A 19th century Christmas cake

A 19th century Christmas cake


3 people made this

About this recipe: This is a family Christmas cake recipe from about 1850. I have converted it to a gluten free Christmas cake as I am both Coeliac and diabetic. You can make it gluten free, or use plain flour if that's not a concern. Please note that the ingredients are all in Imperial measures, as that's how the original is written. It doesn't work exactly in metric, for which I am very sorry. You can also change the fruit, as long as the total weight remains the same. So this year I have some candied mango and pineapple, and am feeding the cake with rum. But you can use flame raisins, cranberries, etc. - whatever YOU like.

Apricot Yorkshire, England, UK

Makes: 1 (9 in) Christmas cake, plus 1 (5 in) tasting cake

  • 9 oz gluten free flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz currants
  • 8 oz seedless raisins
  • 8 oz sultanas
  • 8 oz valencia raisins, or lexias if you can get them, the big sticky ones
  • 2 oz cut peel
  • 3 oz glace cherries
  • 8 oz butter
  • 8 oz moist brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dark treacle
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablesppons brandy, rum or sherry
  • rind and juice of 1 non-waxed lemon
  • 2 oz flaked or chopped almonds
  • warm water if required

Prep:45min  ›  Cook:4hr  ›  Ready in:4hr45min 

  1. Grease a 9-10 inch loose bottom deep cake tin, plus a small 5 inch tin. Double-line with parchment to come 2 inches above the rim. Add a collar of brown paper outside, and tie on with non-plastic kitchen string. The small tin is for the tasting cake.
  2. Sift together the flour, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the currants, raisins, sultanas and peel. Set aside.
  4. Wash the glace cherries to remove the syrup, dry on kitchen paper, then chop and mix into a tablespoon of the flour, to prevent sinking. Set aside.
  5. In a jam bath or new washing up bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar till light and creamy. Beat in the treacle. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the brandy and 1 tablespoon of the flour to prevent curdling.
  6. Easier to get someone else to pour the fruit in. Stir in along with the lemon juice and zest, and almonds. Put the floured cherries in last. Stir well to combine. The cake mixture should be a soft consistency; add a little water if required.
  7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tins. Level the tops with the back of a spoon or a spatula, making a slight indentation in the centre (though it won't rise much).
  8. Stand the tins on a sheet of 2-ply cardboard, make sure there is no poly interliner. This will prevent the cake cooking too fast.
  9. Bake at 170 C / Gas 3 for 30 minutes, then turn down to 150 C / Gas 2 and bake the large cake for a further 3 1/2 hours; the tasting cake an hour and 45 minutes. Insert a skewer in the centre; the cake is ready when it comes out clean. With about an hour to go, loosely cover the cakes with parchment to prevent over-browning.
  10. Cool in the tins, strip off the paper.
  11. When totally cold, wrap cakes in foil. Allow to age for as long as you can, feeding occasionally with alcohol of your choice, using fork to make holes in the top.


This recipe does double up for larger cakes, but beware that the larger cakes do take a lot longer to bake. Copyright with author.

Gluten free flour

I use Wellfoods gluten free flour. For non-coeliacs, simply use the same amount of ordinary plain flour.

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Reviews (2)


This cake was lovely and moist. I left out the peel and the nuts and instead substituted chopped dates. Also as I don't have a 5" cake tin I took a chance and put all the mix into a 9" tin. Following the baking instructions it came out perfectly. I will definitely make this one again next year. - 03 Jan 2016


This looks brilliant. Haven't tried it because I don't have a 5" tin. Do I actually need to do a 'tasting cake'? It's a bit late to taste it when you've already made the big one! - 09 Dec 2014

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