There’s a Christmas cake I’ve been making for years and it’s from the Australian Women’s Weekly Celebration cookbook. I was first attracted to this recipe because there’s a lovely story attached to it.
Way back in 1937, the Australian Women’s Weekly ran a competition for the best fruit cake. This recipe won and the prize was 0ne hundred pounds. I’ve done a google search and one hundred pounds back then is worth the equivalent today of three thousand pounds or just under $5,000.
Five thousand dollars for a cake recipe? And in the Great Depression? The winner must have been celebrating into the 1950’s.
This is a lovely fruit cake recipe. Because it stems from the depression when unusual or extravagant ingredients were either unavailable or not affordable, this recipe has very traditional and easily sourced ingredients.
The original recipe calls for a 25cm square cake tin or a 28cm deep round cake tin and the cooking time is five hours. However, not everyone wants a massive cake and I’ve used this recipe to make four mini-cakes. Thankfully, my oven is big enough to cook them all at once which made the process a lot more efficient than it otherwise would have been.
The cake looks very festive when it’s cut with the white almonds and red and green cherries. I’m sorry I can’t show you the sliced cake but that would make my gifts for special friends look rather ordinary.
Here are three of the four cakes, all iced and decorated and ready to be given to my friends. There’s a fourth cake sitting in the pantry still waiting to be decorated.
If you’re going to attempt these cakes, they are quite labour intensive but there are stages that are done on different days so it’s not a crippling experience. The good thing is, these are definitely make-ahead gifts and the more jobs we can tick off before Christmas Eve, the better.
Now, when it comes to decorating the cakes, with cute Christmas imagery, I googled ‘how to draw angels/trees/snowmen’. Up came websites that teach children how to draw simplistically. This is as much detail as you need for cake decorating. If you don’t want to free-hand draw, you can always use your Christmas-inspired cookie cutters – whatever works!
Prize Winning Fruit Cake
Serves: Each mini-cake will cut into around 16 slices.
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5 if not decorating; 4/5 – 5/5 (depending on how intricate the design) if working with fondant.
Cost: The cake itself isn’t too pricey but buying all the decorative bits and pieces does add up.
- 500g (3 1/4 cups) sultanas
- 500g (3 1/4 cups) currants
- 250g (1 1/2 cups) raisins, chopped
- 125g (2/3 cup) red and green glace cherries, halved
- 11/2 up mixed peel
- 185g (1 1/2 cups) blanched almonds, halved
- 1/3 cup orange marmalade
- 1 tbspn grated orange rind
- 2 tspns grated lemon rind
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 2/3 cup brandy
- 500g butter
- 500g (2 cups) brown sugar, firmly packed
- 8 eggs
- 3 cups plain flour
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- 4 tbspns brandy, extra
Combine fruit, almonds, marmalade, rinds, juice and brandy in a large bowl; mix well. Cover bowl, stand mixture, stirring daily, for up to a week.
Cream butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer only until ingredients are combined. Beat in eggs one at a time, beat only until combined between each addition. Add creamed mixture to fruit mixture, mix well; mix in sifted flours in 2 lots.
Prepare cake tins! Grease and line 4 x 16cm (6.3 inches) round cake tins with brown paper, then a layer of baking paper.
Pre-heat oven to 140C (280F).
Spread mixture evenly into cake tins. Bang cake tins on bench several times to remove any trapped air pockets. Smooth tops of cakes with a wet spatula.
Place in oven and cook for 2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove from oven, place on bench and sprinkle the top of each cake with 1 tbspn of the extra brandy. Cover top of cake immediately with a double layer of foil. Allow cakes to cool overnight in tins. Remove from tins and wrap in a double layer of cling film. Store in a cool dry place until ready to decorate.
To Decorate Cakes:
- 4 appropriately sized cake boards
- 1 x lightly beaten egg white
- 4 x packets of marzipan
- 4 x 500g (1lb) packets of white fondant
- icing sugar
- tube liquid black decorating gel
- food dyes in various colours (I use Corella powders)
- edible stars
- edible glue
- edible markers
- paint brush
- gold powder
- edible baubles (I use
- star-shaped cookie cutter
Measure cake to check it is level. You may need to trim the top. Take a small amount of marzipan and mix with a little water to make it sticky. Place this in the centre of the cake board then place cake, upside down on top of board. Press down to secure the cake to the marzipan and board.
