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Mary Berry’s Classic Rich Christmas Cake

If you're looking for the ultimate Christmas cake recipe, look no further than Mary Berry's traditional rich fruit cake, fed over several weeks or months with brandy and finished with a snow-like blanket of fondant icing and festive adornments.

From the book


This is a wonderful, rich traditional fruit cake. It can be made up to three months in advance. Make sure you allow plenty of time to ‘feed’ the cake with brandy and let it mature. I’ve included a table overleaf to show the different ingredient quantities needed to make variously sized cakes.

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115g (4oz) red or natural glacé cherries, quartered
115g (4oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, snipped into pieces
275g (10oz) currants
175g (6oz) sultanas
175g (6oz) raisins
55g (2oz) candied peel, finely chopped
3 tbsp brandy
225g (8oz) plain flour
¼ level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ level tsp ground mixed spice
225g (8oz) butter, softened
225g (8oz) dark muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
55g (2oz) chopped almonds
Scant 1 tablespoon black treacle
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
To finish:
brandy, to feed the cake
675g (1½lb) almond paste or marzipan
675g (1½lb) fondant or ready-to-roll icing
To decorate:
almond paste (leftover from putting over the cake)
green food colouring
icing sugar, sifted
ribbon, holly or your favourite decorations

Essential kit

You will need: a 20cm (8in) deep round cake tin and a small, round icing nozzle.


Begin this cake the night before you want to bake it. Place the cherries in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. Measure all the fruits and chopped peel into a large bowl. Mix in the brandy, cover and leave in a cool place overnight.

Preheat the oven to 140°C/Fan 120°C/Gas 1. Grease a 20cm (8in) deep round cake tin, then line the base and sides with a double layer of baking paper.

Measure the flour, spices, butter, sugar, eggs, almonds, treacle and lemon and orange zests into a large bowl. Beat well, then fold in the soaked fruits.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon. Cover the top of the cake loosely with a double layer of baking paper. Bake in the preheated oven for about 4½–4¾ hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little brandy. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of baking paper, and again in foil, and store in a cool place, feeding at intervals with more brandy. Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist. Cover the cake with almond paste or marzipan about a week before icing.

Cover the cake with fondant or ready-to-roll icing. Colour the almond paste (left over from putting the almond paste on the cake) dark green. Roll out on a board that has been lightly sprinkled with icing sugar and cut into 2.5cm (1in) wide strips. Cut these into diamonds and then, with the base of an icing nozzle, remove half circles from the sides of the diamonds to give holly-shaped leaves. Make vein marks on the leaves with a sharp knife, bend the leaves over the handles of wooden spoons and leave to dry. Decorate the top of the cake with the almond-paste holly leaves, dust lightly with icing sugar and finish by tying a ribbon around the sides of the cake.


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From the book: Mary Berry’s Baking Bible (2023 Edition)

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