Thursday, December 6, 2012

Family Recipe Friday - Family Christmas Cake

December is upon us, and it is time to start preparing for the festive season.  I don’t know about you but the traditions and family culture that surrounds Christmas fascinates me.  Every family has their own set of traditions that evolve over time, within the traditions and culture of their country, religion and ethnic backgrounds.    An important part of this evolution is the food and drink that is cooked, shared and given as gifts to family and friends.  
One of the traditions that has been passed down in our family has been the baking of the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. 

I have fond memories of sharing in these baking activities.  The mixing, baking and hanging of the Christmas pudding was one of the highlights of Christmas with my paternal grandmother Christina Carriage (Shepherd, nee Lee)  and I have written about this in my blog on the women in my family tree

However, the family tradition that comes to mind today is closer to home and was passed on to me by my mother.  That is the baking of the traditional Christmas cake.  I am not sure of customs in other countries, but in Australia around Christmas time, when I was a child,  when someone dropped  in for a cup of tea, you would always have to have a plate piled high with slices of rich moist Christmas cake to go with it.   There are so many versions of this recipe, but here is the one that my mother used as the base for her cakes. 

She would often deviate from the recipe, adding what ever was in the pantry, for example some marmalade jam, extra nuts, glace cherries, ginger pieces etc.  As you can see from the picture taken from her recipe book, the page is well worn, with a collection of food stains, which I am sure if you analysed would be made up of spices, sugar, flour, butter and brandy or sherry. I now carry on this tradition and continue to bake this cake around the beginning of December each year. I do hope this family tradition will pass on to the next generation.

Rich Boiled Fruit Cake
 8 cups (2 ½ lb) mixed fruit
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons rum, sherry or brandy
¾ cups water
8 oz butter
1 ½ cups (8 oz) brown sugar
5 eggs
2 ½ cups (10 oz) plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 oz split blanched almonds

Place the mixed fruit, golden syrup, rum, sherry or brandy and the water in a saucepan.  Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally and simmer for 2 minutes.  Pour into a bowl, cover and allow to stand overnight.  Set oven temperature at slow.  Cream butter and brown sugar together well.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Sift dry ingredients together, then sift half over the boiled fruit mixture.  Mix lightly and stir into the creamed mixture.  Add remainder of sieved dry ingredients and fold into mixture.  Place in a 9-inch round cake tin, previously lined with greaseproof paper and three thicknesses of brown paper and greased.  Arrange the split blanched almonds in a pattern on the top.  Bake in a slow oven for 3 ½ -4 hours.  Remove cake from tin, leaving paper on and leave on wire cooling tray until cool.


  1. Your picture looked familiar, but I didn't know why. then I discovered I was following you on pinterest. Your article reminded me of my grandmother's fudge cake she made at Christmas. It is a family tradition.

  2. I love the idea of a special Christmas recipe that is handed down through the generations. You've prompted me to check my grandmothers' old books to see if I can find something they used.

  3. Aren't family traditions great. It is a shame that many are being lost. Fi I am sure you will find some treasures in your grandma's books. I hope you can share a couple!

  4. Like you the Christmas cake & pudding are part of the family's cooking tradition, along with shortbread, though we didn't hang our puddings. My mother was often running late as I am this week. The fruit is chopped all that remains is a block of time to cook it. I love the smell of Christmas cooking. My daughters are taking over some of the old traditional cooking and starting some traditions of their own eg tiramisu which is deadly.

  5. Yes I thing the tradition of hanging the Christmas Pudding is a thing of the past. Nice that your daughters are carting on your family traditions. The tiramisu sounds yum. My sister makes a great summer pudding, (bowl lined with bread and filled with berries, ie strawberries, raspberries and blueberries set in gelatine. Very good. Hope she makes one this year.