Packed with so much dried fruit this traditional rich fruit cake is going to taste good from the day it is made. But, if you are organised enough to bake it ahead, stored in an airtight container in a cool place it will keep for several months or even longer!
Along with making Christmas puddings and mincemeat, November is when I usually bake my Christmas cake. I have been using this rich fruit cake as my go to recipe for Christmas and celebration cakes for years.
Although I have recently been using a simple simmer and stir method which you can find on my Easy Retro Christmas Cake on my Baking Blog Only Crumbs Remain, this rich fruit cake is one I still return to again and again. In the end, it’s hard to beat a classic.
I know that some people say that rich fruit cakes need to be made in advance to allow them time to mature ( and many “feed “them with alcohol over that time too), but I really don’t think it is essential.
Do I need to soak the fruit?
I like to save the fiddle of feeding my cake with brandy or rum over the weeks before I want to use it, so I soak my dried fruit in alcohol before baking.
To make sure the fruit absorbs as much as possible and to make them big and plump, I heat the alcohol up in a pan until it just begins to bubble around the edge, then add the fruit and allow it to stand overnight.
Which alcohol you use for this is up to you. I find a sweet wine or sherry works well and this year have used masala. If you are feeling extravagant you could use rum or brandy.
Dried fruit doesn’t go off for a long time. It is, after all dried to preserve it. But it can become a bit too dry though if stored for a while and soaking it in heated alcohol is ideal to plump it up.
If it is very dry, just add a little more. If you don’t want to use alcohol, apple juice or orange juice will also work well. Be aware that in that case, the cake may not keep as long. It will still be absolutely fine between now and Christmas, so there is no excuse not to get baking.
Lining the cake tin
Not sure how to line a cake tin? Follow my step by step guide to lining a round cake tin.
Baking a Traditional Rich Fruit Cake
A rich fruit cake does take a while to cook as it needs to be baked at a fairly low temperature. Sometimes they have a tendency to become a little dry around the edges and overcooked before the centre is ready. Especially with large cakes.
A year or so ago I found a tip to prevent this by adding a cake belt around the tin and it worked a treat. I won’t cook a fruit cake again with out one regardless of size. Just recently I baked a 30cm (12in) rich fruit cake with one for a wedding and it baked perfectly.
You can buy reusable cake belts like this * one from Amazon and if you make a lot of fruit cakes I would say it was worth it as they are not very expensive. But you can also make your own.
How to make a DIY Cake Belt
Take one a long sheet of foil long enough to wrap around your cake tin with a bit to spare. Then take a strip of kitchen towel the same length fold lengthways so that you have a long strip of paper about the height of your cake tin. Then place on top of the foil.
Dampen the paper with water and fold up in the foil to enclose.
Wrap around your cake tin and fold the ends of the foil together to secure.
More Festive Cakes Made Easy
Traditional Rich Fruit Cake Step by step
Rich fruit cake
- 400 g currants
- 250 g sultanas
- 250 g raisins
- 150 ml sweet white wine or sherry
- 225 g butter softened
- 225 g dark muscovado sugar
- 4 eggs beaten
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- 350 g plain flour
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 75 g blanched almonds chopped
- 75 g glace cherries quartered
- 100 g mixed peel
- finely grated zest of 1 orange or 1 lemon
- Place the currants, sultanas and raisins in a bowl. Heat the wine or sherry until it just starts to bubble around the edge of the pan, then pour over the fruit. Cover and allow to stand overnight.
- Grease and line a 23cm round or a 20cm square deep cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160°C/150°fan/gas mark 3.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy Make sure you beat out any lumps in the sugar. Gradually beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Next beat in the treacle.
- Sift the flour and mixed spice into the bowl and fold in.
- Add the soaked fruit, almonds, cherries, peel and lemon or orange zest and mix well.
- Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top, then make a slight dip in the middle.
- Bake for 1 hour, then reduce the oven temperature to 140°C/130°C fan/gas mark 1 and cook for a further 1-2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.