The traditional British Christmas cake is a rich, dense fruit cake made with dried fruit and treacle. Typically the fruit is soaked in alcohol (most commonly brandy) overnight before baking, then wrapped into a fragrant baking paper parcel and left to mature for at least a month. Occasionally during this process the cake will be unwrapped and fed with more brandy, before being covered in marzipan, royal icing and festive decorations. Many people choose to make their Christmas cakes on the last Sunday before Advent, also known as Stir-up Sunday, which since the Victorian era has marked the day families traditionally make their Christmas puddings. These days homemade Christmas puddings are less common, but making and feeding a Christmas cake remains part of many people's festive traditions.
Browse our collection of Christmas cake recipes for some fantastic inspiration for festive baking. Karen Burns-Booth's classic British Christmas cake recipe is packed full of fruit, brandy and chunky glacé cherries, with ground almonds lending a nutty sweetness to the finished flavour. When it comes to decorating it why not try our guide on how to make marzipan – homemade marzipan contains less sugar than shop bought varieties, in addition to being free from colourings and preservatives.
Fruit cake can be somewhat polarising – the traditional wedding cake, for example, is becoming a less common fixture – but for the fruit-phobic there are plenty of alternative Christmas cake ideas to be found. Victoria Glass' Bûche de Nöel made with chestnut flour and topped with a log-effect chocolate ganache (complete with adorable meringue mushrooms) is a fantastic gluten-free cake recipe, while Colin McGurran's yule log recipe, a North Pole cake decorated with berries and colourful stars, would make a fantastic centrepiece at a children's Christmas party. Not all Christmas cakes need icing but if they do then don't miss our How to ice a Christmas cake guide to add a studding finish to your cake.