The Festive Season Continues with my Month Before Christmas Cake Recipe

With just under a month remaining; fear not, it’s not too late to make a homemade Christmas cake, in fact this recipe has been tried and tested up to a week before Christmas and it has been just as delicious!

I have not always been a fan of this deeply rich boozy, buttery cake, jeweled nay, brimming with plump intoxicated fruit and nuts.  As a child I loved my little packs of Sun Maid raisins, but bring me a slice of  this “adult” cake laden with one of my favourite break time snacks and you’d see me turn my nose up at it quite promptly.  As with many things, my tastes have evolved with age and I now look forward to baking my own boozy Christmas cake and mince pies every year.

My mother particularly loves fruit cakes and so we would have them in the house now and then.  She liked them so much that she would  attempt making them when her cravings demanded it and as no one else liked them, she would eat the entire cake alone- of course, over several days!

I remember my tastes changing around Christmas at 16 or so.  Instead of cooking at home for Christmas, we decided to eat out.  As with any Christmas lunch there are 4 or 5 courses…sometimes more.  The hotel that we were eating at was renowned for it’s restaurant and so we were sure to get a delicious Christmas feast.   Having an undeniable sweet tooth,  I remember working  my way down the menu dreading to  find that the only desserts available would be boozy, fruit based ones.  What I disliked more than Christmas cake, was Christmas pudding.  Stodgy, boozy and fruity.  Not appetizing or appealing to me at all. To my relief there were a number of other acceptable choices.  I can’t remember exactly what I chose, but I am sure it was something chocolatey.  I also noticed that one of the courses on the menu was “Mince Pies and Port” with no alternative;  more for Mum, I thought.   After we had eaten the most deliciously perfect turkey with all the trimmings, along came the mince pies.  The waitress placed a plate of deceptively delicious looking pies in the centre of the table so we could all help ourselves. My mother loves mince pies too, and so I remember us all joking that she would be the one eating the entire plate.  My father took one because he loved pastry and so as usual my sister and I copied him and did the same.  He neatly left the filling behind as he enjoyed the pastry and the port. As I nibbled away at the pastry I remember the taste of the filling that was clinging to the inside of the pastry.  It’s  aromatic, syrupy sweetness and hint of citrus and spice was DELICIOUS!  I slowly but surely ate the entire pie, filling and all.  It was a seriously delicious mince pie.  Yes it was  boozy and full of fruit and nuts, but I loved it.  Ever since that day my interest in boozy fruit and nut filled sweets began!

My Month Before Christmas, Christmas Cake

The recipe I am sharing is the one that I have adapted from probably 4 or 5 recipes that I have tried over the years and now this is the one I make every year.  Although the content of it varies from year to year, the base and measurements stay the same. A month is more than enough time to make a deliciously boozy mature and moist Christmas cake, and in fact if you are extremely last-minute, you can make this even a week before as I have done in the past.  It will be slightly less boozy, but equally moist and delicious.

The night before you make the cake:


1kg of mixed fruit I vary this every year. A good starting mix would be 250g currants, 150g sultanas, 150g raisins,(550g of ready mixed vine fruits will suffice), 150g glace cherries, 150g dried apricots, 150g italian mixed peel. You can vary this with this cranberries, figs, prunes, dates, etc.

125g roughly chopped almonds.  You can used blanched almond without skins, but I leave the skins on.  I also vary this with a mix of nuts.  This year I used 75g almonds and 50g pistachios.

150mls of soaking liquour  I usually use a mix of brandy with 2-3 tbsp of amaretto to make up the 150mls. You can use whisky or rum as well.

The zest of 2 oranges

The zest of 1 lemon


  1. Chop the larger fruits into smallish pieces so that the fruit is uniform is size.   I don’t like to chop the fruit too finely as I think chunks of glistening apricots and cherries look quite beautiful when you cut the cake
  2. Take a large glass bowl (I prefer glass as it is non reactive) and tip in all the fruit, nuts, zest of lemon and oranges and mix well.
  3. Finally add the booze and stir to coat all fruit.
  4. Put a lid or plate on top and leave to macerate overnight so that the fruits can soak up all that lovely booze.

