into lined cake tins.
  • Bake for 25-30 mins for individual cakes or 45-50 mins for a large one, covering with foil after 30 mins. A skewer pushed into the centre of the cake should come out clean when it’s cooked.
  • Drizzle the brandy or sherry over the hot cake, if using, then leave to cool in the tin. The cooked cakes keep well, wrapped in clingfilm and foil, in an airtight tin for up to 3 days, or can be frozen undecorated.

Cooks tips To make the reindeer cakes, make two large fruit cakes or six individual cakes

  • Sandwich the two large cakes together with extra Bonne Maman conserve.
  • Roll out 300g white fondant icing and, using the cake tins as a template, cut a curving line about 3cm out from the edge of the tin.
  • Brush the top of the cake/s with a little extra Bonne Maman conserve and cover the top/s with the fondant icing.
  • Roll 50g red fondant icing into one large or 6 small red ‘noses’ and press onto the middle of the cake/s.

To make the antlers 

  • Using 250g gingerbread biscuit dough, draw the outline of two large or 12 small antlers.
  • Cut out, brush with beaten egg, and bake till crisp.
  • When cold, tape a wooden skewer or cocktail stick to the back of each antler with strong tape and push into the cake either side of the nose.
  • Alternatively, use stiff brown card for the antlers.
  • Decorate with red gingham ribbon and bells.
Bonne Maman recipes 

5

Recipe

Carr’s Flour classic Christmas cake

Make this classic seasonal treat from Carr’s Flour ahead of time and feed with brandy to create a moist and deeply flavoured cake.

  • 1 cake 
  • 2hrs 30mins prep
  • Bake 4 hrs

Ingredients

  • 1kg of mixed dried fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, cherries, figs, candied peel, cranberries, dates)
  • 225g Carr’s plain flour
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp brandy
  • 1 dessert spoon black treacle
  • Zest of 2 lemons

Method

  • Grease and line a 8″ round deep cake tin. Tie with brown paper around the outside to give extra protection.
  • Weigh out and place all the chosen fruit, in a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and mix, leave for a couple of hours, longer if possible.
  • Preheat oven to 140°C (Fan 120°C, Gas Mark 1). Sift the flour, salt and spices into a bowl.
  • Whisk the butter and sugar in a separate bowl until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add slowly to the butter and sugar.
  • Fold in the flour and spices to the egg mix, then fold in the fruit plus the lemon peel and treacle.
  • Put the mixture into the prepared tin and cook on the lowest shelf in the oven for about 4 hours.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. When cold feed the cake by poking little holes with a skewer in the top of the cake and feeding with teaspoons of brandy. Double wrap the cake with greaseproof and then tin foil and store in an airtight container.
  • You can feed your cake every now and again up until you ice it.
  • To decorate the cake, cut in half (horizontally) and spread one half with some apricot glaze. Roll out your marzipan and cut a circle the same size as your cake. Place this on top of the cake and sandwich with the top of the cake. Make some royal Icing and spread over the top of the cake.
  • To make sugar glazed cranberries, mix some egg white in a bowl, dip the cranberries in and then roll in caster sugar. Leave to dry individually, then place on top of the icing.

Recipe courtesy of Carr’s Flour, you can find out more information on its website. The full range is available to order from its online shop.

Carr’s Flour 

6

Recipe 

Riverford’s Christmas cake

A classic rich and fruity Christmas cake from Riverford Organic Farmers, to be baked weeks in advance and fed with the odd tot of brandy as the big day approaches. Some pear has been added for extra fragrance. The cake is ideal just as it is, but if you want to get fancy, it is the perfect base to finish with a layer of marzipan and icing before serving.

Cook’s notes

If you don’t want booze in your cake, you can switch it out for orange juice (use the orange that you zest) or some Earl Grey tea instead. You can then just omit the weekly feeding ritual. Double lining the cake tin stops the cake burning before it cooks through. The best way to do it is to grease the first sheet with butter and press the second on top before cutting it all to size. Easier than trying to stick them together once in the tin!

