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Phil Vickery's 'make and mature' Christmas cake

It’s just six weeks until Christmas Eve, so what better time to get ahead and make your Christmas cake, so it can mature and be delicious and boozy on the big day!  

Christmas cake

Christmas or rich fruit cakes like these are relatively easy to make. The two main problems are, the shopping and the cooking. I spend hours of time walking around the supermarket trying to get all the bits and pieces together, and the other is taking it slowly, this cake takes around 4 hours to bake. 

Preparation time 35-40 minutes

Cooking time 4 hours

Makes 8inch/20cm cake


150mls whisky or brandy

zest and juice of 1 large lemon

zest of one and juice of 1 large orange

1 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp black treacle

 200g currants

200g fat sultanas

100g raisins

80g mixed peel

 200g salted butter, at room temperature

200g soft brown sugar

3  medium eggs, at room temperature

200g plain flour

 1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp vanilla extract

40g ground almonds

40g nibbed or flaked almonds

80g whole, natural glace cherries

2-3 tbsp milk 


1. First job is to place the booze, lemon and orange zests and juice, honey and treacle into a bowl and whisk together well

2. Add the fruits and, again, really mix well. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 hours, but best for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.

3. Wrap the 8inch cake tin in 2 layers of brown paper and tie with string, then line the cake tin with at least two layers of greaseproof or silicone paper, leave at least 1 ½ inches above the tin. 

4. Preheat the oven to 150C, gas mark 2

5. Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat well until creamy, no need to go mad. Add the eggs together, slowly then add the flour and mix well but do not overbeat.

6. Next, add the spices, nuts, cherries and all the fruit and juices, and stir in well

7. Carefully spoon the mixture into the tin and cover loosely with greaseproof paper and pop in the oven. Remove the top paper for the last hour of cooking. 

8. When done, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes then turn out and leave to cool overnight.

9. Cover with marzipan at least ¾ inches thick and ice with royal icing not sugar paste, you will need at least three coats 

Phil’s top tip: Place a tray of water inside the oven for the first hour of cooking then remove. It helps to keep the cake moist. 

Gluten-free Christmas cake

Preparation 20 minutes, plus overnight soaking 

Cooking: 1½ - 2 hours

Freezer When cold, remove it from the tin, wrap in greaseproof paper and two thick layers of foil and store in an airtight container. Freeze for up to nine months.

Makes 1 x deep, 18 cm round or square cake


75g currants

75g sultanas

350g raisins

50g candied peel

150mls whisky

Juice of one small lemon and zest

150g gluten-free flour mix *see instructions below*

1 level tsp gluten-free baking powder 

1 level tsp xanthan gum

1tsp mixed spice

1tsp allspice 

150g unsalted butter, soft

150g dark brown soft sugar

3 medium eggs, room temperature

50g ground almonds

2tbsp milk 

50g almonds, blanched

100g natural coloured glace cherries, halved and washed

1tbsp black treacle

1tbsp honey

For the topping

2tbsp apricot jam

150g mixed glace fruits; e.g. cherries, almonds and pecan halves or traditional marzipan and white icing of your choice

To make Phil’s gluten-free flour mix

(this will make a larger quantity than you will need)

300g fine cornmeal (maize) or chestnut flour 

500g brown rice flour 

200g cornflour 

Mix the above in a food processor 


1. Place the dried fruit and mixed peel in a pan, add the whisky and lemon juice and zest and bring up to the boil. Take the pan off the heat, cover and leave to soak overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 150°C gas 2

3. Line the base and sides of a round or square 18cm cake tin with a double layer of baking paper, including a tall collar sticking up

4. Sift the gluten free flour mix, baking powder, xanthan gum and spices together in a bowl

5. Separately, in a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy and light. Gradually add the eggs, alternately with the gluten free flour mix and then the ground almonds. Stir in the milk, to give you a softish mixture.

6. Mix in all the remaining fruit and nuts. Finally stir in the treacle, honey and give the whole cake mix a thoroughly good stir.

7. Spoon the mixture into the tin, level it out, and bake for about 1½ - 2 hours or until a skewer inserted comes out “clean”. Leave to cool in the tin.

8. Decorating the cake can be anything you like, but an easy suggestion would be to decorate with a glossy fruit and nut top. Warm some smooth apricot jam and brush the surface of the cake. Arrange, or pile a selection of glace fruits and nuts over the top and brush over a second layer of jam to glaze. Now all you need is a big bow to put round the sides.

Phil's top tips

Place a tray of water inside the oven for the first hour of cooking then remove. It helps to keep the cake moist.

To store the cake wrap in cling film and foil and keep it in a cool dark place

You only need to feed the cake 1 tbsp of alcohol per week

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