Last minute Christmas cake

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By: Jane Asher From: Market Kitchen

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This recipe is classed as easy

Rating 3.47 / 5 (555 votes)

Prep time:
30 min, plus soaking time
Cook time:
4 hrs
Makes 1 x 20cm cake

Don't worry if you haven't made your cake weeks ahead - Jane Asher's luscious cake packed with alcohol-soaked fruits and nuts can be made as late as you like

More Christmas cake recipes


1. For the cake: place the dried fruits, cherries, stout, whisky, orange juice, zest and treacle into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Preferably, transfer to a bowl and chill overnight - but don't worry if you can't: just leave it soaking as long as you can.

2. Preheat the oven to 140C/gas 2.

3. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment or a shaped silicone sheet.

4. Place all the remaining ingredients except the nuts in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I do mine in the electric mixer when I'm feeling lazy). Beat until smooth, then fold in the soaked fruit and the nuts.

5. Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top, making a slight dip towards the centre. Bake for 3 hours, then check and cover the top with more paper or silicone if it is over-browning. Bake for a further 30 minutes-1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a rack.

7. Wrap the cake in baking parchment and then in foil, and store in a tin somewhere cool and dry until it's time to decorate it. Every couple of weeks (or more often, if you're short of time), unwrap the cake, make a few holes in the top with a skewer, spoon a little brandy or whisky over the top and let it soak in. This keeps the cake moist - and makes it taste even better. You can use orange juice if you're avoiding too much alcohol. Rewrap the cake and store.

8. To cover with marzipan: with a sharp, serrated knife, trim the top of the cake if necessary (or turn it upside down, trimming the underneath to give it a firm base) until it's flat.

9. Knead the marzipan well until soft. Roll it out on a work surface or silicone baking mat dusted with a little icing sugar. Measure the circumference and the height of the cake with a piece of string, and cut a strip of marzipan to these measurements, allowing a little extra for safety. Brush the side of the cake with a little sieved jam (apricot is traditional, but use whatever flavour you like), then roll the marzipan strip onto the rolling pin to pick it up. Hold the rolling pin upright against the side of the cake and unroll the marzipan onto it, smoothing with your hands (or a side smoother). Trim the top edge as necessary.

10. Roll out the remaining marzipan into a rough circle, slightly larger than the cake. Brush the top of the cake with jam, and then turn it upside down onto the marzipan. Trim round the edge and then turn the right way up, smoothing as necessary.

11. Wrap the cake loosely in baking parchment and leave for a day or so before icing.


  • 750 g mixed dried fruit
  • 150 g glacĂ© cherries
  • 225 ml stout, (Guinness, for example)
  • 100 ml whiskey
  • 75 ml orange juice
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 200 g butter, slightly soft
  • 200 g muscovado sugar
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 75 g brazil nuts, or almonds, chopped

To cover the cake (optional)

  • 450 g marzipan
  • sifted icing sugar
  • sieved jam

Tips and suggestions

If you like marzipan, then you need to put it onto the cake a couple of days before you intend to ice it - just to make sure that the oil from the marzipan doesn't leak through into the icing (although, if you use the white marzipan, then it's much less likely to discolour the icing, especially if you're covering the cake with ready-to-roll icing, rather than royal). You can make your own marzipan, of course, but the shop-bought white marzipan is so good - and contains nothing sinister! - that you may feel, as I do, that your time can be better used at this hectic season...

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Latest Comment


I have made this the last few years and it's definitely my go to Christmas cake receive. I have a question though, i know this says last minute Christmas cake but can this be made in advance? And if so how far in advance can I make it?

NicoletteL34647 NicoletteL34647  Posted 25 Jun 2015 10:21 AM

Best Christmas cake recipe I've used. Made them beg of October last year, lovely and moist in the New Year. Was given as a gift last Christmas at a Care Home. Didn't have one bad comment about it. I made ten this year Will use the recipe for years!!

Lynnem16 Lynnem16  Posted 29 Dec 2014 7:22 PM

Best Christmas cake recipe I've used. Made them beg of October last year, lovely and moist in the New Year. Was given as a gift last Christmas at a Care Home. Didn't have one bad comment about it. Will use the recipe for years!!

Lynnem16 Lynnem16  Posted 16 Oct 2014 6:44 PM

This is our favourite Christmas cake, really tasty and everyone who tried it loved it. It wasn't hard to make either. I will say it was better the longer we kept it.

JackieN64886 JackieN64886 Posted 27 Jan 2014 5:51 PM

This has got to be the best cake I have ever made, and so easy, my house also smelt lovely the day before I made it with the fruit boiling in whisky , Guinness and orange juice.

