Old Fashioned Christmas Cake Recipe

You will Love Grandma's old fashioned Christmas cake recipes. For me, it's impossible to imagine a Christmas without a homemade fruit cake. Every fall, Mom made her Christmas cakes using one of the recipes below.

She always wrapped them in several layers of brown paper and safely stored them on the top shelf in the pantry, well beyond my reach — at least she thought they were. Kitchen-stools were invented for a purpose!

Grandma's Old Fashioned Christmas Cake Recipes

Mom's Recipe Scrapbooks (1920s)

Slice of Homemade Christmas Fruitcake on a PlateSlice of Christmas Fruit Cake with Almond Icing
(Source: ©Cathy Yeulet/123RF)

Just consider some of the all-natural ingredients these old time recipes call for: fresh eggs, butter, brown sugar, currents, raisins, walnuts, almonds, mixed peel and spices. No store-bought, doorstop fruit cakes here!

These old fashioned Christmas cake recipes produce cakes that can't help being absolutely delicious. And just look at these tempting serving ideas.

Decorate a Christmas Fruitcake to Make it Extra SpecialFestively Decorated Fruitcake
(Source: ©iStock/Chris_Elwell)
Christmas Fruitcake Iced for the HolidaysChristmas Fuitcake
(Source: ©Cathy Yeulet/123RF)

Tips for Making Christmas Fruit Cakes

Here are some helpful tips on how to make an old fashioned Christmas cake recipe turn out just like Grandma's:

  • Using damp fruit can result in heavy (doorstop) fruit cakes. Raisins and currants should be left in the colander for a while to dry after washing.
  • Fruit should also be dredged with flour before mixing with other ingredients.
  • Remember that dried fruits added to batter makes it stiffer, as they absorb the moisture from the batter. So, if the recipe calls for fresh fruits and you use dry fruits you might have to add a wee bit of water (or brandy) to the batter to make it less stiff, maybe a tablespoonful.
  • Cake pans should not be filled more than two-thirds full.
  • Fruit cakes should bake from two to four hours in a slow (250°F) oven unless the old fashioned Christmas cake recipe specifies otherwise.

Follow these baking tips and you can't go wrong.

Grandma McIlmoyle's Old Fashioned Christmas Cake Recipe

Traditional English Fruitcake with Knife and Fork on a TableTraditional English Fruit Cake for Christmas
(Source: ©nataliamylova/Depositphotos.com)


2 pounds raisins, 2 pounds currents, 1/2 pound mixed peel, 1/2 pound almonds, 1-1/4 pounds brown sugar (2-1/2 cups), 2 cups butter, 1 pound flour (4 cups), 10 eggs, 2 nutmegs, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 wineglass brandy (I used fruit juice instead, being out of brandy).

Directions for mixing:

Cream the butter and sugar, then pour in dry ingredients. Break up the eggs and mix all together well.

Bake 3-1/4 hours (or until done) in a very slow oven not more than 275°F.

Some cooks prefer to steam until none sticks to a straw, then brown in the oven (best way as it burns very quick).

How to Steam Fruit Cake

I had a reader inquire about how to steam Grandma McIlmoyle's fruit cake, since her old fashioned Christmas cake recipe gives that option.

I suspect the cake was steamed similar to how one would steam a Christmas pudding, but I've never tried steaming a cake, preferring the baking method.

The best compromise would be to cover the cake with parchment paper and aluminum foil, then place a shallow pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven below the cake during baking.

Be sure to remove the pan of water during the last hour of baking, to prevent the cake from becoming too moist.

Special Christmas Fruit Cake


Ratafia is an old fashioned term used for a wine or liqueur made from an infusion of fruit and various herbs, and sometimes flavored with almonds.

1 pound dates, 1/2 pound nuts, 1 cup wine, 1 pound butter, 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon rose water, 1/4 cup molasses, 3 pounds raisins, 1 pound peel (mixed), 1/2 cup black currant juice, 3/4 pound brown sugar, 7 eggs, 1 grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon lemon, 1/2 teaspoon Ratafia, 1/2 teaspoon soda.

Prepare fruit, pour wine and black currant juice over same and leave stand overnight.

Cream butter, then add eggs and beat well; then add molasses and soda beaten until light, then add flour, sprinkle fruit with flour and add.

Bake (275°F) in tins lined with heavy brown paper buttered. Do not open oven for about three hours.

