A few years ago I made the family a Christmas cake and every year since it has fallen on my shoulders to make another. Occasionally I try a different recipe, but Delia’s Classic Christmas cake is still the recipe that I think is best. It holds the booze well, it has the right balance of fruit and spice and it keeps for ages so you can make it weeks in advance and feed it up with alcohol to make it even more delicious.
WARNING: Beware, if you make this cake, then you will be required to repeat the following process every year until the end of time.
Delia Smith’s Classic Christmas Cake
- Preparation time: 45 minutes + decorating
- Baking time: 4 1/2-4 3/4 hours
- Makes: 10-12 decent sized slices
- Skill level: moderate
- 450g currants
- 175g sultanas
- 175g raisins (I substitute the raisins for mixed dried fruit)
- 50g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
- 3tbsp brandy
- 225g unsalted butter
- 1/2tsp salt
- 1/2tsp ground mixed spice
- 225g soft brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 50 g flaked almonds
- 1 dessert spoon black treacle
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- A 20cm round or an 18cm square cake tin, greased and lined with a double thickness of baking parchment. Tie a band of baking parchment around the outside of the tin for extra protection.
- An electric mixer.
- Two large, and several smaller mixing bowls.
The night before you are going to bake this cake weigh out the dried fruit and peel, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the brandy as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl and leave the fruit to absorb the booze for 12 hours.
Top tip: the black treacle will be easier to measure if you remove the lid, and place the tin in a small pan of barely simmering water.
- Heat the oven to 140 C/275 F/gas 1.
- Measure out all the ingredients. Make a list and tick them off as you go to ensure they are all there.
- Begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give it a good airing.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it is light, pale and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Add them to the creamed mixture (butter and sugar) a tablespoon at a time, keeping the mixer running until all the egg is incorporated. This method should ensure that the mixture does not curdle, but if it does, don’t worry.
- Once all the eggs have been added, fold in the flour and spices gently. Do not use the mixer (this is preserve the precious air).
- Fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle, and finely the grated lemon and orange zests.
- Using a large spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon. (If you don’t intend ice the cake, lightly drop whole blanched almonds all over the surface).
- Cover the cake with a double piece of baking parchment with a 50p sized (1 inch) hole cut in the center.
- Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4½-4¾ hours until it feels springy in the center when lightly touched. Sometimes it can take an extra ½-¾ hours longer, but in any case DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR FOR AT LEAST 4 HOURS.
- Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it is cold “feed it”, wrap it in double baking parchment, secured with an elastic band, and either wrap again in foil or place it in an air tight tin.
- Continue feeding your cake at regular intervals until you are ready to eat or decorate your cake.