The next day:


250g butter

275g dark muscovado sugar (if you want to try a deeper richer flavour try molasses sugar, likewise if you want a lighter flavour, use light muscovado sugar- or a mix.

225g plain flour

150g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

5 eggs

Spices: 2 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cardamon (for the Indian in me!), 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 2 tsp ground vanilla beans (if you cannot find use 1-2 tbsp good vanilla extract.)  You can vary these spices according to your preference.

A couple of extra tbsp of the liquor you are using for good measure.  This is entirely optional.  I just enjoy the spirit of adding more spirit…no pun intended.

You will also need some newspaper and string, a deep 9 inch cake tin (preferably loose bottomed), baking parchment, a large roasting tin that will fit your cake tin, oil or butter for greasing and your regular cake making utensils.


Preheat the oven to 140C no fan.  I don’t use a fan oven to ensure that the cake doesn’t dry out.

  1. Prepare the tin first by greasing and lining it with baking parchment. Ensure the paper that you line around the side of the tin is taller by an inch or so for a collar. When you make the circle for the bottom, triple up your paper to make 3 circles as you will need 2 circles to place over the cake with while it bakes to protect it from burning.
  2. Take your roasting tin and line it with 3 or 4 folded sheets of newspaper.
  3. Then take 4 sheets and fold to a width that will ensure a 1-2 inch collar above the rim of the cake tin.  Take some string or thread and tie it securely.
  4. Next take the butter and the sugar and cream well until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time beating well each time to incorporate.  The mixture may curdle, but this is fine.
  6. Add the vanilla extract and extra tbsps of liqour now if using and mix.
  7. Now add this mixture to all the fruit and nuts that you have soaked and stir well to coat.
  8. Instead of sieving the flour I take all the dry ingredients- the flour, baking powder. ground almonds and spices and whisk them in a large bowl to lighten them and add air.
  9. Take the dry mixture and fold into the wet mixture in two lots until all is incorporated. The consistency is a soft dropping consistency.  Less soft than a victoria sponge because of the body of the fruit, more the texture of ripe bananas when you mash them.
  10. Spoon the mixture into the greased pan, spreading to level the surface.
  11. Take the two other circles that you cut our earlier and snipe a hole in them about the size of a 5p/dime coin and gently place over the top of the cake batter ensuring you don’t press it down too much.
  12. Place the cake in the middle of the oven to bake for about 2  – 3 hrs.  Every oven is different so please check after 2 hrs  inserting a skewer in the hole you created in the centre of the top layers of baking parchment. Mine was done in 2 hrs 15 mins this time, but it has taken longer before.
  13. The cake is done when your skewer is clean.
  14. Leave the cake to cool for some hours and then remove from tin.   Remove baking parchment around the sides and the top of the cake.  The top of the cake is unlikely to be completely flat and so a tip I have here to ensure a nice even flat surface to decorate on is to use the bottom of the cake as the top.  Place a large sheet of strong turkey foil over the top of the cake.  Then place a large plate over this.  Now flip the cake over so the top now becomes the bottom.  You will now have a lovely smooth flat surface to work with.  Lift the cake using the edges of the foil and place into an airtight tin.  If you don’t have a tin big enough, you will need to wrap it 2 or 3 times in foil each time you feed it.

Feeding the cake


The liquour of your choice.  I mostly make a mix of brandy and amaretto 2:1  and feed the cake with this every 4 or 5 days depending on how long it is before I intend to serve it. You can also use rum, whisky or sherry.


  1. After you have baked the cake and it has cooled, before closing the container and wrapping the top of the cake take a skewer and poke holes evenly all over the cake.
  2. Take your liquor and spoon 5 -8 tbsp over the top ensuring that it is all absorbed before you wrap it up again.
  3. Repeat this process every 4- 7 days depending on how long you have before you are serving it.


I don’t like to decorate the entire cake as I don’t like too much icing, so I usually cut out a round of good quality marzipan and white fondant and place on top of the cake before decorating with something Christmassy and wrapping it in a festive wide ribbon.