Dried Apple Fruit Cake

Dried apples, 1 cup; molasses, 1 cup; 1 egg; sugar, 1/2 cup; milk 1/2 cup; flour 2-1/2 cups; baking powder, 1 teaspoonful.

Directions: Soak the dried apples overnight, then steam until soft; then simmer them slowly in the molasses, until well cooked; when cool, add the other ingredients and bake (300°F) till done. —Dr. Alvin Wood Chase, M.D., 1881.

Inexpensive Christmas Cake

This old fashioned Christmas cake recipe is an inexpensive fruit cake to make for the Holidays, yet it turns out moist, delicious, and suitably rich tasting.

Two cups brown sugar, 1 package seeded raisins (quantity to your preference), 1 tablespoonful of shortening, 1/2 cup molasses, 1 teaspoon ground spices, 1 teaspoon salt. Boil all in a saucepan 5 or 6 minutes.

When cool add 1 teaspoon soda dissolved in a little hot water, 1 pound chopped figs or dates, 3 full cups flour.

Beat well and bake in a slow oven (250°F) about 1-1/2 hours. It will keep moist, in a cool place, without icing.

Aunt Daisy's Christmas Cake Ingredients

2 cups seedless raisins, 2 cups currents, 1/2 pound dates, 2 ounces (1/2 cup) lemon peel, 1/2 pound (1 cup) cut mixed fruits, 1/2 cup whole red cherries, 3/4 cup walnut pieces, 1 cup halved almonds.

Prizewinning Christmas Cake

4 cups sugar
3 cups melted butter
4 cups molasses
2 cups sweet milk
10 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons each of cinnamon, cloves, allspice
Nutmeg to taste
8 cups flour
3 pounds raisins
2 pounds currants
1 pound mixed peel
1 pound chopped nuts, or 3/4 pound chopped nuts and 1/4 pound almonds

Mix as for fruit cake and bake in slow (250°F) oven.

Christmas Fruit Cake With Brandy

This old fashioned Christmas cake recipe calls for brandy, as it enhances the flavor and helps to preserve the cake for a longer shelf life. An inexpensive brandy is quite suitable for cakes.

3/4 pound butter, 1 pound brown sugar, 2 pounds currants, 2 pounds raisins, 1 pound dates, 10 eggs (8 will do), 1/4 pound almonds, 1/4 pound walnuts, 1/2 cup molasses or rose water, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon mace, 1 teaspoon mixed spice, vanilla to suit, 3/4 teaspoon soda, 5 cups flour, 3/4 or 1 cup brandy.

Brandy may be mixed with other ingredients or poured over cake when baked. Bake in a very slow oven (250°F) for 3 to 4 hours. It is the best that I have ever made. And everybody who has ever eaten the cake thinks it splendid.

Christmas Fruit Cake With Sour Cream

1/3 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs or 4 yolks, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1-3/4 cups flour, 1 cup seeded raisins, 1 cup chopped dates, 1/3 cup almonds (blanched and chopped), 1/4 cup citron (sliced thin), 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Mix and bake (250°F) as in a typical old fashioned Christmas cake recipe, or if you prefer the more commonly used method, cream the butter and sugar.

Mix a little of the flour with the fruit and add the rest alternately with the beaten eggs, and the cream in which the soda has been dissolved. Add the floured fruit last, stirring in about a third of it at a time.


If you wish to make a darker fruit cake from this old fashioned Christmas cake recipe, add 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

If you especially like the flavor of molasses, add 1 tablespoon molasses, and about 2 tablespoons more flour.

Rich Tasting Christmas Cake

This old fashioned Christmas cake recipe calls for the fruit and nuts to be cut in large pieces and allowed to stand for a time in the butter mixture, making the cake moist and decidedly chewy for those who love a delicious farmhouse-style fruit cake.

1 pound butter
8 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon mace
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 pounds seeded raisins
1 pound seedless raisins
2 pounds currants
1/2 pound mixed peel
1/4 pound almonds
1/4 pound walnuts

We use rather an unusual method in putting this Christmas cake together. Cut the fruit and nuts in rather large pieces — this makes a fruit laden cake look and taste richer.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then stir in the fruit and peel without flouring it, and let this mixture stand while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

We believe that when the fruit is allowed to stand in the butter in this way its flavor permeates the cake more thoroughly than when it is floured and added last.