Ingredients

  • 160g butter
  • 100ml brandy, plus more for feeding
  • 400g mixed dried fruit
  • 80g mixed peel
  • 80g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 60g glacé cherries
  • 160g soft dark sugar
  • 1 orange
  • 1 pear
  • 80g whole almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 eggs
  • 160g self-raising flour

Method

  • Prep time: 30 min
  • Cooking time: 1h 30 min
  • Pre-heat your oven to 160⁰C/Gas 3. Use a conventional oven setting without fan if you can, as you want a slow, gentle bake. If you only have a fan setting, reduce the heat to 140⁰C/1 Gas 1. Line an 18cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment (see cook’s notes).
  • Put the butter, brandy, mixed fruit, mixed peel, dried figs, cherries, and sugar into a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 3-4 mins. Remove from the heat, stir well, and allow to cool for 30 mins or until lukewarm.
  • Meanwhile, finely zest the orange.
  • When the mix is cool enough, add the orange zest and coarsely grate the pear into the pan, skin and all. Tip in the chopped almonds and mixed spice, and mix together well.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs for a couple of mins, until light and foamy. Tip them into the pan and stir them in.
  • Finally, tip in the flour. Mix everything together gently until there are no more visible pockets of flour, taking care not to overmix.
  • Transfer to the tin and level it off with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 mins, then cover the top with a layer of foil to stop the top burning. Bake for a further 45 mins, or until a toothpick or knife tip comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin, then store in an airtight container, feeding with 2 tablespoons of brandy once a week until Christmas.
Riverford Organic Farmers Christmas recipes

7

Recipe 

Dualit’s Christmas cake tray bake

With dried fruit, mixed spice and a hint of brandy in the background, this traditional Christmas cake is great if you’re having a smaller gathering. This easy-to-follow Christmas cake recipe from equipment and appliances company Dualit uses a square baking tin to make this more of a tray bake and cut into squares or fingers to serve.

Ingredients

  • 115g salted butter
  • 115g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 115g self raising flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • 450g brandy soaked fruit
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • half an apple, peeled
  • 10 tbsp loosened honey
  • 1 sheet marzipan
  • 1 sheet fondant icing
  • dusting of icing sugar

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  • Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and whisk with flat beaters until combined.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs.
  • Gradually add the eggs into the mixture, whisking until combined.
  • Gradually add in the flour to mixture, mix until well combined.
  • Add in the mixed spice and treacle and whisk, then add the sultanas and cherries and mix to combine.
  • Take the apple and grate it into the mixture, giving one final mix.
  • Line a baking tin with greaseproof paper and pour the batter in, spreading evenly.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
  • Remove from the tin and allow to cool completely.
  • Brush the cake with some of the honey.
  • Overlay a sheet of marzipan over the cake and trim the edges to neaten.
  • Brush the marzipan with more honey.
  • Overlay a sheet of fondant icing over the marzipan.
  • Trim the edges to neaten and patch any uncovered areas.
  • Dust with icing sugar to set the fondant icing.
  • Cut into squares or fingers and add festive decorations.
  • Add a final dusting of icing sugar to serve.
Dualit recipes

8

Recipe 

FREEE’s gluten-free Christmas cake 

A recipe for gluten-free Christmas cake from gluten-free flour and food brand FREEE. This cake is decorated with frosted herbs.

  • Makes 1 cake 
  • Cooking time: 2-2.5 hours 
  • Temperature: 150°C, Fan 130°C, 300°F, Gas 2

IngredientsFor the gluten-free fruit cake

  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 500g mixed dried fruit
  • 100g flaked or ground almonds
  • 1 lemon, grated rind and juice
  • 2 tbsp brandy or apple juice
  • 150g FREEE Plain White Flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 125g butter
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 3 eggs

For the icing

  • 3 tbsp apricot jam
  • 400g marzipan
  • 500g fondant icing

For the frosted herbs decoration

  • 25g caster sugar
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • caster sugar, for dusting
  • fresh rosemary fronds
  • fresh cranberries

MethodFor the gluten-free fruit cake

  • Pre-heat the oven.
  • Line the base and sides of a 20cm/8” deep, round cake tin with a double layer of parchment or greaseproof paper.
  • Cut a 300mm/12” square of parchment, greaseproof or brown paper, fold the corners to meet in the middle, press to make folded flaps and save for later.
  • Measure out the cherries, chop them in half and put them into a large mixing bowl.
  • Weigh the mixed dried fruit and almonds into the bowl.
  • Grate the lemon, squeeze the juice and add these to the bowl.
  • Add the brandy or fruit juice and stir to combine.
  • Measure the flour and mixed spice into another bowl, stir to mix and set aside.
  • Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring each is well incorporated before adding the next.
  • Add the prepared flour and beat again well.
  • Stir in the prepared fruit and almonds.
  • Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, pushing it down and smoothing the top.
  • Place the prepared parchment paper square over the cake tin with the folded flaps pointing down to loosely cover the cake when it goes into the oven.
  • Bake for 2-2¼ hours.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 12 hours.

