Delia Smiths´s Classic Christmas Fruitcake and a fruitcake challenge

Fruitcakes do not  have the best reputation. A good number of us have had to battle through a slice of post Christmas dinner fruitcakes, wondering how we would survive not because of overindulgence but because it was just plain and simply bad. But we have battled through it because it has been a tradition.  There isn´t any wonder about the origins of some of these gems!
The above caption reads: Unbeknownst to most theologians, there was a fourth wiseman, who was turned away for bringing fruitcake.
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Fruitcake was never a tradition in my house but a few years ago my mom told me that her mother made them and that they were delicious. I was quite surprised by this. I found myself wondering, ¨Is the reputation of the dreaded fruitcake a myth? If my grandmother made them and they were reportedly unforgettable, surely I must be missing something?!” So I got digging and discovered Delia Smith. Now, Delia´s ¨Complete Cookery Coursebook¨ is a classic. The most popular recipe in her cook book is her fruitcake,  also known as a Christmas cake. She herself has admitted that when she was promoting her cookbook, she would bring samples of her Christmas cake and people would leave not only with a happy tummy but with a copy of her cookbook! I decided that I had to try it! I invited my parents to spend Christmas with me and would make them a fruitcake! I was living on my own in Malaga and felt proud to be able to invite them and to make them a Christmas dinner! The result was wonderful. Was it perfect? Well, no! I went a bit overboard with the brandy hahaha!  Still, it was a memorable moment when I brought it out after we had our Christmas turkey. No crappy dry cake! It was rich and moist.  My mom said that my grandmother would have been proud of me. Since then, I have made a fruitcake every year and manage to learn new things every time.The key to making these is time and following some good tips. They do not require a lot of culinary expertise either!
To be honest, they do not take a long to prepare. Quite simple, really. But when you give them their brandy bath (a little brandy goes a long way..not talking about marinating here!), the flavour improves with time. You bake the cake, put in about two or three teaspoons of brandy, wrap it, then store it in a cool, dry place. Then a week or two later,  you do the same, perhaps just one teaspoon this time. Yes, it is worth the effort. The finished product is so impressive and my husband, who does not enjoy a glass of brandy like I do, loves it. When I got married, he told me he had never tried a fruitcake in his life. Now when he knows I am going to make it, it becomes an event and he is so happy! In fact, I made my fruitcake today and he said that he wished he could have a slice right then and ther because it smelled so good! I am posting this recipe now because maybe you will want to try this. Maybe you will have some happy memories of having fruitcake with your family as well. You can make this in September, October or November. The earlier  you make it, the better it is but make it at least four weeks before you are ready to serve it. It really is worth a try!

If you decide to take up my challenge, here are some guidelines: (I have Lili over at Lili’s Cakes for inspiring me to post a challenge. I love her challenges).

1. On the 26th of December, I will post the Fruitcake Challenge link. I will post the results of my own fruitcake too! Link your fruitcake posts to my post so that I can include you in the challenge. As soon as I have all the links, I will share all of your results in a later post on my blog. The deadline to post them is January 2nd.

2. You are not obligated to share your recipes or any adjustments you made. Still, if you have any advice to share, it is much appreciated.

3. It would be great if you could include this image in your post.

4. If you have any doubts or questions, please ask.

5. Have fun!

Some things to remember about fruitcakes before you proceed to reading the recipe and instructions:
* You don´t need to use any kind of expensive brandy. I use a Spanish one that costs about 6 euros. If you are not keen on brandy, you can choose a dark rum or even whiskey instead. I have also heard that if you don´t want to use alcohol, you can also use orange juice.
* Fuitcake recipes are quite flexible. For example, Delia uses currants which are hard to find here in Spain. No problem. I replace the amount of currants with something else. You can use any combination of dried fruits that you like. I have used apricots, peaches, raisins prunes and dates. This year, my ingredients included the following:
140 g candied orange peel
90 g almonds
30 g walnuts
80 g dried peaches
180 g glace cherries
150 g dates
100 g raisins
145 g figs
* Before you make the cake, soak your dried fruit and nuts in your brandy and rum for 1 to 2 days. It improves their flavour tremendously. I just put them in a tupperware, fill it with brandy until they are just covered, put the lid on it and then set it aside. After one or two days, drain them well before baking. Afterwards, the leftover brandy can be used to ¨feed¨ your cake. No waste.

* KNOW your oven. The original recipe states that you should not even expect the cake to be done before four hours have passed. The cake is baked on low heat and cakes with dried fruits bake longer. However, my fruitcakes are done within two to two and half hours./div>

* I use a cake pan that is 3 inches deep and 9 inches wide.  I love the height it produces. It is a springform. I recommend using a springform because it improves the shape and it is easier to remove the cake afterwards!
* This cake can also include a marzipan icing but I never use it. I think the cake is perfect as it is.

If you choose to do the marzipan icing, do it on the day you will serve it. The Christmas cake marzipan icing can be found on Delia’s website.

Here is the original list of ingredients from Delia online I have adapted her instructions only slightly. For example, she only soaks the dried  fruit and not the nuts. She covers her cake with parchment paper and I don´t. You decide what you want to do!

For the pre-soaking:
 450g currants
 175g sultanas
 175g raisins
 50g chopped glacé cherries
 50g mixed chopped candied peel
 100ml brandy
For the cake:
 225g plain flour [ use cake flour]
 ½ teaspoon salt
 ¼ level teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
 ½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice
 225g dark brown soft sugar
 4 large eggs
 1 dessertspoon black treacle [Treacle is molasses]
 225g spreadable butter [Unsalted]
 50g chopped almonds (skin on)  [I  have used skinless]
 zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange [Grated]
For feeding and topping:
 Armagnac or brandy to ‘feed’ the cake
 100g whole blanched almonds (only if you don’t intend to ice the cake)
Equipment: You will also need a Delia Online 20cm round loose-based cake tin (or similar), greased, with base and side lined plus some baking parchment. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of the tin for extra protection



  1. A day or two before baking,weigh your dried fruits and nuts that you are using. Place them in a bowl or container, cover them in brandy or rum, cover and set aside.
  2. Drain them well before baking. Set aside the brandy. You can use it to feed your cake afterwards.