YvonneH31195 YvonneH31195 Posted 21 Dec 2013 9:46 PM

This is a wonderful cake and so hassle free to makeand the end result is excellent.It was the first time that l had made a Christmas cake that didn't crack on the top. It is so moist and delicious and l have recommended the recipe to many of my friends already.

UKTV Food User UKTV Food User Posted 23 Dec 2011 12:09 PM

Assuming that the issue with the stout is not the alcohol, but something like a need to avoid it for coeliac disease, or simply personal taste, you can substitute a decent cider for the stout. Alternatively, you can substitute the stout for the same quantity of apple juice or a blend of apple juice and orange juice. I've done both of these and still had an excellent cake as the result.

meelzebub meelzebub Posted 22 Dec 2011 7:14 AM

I made this cake for my dad. But we all loved it. I didn't use cream or marzipan.

MaushmiS88364 MaushmiS88364 Posted 14 Dec 2011 8:24 PM

Hello there. It is essential I'm it the alcoholic content that you're worried about? The alcohol will almost entirely burn off, if that helps...

Charlotte - Good Food Charlotte - Good Food Posted 12 Dec 2011 10:32 AM

Is the stout an essential ingredient or can it be substituded with something else? How late can this cake be baked and does it keep like a traditionally baked christmas cake? Thank you.

madeitwithlove madeitwithlove Posted 11 Dec 2011 8:53 PM

The 20cm cake tin suggested is too small - the mixture filled the tin before it even rose! Also, I would suggest creaming the butter and sugar, then adding the eggs and then folding in the flour, as you do for a normal cake mixture. My cake cracked quite badly on top, and I feel it was either the size of the tin, or the mixing method.

PatriciaH55287 PatriciaH55287 Posted 08 Dec 2011 11:33 AM

emmaB15972 emmaB15972 Posted 19 Aug 2011 4:38 PM

this past Christmas I made my second Christmas cake following your recipe. Out of all the recipes that have come my way, this has to be the most successful. I live in Canada and since M & S stopped selling their products here, I have looked for a Christmas cake - this was by far the easiest and most successful ever - the compliment will feed me til next Christmas

vera10 vera10 Posted 08 Jan 2011 5:31 PM

AMAZING! This recipe is so easy to follow and the cake is gorgeous. Even my fruitcake-hating husband loves it! I usually replace the whiskey with Tia Maria though, and it's even better!

NeetaD14263 NeetaD14263 Posted 02 Dec 2010 9:33 AM

Hi, have made these cakes both 'last minute' and in advance, both turn out fabulous, I have to make 4 each year and I so enjoy the hassle free throw it all in and it comes out fine approach. Highly recommend this recipe its my 'family' recipe now! Fiona

fionadavid fionadavid Posted 02 Oct 2010 2:31 PM

I have made this to give as gifts this Christmas. It has been a great success with wonderful comments so I must make myself one. Thanks Jane.

JanetW24825 JanetW24825 Posted 14 Dec 2009 12:54 AM

excellent recipe, made 5 for myself and other people so far this year and just starting the 6th! I feed the cake weekly with a good dose of brandy and will ice them in about two weeks time. Throwing it all in doesnt seem to be a problem all.

timC89071 timC89071 Posted 27 Nov 2009 8:09 PM

I am soaking the fruit as we speak! Bit concerned about throwing the rest of the ingredients all in together, and considering making the traditional way creaming the butter & sugar etc. Any comments please? Thanks x

niccijj niccijj Posted 31 Oct 2009 4:22 PM

I tried this recipe for a 50th Wedding anniversary and had so many wonderful compliments from the older generation,which,in itself is worth the world to me.Im now using it for a friends wedding in November and as a Christmas cake for a high profile pop star!!!! Thats how much faith I have in the recipe.Good luck and go for it!!! Beverly xxx

BeverlyP21067 BeverlyP21067 Posted 28 Oct 2009 5:35 PM

BeverlyP21067 BeverlyP21067 Posted 28 Oct 2009 5:33 PM

BeverlyP21067 BeverlyP21067 Posted 28 Oct 2009 5:33 PM

Made this brilliant cake for christmas 2008, will be making two this year.

stew c stew c Posted 12 Oct 2009 8:30 PM

i made this cake last year and everyone loved it first time i ever made a christmas cake really easy to do will be making another one this year.

emmaB15972 emmaB15972 Posted 12 Sep 2009 9:38 AM

Hi, I made this cake 2 weeks ago I have now iced it (marzipan and royal) and it smells and looks wonderful, thankyou for easy to follow instructions. merry christmas, Paula

tillmit tillmit Posted 22 Dec 2008 10:17 PM

I live in LA and do not know where to buy marzipan, can you help?

JillT47204 JillT47204 Posted 10 Dec 2008 1:03 AM

this cake looks great cant wait to make it thanks margaret Adelaide South Australia

my wee pal my wee pal Posted 22 Nov 2008 5:07 AM