For the icing

  • Warm the apricot jam and spread it over the cold cake.
  • Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll the marzipan into a 30cm/12” circle.
  • Carefully lift the marzipan onto the cake, pressing and shaping it to cover the cake. Use your hands or a cake smoother.
  • Trim away any excess marzipan and leave the cake for at least 12 hours for the marzipan to set.
  • Either, proceed to the next step, or wrap the cake tightly in kitchen  foil and store it in a tin until a few days before you plan to serve it.
  • Roll the fondant icing into a large circle. Carefully lift it over the marzipan, pressing and shaping it with a cake smoother to cover the cake. Trim away any excess.
  • To store the cake, wrap it in parchment and a double layer of kitchen foil before storing it in an airtight container where it will keep for several weeks.

For the frosted herbs decoration

  • Measure the caster sugar into a bowl and cover a large chopping board with parchment paper.
  • Scatter the granulated sugar over the base of a saucepan and sprinkle the water evenly over the sugar.
  • Put the saucepan over a medium heat until bubbles start to appear.
  • Shake the pan, but do not stir, and leave it to simmer gently until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  • Remove the pan of clear syrup from the heat.
  • Carefully slide a few rosemary fronds into the hot syrup.
  • Turn the herbs in the syrup so that they are fully coated.
  • Using tongs, lift up the rosemary, one piece at a time, and allow excess syrup to drain off.
  • Transfer the herbs to the bowl of caster sugar and turn them over so they are well covered in sugar.
  • Lift the sugared herbs onto the parchment paper and spread out the herb leaves if required.
  • Dust a little caster sugar over the herbs and leave them to dry.
  • Repeat the frosting process with the cranberries.
  • When completely dry, place the frosted rosemary and cranberry on the top of your iced cake.
Freee Christmas recipes

9

Recipe

Abel & Cole port, walnut and orange fruit cake

This fruit cake from organic food delivery firm Abel & Cole is full of classic Christmas flavours, from sweet cinnamon and zingy orange, to creamy walnuts and a boozy dash of port. You can stir it up before the big day, or bake it on Christmas Eve and it will be ready to serve on Christmas Day. Cover it in marzipan or icing, or try it served plain with your Christmas cheese board.

  • Prep: 20 mins plus soaking 
  • Cook: 2¾-3 hrs
  • Serves: 8-10 people

Ingredients 

  • 125g dried cranberries 
  • 300g raisins 
  • 300g sultanas 
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange 
  • 150ml Fonseca Terra Prima Port, plus extra for feeding 
  • 225g salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing 
  • 250g sugar 
  • 4 medium eggs 
  • 250g plain white flour 
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 2 tsp mixed spice 
  • 100g walnut halves

Method

  • Place the dried cranberries, raisins and sultanas in a large bowl and stir in the orange zest, juice and 150ml port. Cover and leave overnight to soak.
  • Preheat your oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/Gas 3. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm round cake tin with butter. Line the base with baking paper and line the sides with paper so it comes 5cm above the tin. Set aside.
  • Beat the softened butter and the sugar together until fluffy. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk them together. Add the eggs, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar, beating well between each addition. Sift in the flour and spices and stir to make a smooth batter.
  • Roughly chop the walnuts and add them to the batter, along with the soaked dried fruits and any port left in the bowl. Stir together.
  • Scrape the batter into the cake tin and level off the top with the back of your spoon or spatula. Bake for 2 hrs 45 mins-3 hrs or till firm to the touch. A skewer inserted should come out relatively clean, depending on how much fruit you hit when you stick it in. If there is some batter stuck to the skewer, bake for another 15-20 mins and check again. If the top of the cake begins to darken and burn while it’s baking, cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper.
  • Poke a few small holes in the top of the cake with a skewer and pour 1 tbsp port over the top. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. Once cold, remove from the tin and wrap the baking paper around the cake. Wrap in a layer of greaseproof paper then in a layer of foil and store in an airtight tin.
  • The cake can be eaten 24 hrs after making, or you can keep it for 2-3 months. Feed it once a week by drizzling 1 tbsp port over the top of the cake.
Abel & Cole recipes 

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