Sift the salt and spices with the flour. Beat the eggs. Beat the soda into the sour cream and stir this into the beaten eggs. Add the nuts to the fruit and butter and stir in alternately the sifted flour and spices and the egg and cream mixture.

Line baking pans with greased paper and bake in a slow oven (250°F) till done.

Favorite Christmas Cake Icing Recipes

Mom's Recipe Scrapbooks (1920s)

These delicious homemade icings can be used with any of the old fashioned Christmas cake recipes.

Ornamental Cake Frosting

Ingredients: 3 egg whites, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 pound icing sugar. Put the unbeaten egg whites in a large bowl, sift in icing sugar, and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon.

Add lemon juice. Beat until stiff or until it will hold its shape when cut though with a knife. More sugar may be required.

This icing is applied over a foundation such as almond paste. A pastry tube or a paper funnel may be used to apply fancy decorative trimming.

Pineapple Icing for Christmas Cakes

Two and one-half cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1/2 cup water, 2 egg whites, 1-1/2 teaspoons pineapple.

Cook together the granulated sugar and the corn syrup in 1/2 cup water till it forms a soft ball; then pour over the egg whites beaten stiff and beat till the mixture is almost cold, creamy, and will hold shape when spread. While beating, add pineapple.

Can be used with or without almond paste. Any left over can be kept in a close-covered jar for further use.

Decorate with candied pineapple, red, green, and natural. Cut rings in wedge shapes and arrange in the form of a poinsettia, yellow for centers and green for leaves.

How to Make Almond Icing From Scratch

One pound ground almonds, 4 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon rose water, 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring, 1 pound icing sugar.


Add yolks to almonds, then flavorings and sugar gradually, working till mixture is very smooth and stiff as dough; cut to shape of cake.

Moisten cake with water and press paste to it. Either leave for twenty-four hours before icing or bake in oven till top is delicately browned. —I. R. McK.

Inexpensive Almond Icing With Sweet Potato

Try this old fashioned icing tip. First, bake a sweet potato. When done, scoop out the inside and with a fork mix icing sugar into it to make a firm paste, gradually adding a few drops of almond extract for flavoring.

This makes an excellent and inexpensive almond paste foundation for a decorative icing on Christmas fruit cakes. One sweet potato will take from 1 to 2 cups of icing sugar, depending on its size.

About the Old Fashioned Christmas Cake Recipes

Mom loved to make a traditional English fruit cake for Christmas, and we loved it when she did. I can still recall our farm kitchen being filled with the sweet, spicy aroma of her cakes baking in the oven of the old wood stove.

She was so proud of her homemade Christmas cake. It was moist, fruit-filled, and absolutely delicious! I especially loved its thick layers of marzipan and icing.

Throughout the holidays, whenever visitors came, they could never leave without first sampling a piece or two of Mom's Christmas cake.

Now, you can make these same Holiday cakes chock full the rich flavors of fruit and old time goodness.

Choose an old fashioned Christmas cake recipe and get ready to experience those wonderful Holiday aromas in your kitchen. Give your children fond memories to cherish.

How to Keep Fruit Cake Moist

Want to keep your fruit cake moist? My wife Vicki chooses an old fashioned Christmas Cake recipe and bakes her cake ahead of time (whether dark or light) in a pan lined with modern parchment paper.

After her cake has baked and cooled, she removes it from the pan and leaving the parchment paper on, she wraps the cake entirely in aluminum foil and freezes it.

At Christmas time, she removed her cake from the freezer to thaw a half day before it's needed. Her fruit cake is always fresh and moist when served. Absolutely delicious!

Christmas Cake Remains a Bell Family Tradition

Bell Family Christmas Fruitcake In 19031903 Christmas Fruit Cake With Bell Family Crest
(Source: ©Don Bell)

The Christmas fruit cake has always had a traditional part in our Bell family's Holiday celebrations for many generations.

Bell Family Christmas Eve Supper In 1903William Ralph Bell Family's 1903 Christmas Eve Supper
(Source: ©Don Bell)

The above photo shows my Great Grandfather Dr. William Ralph Bell and his family enjoying their 1903 Christmas Eve Supper in Ottawa, Ontario.

Around the dining room table from left to right: Archie, Polly, Miss Cox (family friend), Jane, Laurie, Daysie, Dad (Dr. William Ralph Bell), Nan, Mamma (Mrs. W. R. Bell), and Bob Lett.

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