Recipe shared with big thanks to Fiona Lowe!
Originally posted 2020, republished 2022
I love a good recipe swap, and thankfully I have plenty of friends who love sharing special recipes too. This delicious Christmas cake comes courtesy of Fiona Lowe, and honours the memory of a special woman who was also generous with her time and baking tips, Lal Fuller*.
Scroll down for the recipe, but first, let me tell you why this cake will be remembered in our household for years to come.
I was keen to make Lal's Christmas cake ever since Fiona posted about it in November 2020. I'd soaked the fruit in spirits for a fortnight, dutifully mixing each day, and was all set to bake in early December. The morning was off to a great start. I had the cake all mixed up by 7am and poured it into my special timber cake box. Also known as a 'coffin cake box', the timber boxes are designed to keep the moisture in during a long, slow bake. It was recommended to me by a Kiwi rellie who makes the best fruit cakes in the Linnell side of the family, and the results have won many a show ribbon. They're quite common in NZ, not so much in Australia, and you can find them HERE.
The cake continued to bake while I ferried the kids to school, but disaster struck less than half an hour later. The principal called with news that Miss 10 had copped the edge of a tennis racquet to the nose, at full force. Back to school I went, weighing up the possibility of a broken nose against my cake, which was by now half cooked.
If I stopped the oven mid-bake, the once-a-year, two-weeks-already-invested cake would be ruined.
If I sent my girl back to class without further medical attention, and her nose was indeed broken and healed wonky, I'd be in for a lifetime of mother's guilt.
The school principal, who could see I was in a pickle, very kindly offered to go to our house and take the cake from the oven 'if we were still in the waiting room' at 11am. We both laughed. Off to hospital we went, and sure enough, two hours later, I took the principal up on the offer (feeling very glad the house was not a complete pig sty).
Thankfully, after half a day in waiting rooms, x-rays revealed the nose wasn't broken, the cake turned out beautifully, and the principal was so impressed with the timber box, she ordered one as a Christmas gift for her hard-to-buy-for aunt. Winning!
Fiona with her award-winning Christmas cake, when the recipe featured in the Geelong Advertiser, many years ago.
Here's the recipe:
Lal Fuller's Christmas Cake
As kindly shared by Fiona Lowe
1/2 pound of currants (225g or 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 pound of sultanas (225g or 1 1/4 cups) 1/2 pound of raisins (225g or 1 1/4 cups) 2oz of cherries (55g or 1/4c) 4oz of dates, chopped (115g or 2/3 cup)
2oz of almonds, chopped (55g or 1/4c) 2oz of mixed peel (55g or 1/4c)
Cut up all of the above and place in a large bowl. Add to the fruit: 1/3 cup of Brandy
1/3 cup of Whisky
1/3 cup of Rum
0.9 fluid ounce (25mls) of lemon essence
0.9 fluid ounce (25mls) of vanilla essence
Soak the fruit in the spirits and essences for a minimum of a week (ideally three weeks) in a covered container. Shake every day. The longer you soak the fruit the tastier the cake. I have soaked it as long as four weeks, but two weeks is fine.
MAKING THE CAKE 1/2 pound of butter (225g)
1/2 pound of sugar (225g or 2/3 cup) 5 eggs
10 oz of plain flour (283g or 2.5 cups) 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Cream the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs separately, beating well between each one. Add the fruit gradually, alternating with the flour.
Preheat the oven at 325 F**. Place the cake in oven for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven to 275 F and bake for another 3 - 4 hours. While cake is warm, slosh the top with a capful of brandy. Where it's completely cool, wrap in GladWrap and store for three weeks to let the flavours develop***.
This recipe can be divided evenly into 6 little tins eg washed and clean tuna tins and make 6 individual Christmas cakes. They take about 1 hour to cook. You can decorate with almonds before baking or fondant icing. They make great gifts for people who don't bake.
Brandy butter icing
I iced mine with the same brandy butter icing my Dad always made (from the Edmonds NZ cookbook). It was divine! Link to icing HERE. The recipe makes enough to ice the sides and the top, so if you're only icing the top like me, you might want to halve the quantities.
*A special note from Fiona: 'Feel free to use but if you do share with other people, please retain Lal's name . She was a great cook and generous with her recipes and I would like to think her recipes live on 30+ years after her death. Fiona xx'
** If you are using a timber cake box, line your cake box with baking paper, add cake mixture, place in a cold oven and turn it on to 130c fan forced. After 1 hour, or when the top of the cake has set, place a piece of baking paper on top of the cake and bake another 3 hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
*** I was impatient and iced ours the day after baking, so we could enjoy throughout December. Tastes lovely fresh too, though next year I'll try to be patient and wrap it and ice closer to Christmas.
Thanks again to Fiona for sharing this recipe with me, and allowing me to share it here on my blog! Find Fiona online HERE or visit her on Instagram or Facebook. You can also get Fiona's free novella Summer of Mine over on her website here.
Here's Fiona's 2019 Christmas cake. She's added almonds to the top before baking to give an extra festive touch!