Roll out the marzipan  to 3-4mm and cut out a circle out by using the cake tin for size.  Attach by brushing the cake with either apricot jam or some more liquor. Leave this to dry for a day.

The next day cut the circle for the white fondant and brush the marzipan lightly with liquor before placing the fondant on top.  Leave to dry for a few hours or overnight before decorating depending on what you are planning to do.  You can wrap the cake with ribbon whether you ice the entire cake or not.

Be sure to come back and check my decorating post in a couple of weeks for some tips on how to decorate your cake!

Happy Festive Baking!


*Meat Free Tuesday Diwali Special* Stories, Memories & Sharing Recipes Over Oceans. Pedas: Last Minute Mithai

Diwali is one of my favourite times of the year.  For me it marks the official change from Autumn to Winter.  Reminding me that Christmas is only around the corner.  And so the festive spirit embeds itself inside me for the coming months.

I am not an overly religious person, but for me, Diwali has always signified a much stronger sense of letting go and cleansing of the year that has passed than the New Year that is followed by western tradition.  This feeling stems from memories as a child.  The togetherness I have felt as a family during Diwali over say Christmas or New Year has always been much more meaningful.  This is more than likely due to the ritual we follow that makes me feel like we’re cleaning out the old to invite and make space for the new.

Diwali has always been something that was important that we celebrated between the 4 of us.  An intimate celebration.  I remember being excited about the fact that Dad would be home from work early that day because pooja (prayers) would have to be done around 6pm bringing dozens of fireworks with him. Meanwhile, we would light up the house.   The soft, glimmering candle light from at least 50 candles scattered in every room pervaded the house.  We made certain all the curtains were wide open to ensure that Laxami (the goddess worshiped during Diwali) would find our house  as it would be shining so brightly in the night sky.  When she found us she would bestow us with love, prosperity, health, wealth and happiness for the coming year.   The first thing we would do when Dad came home was the pooja that was conducted by Mum and was finished by Dad who blessed us and then started the exchange of prasad (sweet offering during prayers) between each of us that we all took turns giving each other.   With the Laxami Aarti (song sung in praise of Laxami) chiming softly in the background, we all would sit to have dinner.  It was always a simple, but astoundingly delicious dinner made even more so by the peace and togetherness that the day brought.  To finish we ate the sweets that I would have made especially for Diwali and we would end the night outside, together, to enjoy sparklers, Catherine wheels and rockets galore.   It never felt terribly cold, even if it was October or November because the light that was radiating from the house and the happiness of being together was warming me up from the inside.

The Story of Diwali

As the story goes (when you tell it to a child)………. Once upon a time, the banished warrior Prince Rama who was married to the beautiful Princess Sita found that his wife had been kidnapped by the 10 headed 20 armed Demon King Ravana who decided he wanted to steal Sita and make her his own.  Rama was determined to find and rescue his love from the Demon King.  Sita had hope that her love would find her and so she left a trail of her shiny jewellry for Rama to find and follow.  Rama followed the trail until he came upon the monkey king,  Hanuman, who he befriended and told about his dreadful loss and the quest he was on to rescue his love.  King Hanuman decided to help Rama by sending messages to all the monkeys in the world who then passed the message to find Sita to all the bears too, who then started to look for Sita. After a torturous search, Hanuman finally found Sita trapped and imprisoned on Ravana’s Island, Lanka.  With the help of the monkeys and bears and eventually all the other animals in the world they built a bridge and were able to get across  to fight a mighty battle to get the Princess back.  With a magic arrow, Rama killed Ravana in the chest.  Everyone in the world rejoiced.  The banished Prince and Princess needed to make their way back to the land they had been banished from.  To help them find their way back to Ayodhya, the people of their land lit oil lamps in order to welcome them and help guide them back home where they belonged.