Brush cake with egg white (if you don’t want raw egg on the cake you can substitute with jam).
Roll out marzipan a a bench sprinkled with icing sugar and cover cake. Trim edges and smooth sides with hands sprinkled with icing sugar. You can leave the marzipan to dry out for 24 hours if time permits. If not, press on!
Sprinkle bench with icing sugar and roll out white fondant and cover cake. Use a fine skewer to remove any air bubbles. Use hands dipped in icing sugar to smooth the fondant over the cake. Trim edges.
To decorate the bottom of the tree with ‘rope’, mould icing into a tube shape then roll on a bench using your hands until desired thickness. Make 2 lengths. Take 2 ropes and twist around each other while keeping the icing on a flat surface (if you hold it vertical the ropes will stretch and break!)
Brush edible glue around the base of cake and affix the rope, gently pressing it around the cake.
Dye an appropriate amount of leftover icing, green. Roll out on a bench dusted with icing sugar until a 3-4mms thick. Use a green edible marker to draw Christmas tress on green fondant. Cut out using a sharp pairing knife being careful not to drag the icing as this will alter the shape. You can add some extra green strokes with the pen to the tree to create a more textured look.
Dye a small amount of icing brown and roll out to 3-4mms thickness. Cut a tree stump for the bottom of the tree.
Match each of your trees with a stump and work out where to put them on the cake. If placing them vertically, don’t use too much glue or the trees will slide and this will put green stains on the white surface!
Take each tree and apply a very thin layer of edible glue to the back then stick on the cake. Attach the tree stump in the same way. (For the vertical trees you will probably want to position the stump first.
Take multi-coloured baubles and lightly brush each bauble (one at a time) in glue. Fix onto tree.
Place a star at the top of each tree by lightly brushing it on one side with edible glue. (I bought stars but if you can’t find them you can make your own out of fondant dyed yellow).
For the Snowman
Roll out white fondant until 3-4mms thickness. Search your kitchen for 3 x round lids in appropriate sizes and trace around each one then cut out using a sharp knife. Cut into the larger 2 circles in one section to allow each circle to fit into each other. Cut a straight line across the circle that is the head of the snowman so his hat can sit on his head. Brush each circle lightly with glue and place on top of the cake.
Dye a small amount of fondant, brown then roll out and cut out a hat. (I drew the hat first using an edible marker). Use glue to fit the hat onto the cake.
Use remaining brown fondant to cut out ‘sticks’ for the snowman’s arms. Affix onto cake with glue.
Dye a small amount of fondant, red then cut out a scarf and glue onto cake around the snowman’s neck.
Take 3 baubles and brush one side lightly with glue and press into fondant to create some buttons.
Use liquid black decorating gel to draw eyes on the snowman’s face.
Take a tiny bit of fondant and dye orange. Cut out a carrot shape for nose and stick onto snowman’s face.
Use a red edible marker to draw a smile onto the snowman’s face.
To Make the Angel:
Use a round lid to trace out the angel’s head on white fondant. Cut out head and cut out a nose and a hand.
Dye a small amount of fondant blue. Roll out and cut out a triangular shape to make the angel’s dress and her sleeve.
Dye a small amount of fondant yellow. Roll out and cut out hair shape.
Take remaining white icing and cut out angel’s wings and her horn.
Glue head onto cake, then the nose, then the dress, then the sleeve, then the wings, then the horn, then the hair, then the hand.
Pour some gold powder into a small container and mix with just enough vodka to make a paste. Paint the angel’s wings and the horn, gold.
Use liquid black decorating gel to give the angel an eye. Use a red edible marker to give the angel a mouth.
Roll out remaining white fondant and use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out stars. Stick stars onto sides of cake using edible glue. If the stars start to slide, secure temporarily with a sewing pin. Paint stars gold.
When glue has dried, definitely, definitely, remove pins!
Wrap to give as the best-ever homemade Christmas gifts.
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Other Christmas cake recipes: