Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Cake

When I first posted about finding this recipe I sat and cried. Hot tears rolled down my face as I typed my post.. I had forgotten how much I loved my grandmother.  It's 22 years last month since she died.  I remember it well, I was a chef and worked a double shift that day.

My mother since told me that when my father read this post he wept silently too, but I am so grateful to have this recipe. It is treasure.

Although I say so myself this cake is delicious and each time dad eats a slice of my cake his face transports to his childhood.  It tastes of love and laughter and Christmas past -  for her recipe is from about 1920, and she wrote this recipe down just a couple of weeks before she died. Whilst my mother taught me almost everything I know about cooking, it was my grandmother who bossed me about the kitchen teaching me ( little miss know it all) how to bake!

Lillian Hulme made wedding, christening and Christmas cakes for her living, and her recipe is over 80 years old. I was given the original recipe by my mother while I was researching Prepped.  Dad told me that in the 1950s and 60s my Grandmother’s cakes were so amazing that people travelled from miles around to order one of them. I’m also told that cake-making was a sociable occasion, so even if it is last minute .. I still get the children involved, and boss my own daughters about in much the same way as my grandma did I'm sure!

Makes 16 slices
Prep time 25–30 minutes
Cooking time 4 hours

250g self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
200g butter
Zest of 1 lemon
200g soft brown sugar
2 heaped tbsp treacle
2 tsp vanilla essence
6 eggs beaten 
450g sultanas
220g raisins
300g currants
20 glacé cherries
100g chopped nuts
Drop of milk, to mix
100ml Spiced Orange & Clove Brandy, to feed the cake

1 Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2

2 Sieve the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a bowl.

3 Cream the butter, lemon zest and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the treacle, and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.

4 Mix in the eggs a little at a time. To stop the batter from curdling add a tablespoon of the flour. Fold in the remaining flour. Mix well, then fold in the dried fruit, glacé cherries and chopped nuts.

5 Grease a 20cm round or 18cm square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment (not greaseproof paper).

6 Turn the mixture into the tin and make a slight hollow in the centre to keep the cake flat on top. You don’t want to decorate a domed cake!

7 Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven down to 140°C/gas mark 1 for about 31/2–4 hours. Push a skewer into the centre to test for doneness. If it doesn’t come out clean, return the cake to the oven for up to another hour. Test every 20 minutes or so until the skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes.

8 Turn out onto a wire rack. Once the cake is completely cool, poke a few holes in it with a skewer and pour over 3-4 tbsp of Spiced Orange & Clove Brandy. Let the brandy soak right into the cake. Keep the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, with the holes-side up. Spoon over 2–3 tablespoons every week until you decorate the cake.

Tips & Uses
• To makes gifts from this cake, quarter it to make 4 small cakes serving 4 slices each.

> Spiced Orange & Clove Brandy


  1. So sweet. Such a lovely story. I love the look of it too. Great recipe. I may get busy with it today!!

  2. a lovely story and a lovely recipe. The new blog design is great! X

  3. I am loving the new photography on your blog and this cake looks so good. I love the history behind a recipe it makes the cake so much more.

  4. Oh I forgot to say I like the tip about making it into little cakes - this makes it a special gift at Christmas.

  5. Great story - makes all the difference doesn't it when there is some history to a recipe.

  6. Wonderful story and I still feel the same way when I use my grandmother's recipes......I LOVE these snowflake cutters and use them on all my Christmas baking!

  7. So you definitely have cooking genes in the family! What a wonderful story and I feel the same about my grandmother too, also a brilliant cook ;-]x

  8. I think this post is what food blog writing is all about. A personal account that is linked to a recipe. The cake sounds amazing and looks great too. Loving the website design also. So pretty.

  9. What beautiful memories, and what a lovely way to remember your Grandmother.

    I'll be making this cake next Christmas.

    By the way I ordered Prepped from amazon and left it on the kitchen table with a note saying that I'd be delighted if someone took and wrapped it!!!!!!!! Then I'm not really buying my own gift ... am I????

  10. This is absolutely enchanting - the story and the cake!


If you are reading my blog I must warn you that I am not impartial. I want to influence you. I want to make you stop for just a moment and consider the effect of a lifetime of seemingly insignificant decisions and how making small delicious choices can change the world.

I believe that we can change the world one bite at a time.

It's a delicious revolution.