Ever since the story of Rama and Sita finding their way home with the help of  lit oil lamps, Hindus all over the world light oil diyas (clay oil lamps) on Diwali to remember the triumph of light over darkness and how the light always guides you home. I guess it is the story of Diwali that resonates with my feelings of togetherness and home during Diwali.  The light always brings us together.  It is not quite the same without Dad, but we still continue the ritual.

The void is greater this year.  My dearest sister is not here for Diwali.  She is a few thousand miles away and although it is not the first Diwali I can recall that we have not spent together, she is certainly missed.

Today as I was busy in my annual ritual of making my homemade mithai (sweets) for Diwali, I got a Skype call.  All that basking in the Caribbean sun hadn’t allowed her to forget that she was missing the togetherness we share at this time of year and have done for nearly 30 years.  How time flies!

As I continued my mithai making in the kitchen we chatted and she told me how she was planning to celebrate.  She had already talked to Mum about what she could make and had taken some recipes.  I asked her what she would make as prasad.  I normally take a plate of mithai I have made and offer it as prasad for the pooja.  She wanted to make halwa and had already got the recipe.  As we were talking I suggested making some mithai.  Although she had never made any mithai before, I had the perfect recipe for her that was extremely simple, quick and of course, delicious; not to mention a favourite of hers: a perfect last minute mithai. I decided to make it for her, to show her how quick and easy it is.  It is a recipe I came across online a number of years ago.  After a couple of tweaks, (not that there are many you can make considering the fact that there are only 3 main ingredients!), I came up with my favourite version and I decided to share it here, too. I am sure you will have lots of compliments and success with this recipe for years to come.

30 minute Pedas

I usually avoid microwaving anything unless absolutely necessary and even then, it is only for heating something up or defrosting.  I much prefer to cook on the hob or cooker and in fact  I have never cooked something from scratch in the microwave.  Until now that is.  This will not start my foray into microwave cookery, I can assure you.  But these truly are the quickest, easiest, most versatile tasty Indian sweets that you can make and perfect for when you’re in the need to a last minute dessert or gift.  Nothing shows you care as much as when you make something especially for someone.

Makes about 25-40 pieces depending on the size you make them


125g homemade ghee or if not, use unsalted butter.  If you can make the ghee, please do as the toasty taste from the ghee adds a lovely slight caramelised nutty flavour dimension. (I will post instructions for how to make your own ghee for cooking soon!)

200g whole milk powder (the kind you get in Asian supermarkets most easily.  In the UK East End, Natco and Nido are all suitable.  Do not use skimmed milk powder)

1 tin /395g of condensed milk

Pick one of the following flavour options:  plain, cardamon powder 1 tsp, vanilla extract 2 tsp, rose water 2 tsp, kewra water 1 tsp, nutmeg 1/2 tsp, cocoa 2 tbsp + 2 tsp vanilla.

For garnishing slivers of pistachios or almonds, edible glitter, other cake decorations.

Food colour of your choice (optional)


  1. Take the homemade ghee or butter and put it in a medium to large Pyrex bowl and microwave until melted- depending on the power of your microwave and how cold your ghee or butter is, about 30 seconds- 1.5m.
  2. When melted, add the entire tin of condensed milk, the milk powder and the flavouring of your choice (and colour if you are using).  Stir well and put back in the microwave for 3-4 minutes depending on the power you have.  Check and stir well every minute.
  3. After 3-4 minutes is up the mixture is ready. It should be a thick dough like consistency now. Stir well and  leave to cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. After 5 minutes the mixture will still be hot, but you should be able to handle it to make balls.  Divide the mixture into tbsp size balls, roll in your hands and place on a tray lined with grease-proof paper or foil.
  5. Once all rolled, make an indentation in the top of each peda which will flatten them slightly.  You can use the tip of your finger or a stamp like the kind that I have used or another implement of your choice to make a design.
  6. Finally garnish with nuts if you are using and or other decorations such as edible glitter.
  7. Leave to cool and within 15 minutes they will be cool and ready to serve!


And they were a resounding success in Jamaica, too!  She added her own little twist….that gene really does run through both of us!

My sister’s version- Caribbean Coconut Pedas

An excellent effort!