IT just wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas cake — and there are only eight weeks left before it’s sliced on December 25.

A traditional fruit cake improves the longer it is left to mature, so you shouldn’t leave it much longer before you set about baking.

Packed with bags of dried fruits, such as currants, sultanas and cherries and, hopefully, liberally fed with sherry or brandy, over the next weeks, it should be moist and full of flavour for Christmas tea.

Here’s a recipe from BBc chef James Martin.

Ingredients: 1kg mixed dried fruits (use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, cranberries, prunes or figs) zest and juice 1 orange zest and juice 1 lemon 150ml brandy, sherry, whisky or rum, plus extra for feeding 250g pack butter, softened 200g light soft brown sugar 175g plain flour 100g ground almonds ½ tsp baking powder 2 tsp mixed spice 1 tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp ground cloves 100g flaked almonds 4 large eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract.


1. Put the dried fruit, zests and juice, alcohol, butter and sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 mins.

Tip the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 mins.

2. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside – tie with string to secure.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Tip into your prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hours.

4. Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tablespoons of your chosen alcohol. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.

5. To store, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap well in cling film. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every fortnight, until you ice it.

Don’t feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.