Reed Family Christmas Cake – Reed Family Linen

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Reed Family Christmas Cake

It’s our favourite time of the year, and whilst our mothers and grandmothers would no doubt have had the Christmas cake “curing” for weeks already, our lives are busy and we aren’t here to heap Christmas shame on anyone.

If making your own Christmas cake fills your heart with joy, try our classic Reed family recipe. Full disclosure, I don’t make my own royal icing, the satisfaction of baking my own dark and sticky sponge laden with goodness is enough for me. I roll out ready made royal or fondant icing and wrap my cake before decorating with dried cherries and candied peel to serve.

Ingredients – For The Cake |

  • 175g/6oz raisins,
  • 250g/12oz natural glacé cherries, halved & rinsed,
  • 75g/3oz dried apricots, chopped,
  • 400g/1lb 2oz currants,
  • 75g/3oz mixed candied peel,
  • 350g/12oz sultanas,
  • 150ml/¼pt brandy, plus extra for feeding,
  • 1 oranges, zest only,
  • 1 lemon, zest only,
  • 250g/9oz salted butter, softened,
  • 250g/9oz dark muscovado sugar,
  • 4 large free-range eggs, at room temperature,
  • 1 tbsp black treacle,
  • 75g/3oz blanched almonds, chopped,
  • 75g/3oz pecan nuts, chopped,
  • 275g/10oz plain flour,
  • 1½ tsp mixed spice.

For The Covering |

  • 3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved,
  • Icing sugar
  • 675g/1lb 8oz marzipan

For The Royal Icing |

  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only,
  • 675g/1½lb icing sugar, sifted,
  • 3 tsp lemon juice,
  • 1½ tsp glycerine.

Method |

Place all the dried fruit, including the cherries, into a large mixing bowl, pour over your brandy and stir in the zest. Cover with clingfilm and leave to soak for three hours.

Grease and line a 23cm/9in deep, round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper and preheat your oven to 140C/120C Fan/Gas 1.

Measure your butter, sugar, eggs, treacle, almonds and pecans into a very large bowl and beat well (preferably with an electric free-standing mixer). Add the flour and ground spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in your soaked fruit. Spoon into your prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake in the centre of your preheated oven for about 4-4½ hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after two hours, and if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

When cool, pierce the cake with a fine skewer and feed with extra brandy. Wrap your completely cool cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place. It will keep for up to three months.

For the covering, stand the cake upside down, flat side up, on a cake board which is 5cm/2in larger than the size of the cake. Brush the sides and the top of your cake with warm apricot jam.

Liberally dust a work surface with icing sugar and then roll out the marzipan to about 5cm/2in larger than the surface of the cake. Keep moving the marzipan as you roll, checking that it is not sticking to the work surface. Dust the work surface with more icing sugar as necessary.


Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake using a rolling pin. Level and smooth the top of the paste with the rolling pin, then ease the marzipan down the sides of the cake, smoothing it at the same time. Neatly trim the excess marzipan from the base of the cake with a small sharp knife. Cover the cake loosely with baking parchment and leave for a day to dry out before adding the royal icing.

(If you are making your own)

For the royal icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Mix in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time. You can do this with a hand-held electric whisk, but keep the speed low.

Stir in the lemon juice and glycerine and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.

Cover the surface of the icing tightly with clingfilm and keep in a cool place until needed.

To ice the cake, place all the icing onto the top of the cake. Spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake with a palette knife. For a snow-peak effect, use a smaller palette knife to rough up the icing.

Leave the cake loosely covered overnight for the icing to harden a little, then wrap or store in an airtight container in a cool place until needed.

This delicious cake is well deserving of a little pomp and ceremony, set a tray with our limited edition Raffles Tea Tray Cloth, brew some loose leaf Earl Grey tea and enjoy your efforts in the kitchen.

Happy festive baking,

Karen Reed.

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