creating Christmas * day 5…the Christmas cake

There is nothing like the smell of a Christmas cake baking in the oven.  I love the whole procedure of weighing out the fruit and soaking it in brandy and orange juice a few days before adding it to the cake mixture.

My mum always made our Christmas cake along with one for my brother and sister, then when dad became less able and she had to provide a lot of care for him she was struggling to carry on the tradition so I took over and made my own.  I have used the same recipe for years now and it has served us well.  Neither of us like candied peel too much and the recipe I use has dried apricots cut into small pieces instead, which we much prefer.

I normally make the cake near to the end of November and then drizzle a little more brandy into the top until I am ready to decorate it – not that I always decorate it – if I have the time it gets done, otherwise it is just as good without. 

Last year I had lots of help from little L who arranged these Christmas figures I found reduced in Home Bargains.

This year, like last, I plan to put marzipan and roll out icing just on the top again and dress the sides with one of those lovely old fashioned paper frills. What decorations go on the top will be anyone’s guess at the moment but I will take a picture when it is finished.

Here in Yorkshire you can expect to be given a slice of Christmas cake with a good chunk of cheese – and Wensleydale is usually the preferred variety as this is a cheese that matures well for the winter season and has a crumbly texture, though Blue Stilton is becomming quite popular.

The tradition can be traced back to Victorian times in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire when it is mentioned in a book by Joseph Lucas in 1871 called Studies in Nidderdale and reads:

“On Christmas Eve one Yule cake is given to each member of the family, along with a piece of Christmas cheese. As a rule, part of it is left for Christmas morning, and eaten at the breakfast.”

Along with the Christmas cake I have been baking three Victoria sponge cakes for my younger daughter’s 40th birthday in a few days time. They have now cooled and been popped in the freezer ready for when I have to assemble the layers and decorate it. I thought I would have another go at drizzling a chocolate ganache over the sides – fingers crossed it will be a better outcome to the one I made for little Sweetie as I won’t be able to hide the mistakes quite so well without the million and one little sprinkles I put on hers.

Tomorrow our plans have already changed, or been changed for us! Instead of a day out in Derbyshire to see the lovely Christmas decorations in all the villages and perhaps calling in at Chatsworth Farm shop we are now looking after Master Freddie for the day. Having just put out a few more Christmas Decorations in the lounge I will have to run around and move some to a higher level….he is just at that enquiring age and some items might be a bit fragile.

Hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend. x

11 Replies to “creating Christmas * day 5…the Christmas cake”

  1. You’re tempting me to bake one! We were never allowed to eat them, not even when I was a young adult, because of the alcohol. As a result, what we call fruit cake never became a tradition in our immediate family. I bought our first fruitcake from Harry & David last year because my mister always had it growing up. He relished that little tin of cake! Gonna see if I can order one today. Thanks!


    1. As far as I understand the alcohol burns off during cooking so you are left with the tatse but it is not still alcoholic. It is only the brandy you add after cooking that would be and you can ommit that step.🎄


  2. I love a good fruit cake but have never been able to bake one successfully. But my plum pudding is made and maturing nicely. Great to be getting into the Christmas spirit!


    1. I used to make the Christmas puddings but now it is not worth it for the small amount we eat – so I buy a small one. I also find them rather too rich and sweet for me nowadays so we just have a small token portion. Homemade is always better though so enjoy yours. 🎄


  3. I plan to bake a Christmas cake as well using the recipe that my late Mother always baked. We always knew that Christmas was coming when the cake was baked on “stirring up Sunday”. My mother baked a light fruit cake and it was always served with cheddar cheese. She was Irish so perhaps they serve cheese with fruitcake there was well! I am so glad you are back to posting on your blog as I always enjoy your posts. You are so creative and inspiring. I do hope you get to enjoy your day out soon. It is snowing here in my part of Canada along with some freezing rain. It certainly makes the Christmas lights in my little village glow!


    1. Hello Marilyn so nice of you to drop by and leave a lovely comment. I think many people eat cheese with fruit cake now but I believe the custom started in Yorkshire but maybe historians might uncover more about it in the future. It is always fascinating how these things begin. My mum did a lovely Christmas cake but even though I followed her recipe to the letter it never worked out well for me – it was quite a runny mix like a batter. I do like a bit of snow at Christmas but only once the preparations are all completed.🎄🎄


  4. I love reading about these lovely traditions! I’m a fruit cake lover but haven’t had a good one for years. When we lived in Saipan my x husband’s family owns a Bakery. Been in business since 1944. They make some of the best fruit cake I’ve ever had. I miss it. Trying to make one here is very complicated and expensive. Because it’s not traditional it is very difficult to find the ingredients. Trying to do it all from scratch…well… I don’t have the time and anyway- I’d probably have to eat it all myself. The type of sweets eaten here are very different. Looking forward to to seeing yours!


      1. Here and there I write about Japanese traditions as they intersect with our lives. Soon we will be heading into the Japanese New Year – there are many New Year traditions that we have decided to include in our lifestyle 🙂


  5. There’s nothing quite like a good old fruit cake, is there. I add cranberries and apricots too and use Cointreau. Totally delicious and that aroma when I unwrap it to feed it. Oh, my!


  6. Your cakes look so amazing. I think I tried to make one when LB was very small, but have never bothered since, but I admire anyone who does.


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