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This recipe makes for a jolly good rich fruit cake. Ideal as a classic Christmas cake, it can also be used to make a traditional Simnel cake or a superb wedding cake. The list of ingredients is not set in stone. For instance, if you don't care for glacé cherries, you can replace them with dried cranberries. Don't fret if you haven't managed to make the cake ahead of time either - it's still lovely when freshly baked.


Lightly grease the base and sides of your chosen tin and line with baking parchment. To prevent the outside edges of the cake drying out, tie a double band of brown paper, 3cm deeper than the depth of the tin, around the outside of the tin.

To get the best out of the fruit, put the first seven ingredients in a large ovenproof dish, mix well together and cover the dish with a piece of foil.

Place in a very cool oven, about 130°C/Gas Mark ½, and leave for about 30 minutes, to allow the fruit to warm and become a little sticky. As you remove the foil, the fruity aroma will give you a whiff of what is to come. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 145°C/Gas Mark 1–2. Sift the flour, salt, mixed spice, nutmeg and ginger into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and combine well together. Add the butter, three-quarters of the beaten egg and the golden syrup or treacle. Using either a hand-held electric whisk or a free-standing electric mixer, beat for about 1 minutes until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the remaining egg and beat for a further 30 seconds.

Add the dried fruit, walnuts and grated apple. Use a large metal spoon to fold them in until everything is thoroughly mixed together.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing it out lightly with the back of the spoon. Make a slight hollow in the centre of the cake – this will prevent the cake from rising in the centre. Place a piece of foil, with a hole (about 4cm wide) cut in the middle, over the cake tin.

Approximate total baking time is 2-2.5 hours. Bake in the oven for roughly half the allotted cooking time. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cake is golden in colour and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Trickle the remaining brandy over the top of the hot cake. Allow to cool completely before turning out. Leave the baking parchment on the cake until you're ready to slice it.

The cake will mature nicely if kept wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight container. You can store it like this for up to 3 months.

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To make an 18cm round or 15cm square

  • 150g currants
  • 150g sultanas
  • 150g raisins
  • 100g dried pears
  • 75g glacé cherries
  • 1/2 orange or lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp brandy, rum or orange liqueur
  • 125g plain flour
  • Small pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Good pinch ginger
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 50g walnuts
  • 100g cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely grated

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Cakes Handbook