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How to Make and Decorate a Christmas Cake

Updated on March 22, 2009

I make and decorate my own Christmas cake every year. I stick to the traditional fruit cake. Well, almost traditional ... I hate peel and glacé cherries, so instead I add extra of the rest of the fruit to make up for the peel I don't add.

I try to make the cake by mid-September at the latest so that it can "age" for several months. During this time, I give it regular "drinks" - I poke several holes in the cake and, weekly, I pour about a tablespoon of sherry over the cake as it matures. This keeps the cake moist and rich by the time Christmas rolls around. To decorate, the cake, I use marzipan and royal icing.

Below, I have included my recipes for the cake and royal icing. I cheat and buy ready made marzipan and roll it out when I need it. In the UK, you can buy ready made royal icing, which can also be rolled and just laid on the cake when ready. Unfortunately, I've never been able to find that elsewhere. The cake recipe is pretty easy, but your arm will get a work out! Finally, for those of you who do like cherries and peel in their fruit cake, I have included the alternate fruit mixture at the end of the cake recipe.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my family and friends do.

Making the Cake

Christmas Cake Recipe

  • 500g raisins
  • 345g sultanas
  • 165g currants
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar (I now make this with Splenda brown sugar so use half as much)
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 285g plain white flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 30ml black treacle (or dark molasses)
  • grated lemon zest
  • 200ml beer or sherry (I prefer sherry)
  • 110g ground almonds
  1. Set the oven to 325F/170C. Grease and line a 9in round cake tin with waxed, greaseproof paper.
  2. Mix all the fruit together. If including cherries, cut them up and then mix with the rest of the fruit.

  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs slowly, beating well between each addition. If the mixture curdles, beat in 1 tsp of flour.
  5. Fold in the flour, mixed spice, black trecle or molasses, lemon rind and beer or sherry. (A little tip, I spray anything I'm going to use with black treacle or molasses with cooking spray. That way, the treacle slides right off and you're not waiting forever for it unstick from whatever you are using.)
  6. Stir in the ground almonds and fruit.
  7. Place the mixture in the prepared tin and make a deep hollow in the middle.
  8. Bake for 2.5 hours or until a skewer emerges clean after being stuck in the middle of the cake.
  9. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  10. The cake can be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place for several months. You can give it regular drinks during this time (as mentioned above).

Alternate Fruit Mixture

  • 110g glacĂ© cherries
  • 55g mixed peel
  • 450g raisins
  • 285g sultanas
  • 110g currants

Decorating the Cake

I find that decorating the cake is actually quite a bit more finicky and harder to do than actually making the cake. I've tried to include detailed instructions for what I do.

Marzipan Layer

The cake should be covered with marzipan about one week before you ice it. To cover with marzipan, you will need:

  • 1 quantity of marzipan
  • apricot glaze (apricot jam heated with 1 tbsp of water and allowed to cool)
  • icing sugar
  1. It is best to use the bottom of the cake for the top when decorating (it is smoother). If the cake is not level, shave off some of the top and then turn it over.
  2. Measure around the side of the cake with a piece of string.

  3. Lightly dust a clean work surface with icing sugar and roll out two-thirds of the marzipan to a strip the length of the piece of string and the depth of the cake.
  4. Roll out the remaining marzipan to a circle the size of the cake top.
  5. Brush the sides of the cake with apricot glaze. Turn it on its side and roll it along the prepared strip of marzipan. Smooth the joins with a rounded knife. Take a jar or straight sided can and roll it around the sides of the cake to smooth it out.
  6. Brush the top with apricot glaze and, using a rolling pin, lift the other piece of marzipan on to the cake. Seal the edges with the knife and smooth the top with a rolling pin.
  7. Leave to dry in a cool, dry place on a cake board about 2 inches larger than the cake.

Royal Icing Recipe

For one coat of icing for a 9in round cake:

  • 1 1/2 egg whites
  • 675g icing sugar
  1. Mix the egg whites with 3 tbsp of sugar.
  2. Gradually add the remaining sugar and mix well until the icing is soft, white, fluffy and will hold its shape. More sugar can be added if the mixture is too runny. This depends on how you want to ice your cake ... if you want a smooth finished look, you will want a very stiff icing that can be rolled like the marzipan. If you want a more textured look, for example, a snowscape scene with a christmas tree, snowman, etc. added, you will want your icing to be a lot more pliable.
  3. Follow the same process as above to add the icing layer on to the marzipan layer, if you want a smooth cake. The icing is put directly onto the marzipan. Do not use glaze of any kind.

Finally, many people decorate their cakes in many different ways. This part is up to you. You can make additional royal icing, add food colour to it and use cookie cutters to cut out different shapes (e.g. green holly leaves with small red holly berries). Decorations can be used to stand on the cake, you can make your own, let your imagination go wild. Also, remember, you can buy a lot of different pre-made sugar decorations, so you don't have to try to make them yourself if this is not your strong suit. I have attached some photos for inspiration.

Merry Christmas!


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    • profile image

      Chef Govind 6 years ago

      Merry Christmas

    • profile image

      Kamal 6 years ago

      Thank u so much for sharing what you discovered.Its really worth reading your informations & its very useful.

      Merry x'mas to all....



      Arabian American foods,



    • firefly07 profile image

      firefly07 6 years ago from UK

      your cake recipe sounds fantastic and I can see you're really good at the decorations. I always struggle to get my icing really smooth.

    • blackbv profile image

      blackbv 7 years ago from Canada

      I wouldn't ice my cakes this far out. The marzipan and icing don't keep as well as the cake itself. In my experience, I wouldn't ice it much further than 1 week before you want to serve it (at the earliest).

    • profile image

      Sarah 7 years ago

      I want to decorate my fruit cakes as soon as possible before Christmas as I make a lot. Can I marzipan and sugarpaste my cakes now?

    • profile image

      steffi 8 years ago

      Can't wait! Thanks!!

    • blackbv profile image

      blackbv 8 years ago from Canada

      I ice mine within a day or two of serving it. That way, I can give it as many "drinks" as possible, plus the icing is nice and fresh and looks great. Usually, I decorate it on the 23rd so it's ready for the 24th and 25th. Good luck, I'm sure it'll turn out great!

    • profile image

      steffi 8 years ago

      when do you ice the cake? I have been making Christmas cake for years but never decorated it. This year I thought I would give it a go but don't know when I should do it. cake is made and being fed and is waiting to be dressed :-)

    • blackbv profile image

      blackbv 8 years ago from Canada

      I actually was shopping for the baking ingredients I need yesterday. My plan is to make the cake in the next week or so.

    • TravelMonkey profile image

      TravelMonkey 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      I will definitely be trying this this year- great hub

    • Sandilyn profile image

      Sandilyn 9 years ago from Port Orange, FL

      Now that is an intereting cake! I myself have never heard of this. It sounds very good. My mom makes something that you add the liquid over time but it is not a cake.

      I will have to try this next year.

    • profile image

      Michala  9 years ago

      Thank you so much for these hints and tips!! very useful :) Merry Christmas xx

    • Vondre profile image

      Vondre 9 years ago from Columbia, SC

      Hello blackbv,

      I wanted to express my thanks for the great cake recipe. It turned out so beautifully; color, style, and design, thank you so much for sharing it.

      Well, I too have a cake related hub page as well. Just click on my picture to check it out when you have time or go to to get my free cake book

      Happy Baking!