Bourke Street Bakery Christmas Cake


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Bourke Street Bakery

By Paul Allam and David McGuinness

Published 2009

  • About


Christmas Fruit Soak (make the fruit soak 5 weeks in advance)

  • 55 g (2 oz/¼ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 55 ml ( fl oz) water
  • 160 ml ( fl oz) brandy
  • 90 g ( oz/¾ cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 80 g ( oz/½ cup) currants
  • 80 g ( oz/ cup) pitted prunes, chopped
  • 80 g ( oz/½ cup) fresh pitted dates, chopped
  • 150 g ( oz/ cups) raisins
  • 55 g (2 oz/ cup) mixed peel (mixed candied citrus peel)
  • 135 g ( oz/¾ cup) chopped dried figs


  • 100 g ( oz/ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • ½ teaspoon mixed (pumpkin pie) spice
  • 15 g (½ oz) ground almonds
  • 110 g ( oz) unsalted butter
  • 100 g ( oz) soft brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons treacle
  • 1 teaspoon marmalade
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) brandy, for feeding

Brandy Butter

  • 200 g (7 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 125 g ( oz/1 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) brandy


To make the fruit soak, put the sugar in a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour the brandy and cooled sugar syrup into an airtight container and add the fruit, mixing well to coat. Cover and keep at room temperature for about 5 weeks. During the first week you will need to stir the fruit daily; for the following four weeks you will only need to stir the fruit once a week — you should be left with a thick syrupy fruit mix. If you’re not ready to make the cake at this time, refrigerate the fruit for up to 2 months — it will only get better.

When you are ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/ Gas 5). Grease two 12.5 cm ( inch) round cake tins and line the base and side of each tin with baking paper.

Sift the flour, mixed spice and ground almonds together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, honey, treacle and marmalade, until pale. Add the eggs, a little at a time, ensuring each amount is completely incorporated before adding more — take care the mixture doesn’t curdle at this stage — if you see it starting to separate slightly, add a small amount of the flour mix to bring it back together. With the motor still running, add the flour — stop as soon as it is combined. Using a gloved hand fold in 900 g (2 lb) of the fruit soak, until combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake tins, tapping heavily on the bench to settle. Place the cake tins on an oven tray and place in the oven. Immediately lower the temperature to 160°C (315°F/ Gas 2–3) and bake for about 40 minutes. Turn the tray and bake for 20 minutes further. The cakes are cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. It may take up to 1 hour 20 minutes to bake — cover the top of the cake loosely with baking paper if the top starts to brown. Remove from the oven and leave in the tins to cool.

Make about 20–30 holes in each cake using a skewer, and pushing it about three-quarters of the way through the cake. Cut two large sheets of foil and two large sheets of baking paper. Place each piece of foil on the bench and lay a sheet of baking paper over each. Working with one cake at a time, place the cake on the baking paper and draw the paper and foil up around the cake scrunching it together on top to form a container that will hold any alcohol, which may soak through when feeding the cakes. Repeat with the remaining cake.

To feed the cakes, open up the top of the foil wrapping and brush over about 1 teaspoon of brandy. Repeat this every 3–4 days for 8–10 weeks or until the alcohol seems not to be soaking in anymore. Be sure the foil is well closed after each feed to stop evaporation, which will lead to the cakes drying out. It’s best to keep the cakes in an airtight container to keep ants or any little critters that like cake (and alcohol) at bay. Once the cakes are fed, wrap them very well and store them in the container in a dark cool place until ready to serve.

To make the brandy butter, put the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy. With the motor still running, gradually pour in the brandy, making sure it disappears into the mix as it is added. Once all the brandy is incorporated, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. The butter will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Serve the brandy butter at room temperature.

The Bourke Street Bakery Christmas cakes are individually hand-wrapped in calico and tied with twine, ready to be displayed and sold for the few weeks leading up to Christmas. We make smallish cakes as they are very rich and after an indulgent Christmas lunch or dinner, small portions are generally best. These cakes also bake very slowly — to make larger cakes the tins need to be lined with layers of brown paper to stop the sides burning. This recipe allows for two smaller cakes but can easily be doubled or tripled, as long as you have a mixer large enough to handle the increased volumes.

This is a dense cake that is rich in fruit. Like all good fruit cakes it needs to be made a few months in advance and after baking it needs to be soaked with alcohol every 3–4 days for up to 10 weeks. These cakes can be heated in a steamer or microwave and eaten warm like a pudding, served with brandy butter. You can make the brandy butter a few weeks ahead to lighten your load on the big day.