  1. Butter  your cake pan and line it well with parchment paper. It is worth the effort to cut the pieces well to fit your cake pan because it improves the shape of your fruitcake. Appearance is important!


  1. Preheat oven to 140.
  2.  In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt and spices. Set aside. Then in a separate large bowl, beat (on a low setting) the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. In another separate bowl, beat (once again on low setting)the eggs until they are fluffy. Then add them to the butter mixture a little at a time. It is important to add them gradually so that the mixture does not curdle.
    Now fold in the flour gradually. It is important that you fold it in to keep the air in. Set aside.
  3. Now take your drained fruit and add about  3/4 cup of flour. Mix it in until the fruit is well coated. This is done in order to prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake when you put it in the cake pan.
  4.  Now gradually add in the fruit and nuts.Then the grated lemon and orange zests.


     5. Using a large spoon, put the cake mixture into your baking pan. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture out. Then spread the top evenly. Add some walnuts (or almonds)  to the top to make a pretty decoration.(don´t do this if you are going to put icing on it)


      6. Place the cake on the lowest shelf in the oven. When you see it turning brown at the top, cover it with foil. Delia says to cover it immediately with parchment paper with a hole in the middle the size of about a quarter. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure the parchment paper or foil does not tough the mixture, just the rim of the baking pan.

      7. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Like i said, the original instructions mentioned four hours of baking time but after two hours, mine was ready. Just remember that fruticakes do take time to bake but ovens vary. The cake center  should be springy to the touch.

      8. Let the cake cool in the pan  for 30 minutes and then remove it to a rack to cool down.


Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Doesn´t it look beautiful? And really, not much work involved!



When it’s cold, begin feeding it  by making small holes in the top and bottom with a cocktail stick or toothpick. Then pour in 2 to 3 teaspoons of brandy.  Wrap it in parchment paper then in foil. (you can also wrap it in cheesecloth or a white tea towel before wrapping it in foil).  Store in an airtight container and put it in a cool, dry place. Now you can feed it at intervals. I usually put in about a teaspoon or two every two weeks.As I have said, you decide what you want to do! Just remeber that a little alcohol goes a long way!

This goes so well with a coffee or tea. Nothing like a cozy blankee, a tea and a slice of cake. Bring on the cold weather please!

I hope you enjoy this and happy baking! I will post the photo of how it looks when it is served at Christmas! I hope you will do the same if you try this challenge! Looking forward to seeing your goodies!

xxxx Natascha

25 thoughts on “Delia Smiths´s Classic Christmas Fruitcake and a fruitcake challenge

  1. I have Delia’s Christmas cook book and have used the recipe with some slight changes, I usually ‘feed’ the cake with Irish whiskey and its delicious!

  2. I love your story about how you came to like fruitcake! My mom used to make fruitcake, and just started making it again every year recently. Just as you said, I love how rich and moist they become, and how fruitcakes change with age. If we make a fruitcake this year I will definitely participate in your challenge!! 🙂

  3. A fruitcake challenge sounds great Natascha! Love fruitcakes and making them. I was planning to post a fruitcake recipe around October since people would make one a month or two before Christmas – would it be okay to post that recipe up on your challenge? Or maybe I can invent a new one in December … ? Anyway, looking forward to seeing everyone’s fruitcake here… yay! And thanks for the shoutout.
    This looks like such a lovely challenge and your fruitcake is beautiful! 🙂 x

      1. Thanks Natascha! That’s great…I’m very happy to be taking part. You’re very welcome and I’m really looking forward to your challenge and looking at some yummy fruitcakes! 🙂 xxx

  4. Thanks for the adapted recipe! I shall book mark this in my recipes. I’m not a huge fan of fruit cake, but if it’s a very delicious moist one with high quality fruit I’m all for it. I can still remember my lovely Mum’s fruit cake when I was a child, I seemed to like it a lot more then.

    Interesting for me to find a Delia recipe on your blog, I’ve always loved Delia’s recipes, gre up watching her cook on tv. I bought her complete cookery course many years ago, still use it today! I have sometimes found her oven temperatures to be a little inaccurate, not found that with any other recipes, definitely not my oven! But I still love her basic recipes, they are so good. I actually live a ten minute walk from her restaurant and football club she owns in Norwich, Norfolk, England. I’ve eaten in the restaurant, very lovely, but never yet met the lady herself. I might do one day, Norwich is a small city.

    Hope you don’t mind me mentioning this, but your link to Delia Online is (DeliasCleaners) a dry cleaner company in Arizona. Kind of interesting, but not quite what I was expecting! I think you might have meant to link to this Not sure where that recipe is though!

    1. Hi! First, Thank you for stopping by my blog and for checking this out! I did not know that Delia had a show too. I like her recipes too. I have her cookery course cookbook too and I love it. Second, THANK YOU for noticing my error in the link! I fixed it! I love a good fruitcake too. 😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘😘

      1. No problem, I’ve made wrong links too. More than one tab open with unfamiliar websites is often what gets me going wrong! Delia doesn’t currently have a show on tv, but she did for nearly twenty years. I think she’s turned to other things (running a football club is one of them) in her retirement age, and I don’t blame her, there are so many new young celebrity chefs it must be hard to compete with that glossy young tv world. But, it’s the food that counts for me!! 😉

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