An alternative Christmas cake

An alternative Christmas cake

Mowie Kay

I do love a citrus-rich fruit cake any time of year, but often around Christmas, when there is always leftover pudding lying around to nibble on, I like a lighter cake too. This still has that citrus hit, but it is cleaner-tasting than traditional Christmas cake as it doesn’t contain any spice and it has a higher sponge to fruit ratio.

If you use a fairly craggy-looking Bundt tin it can be transformed into a striking snow scene that looks good displayed on the side – it also keeps quite well and, if it does go a little stale, it is dense enough to use for trifle. You can play around with the flavours here if you like, using just one kind of citrus and choosing the corresponding alcohol. It’s also very good with a white chocolate icing instead of the glaze.


Quantity Ingredient
225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g soft light brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
3 large eggs
150ml soured cream
1 lemon, Finely grated zest and juice
1 orange, Finely grated zest
75ml limoncello, or an orange/mandarin liqueur (I favour Mandarine Napoléon)
200g Candied citrus peel, finely diced, candied lemon, citron and orange peel
150g glace cherries or other candied fruit, chopped

For the glaze

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon limoncello or mandarine napoleon
200g icing sugar
boiling water

To decorate (optional)

Quantity Ingredient
a few rosemary sprigs
1 egg white
50g granulated or preserving sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Butter and flour a deep Bundt tin. To make sure every bit of the tin is covered, including the central column, put the buttered tin in a large bag with the flour and shake it. (Alternatively, you can use a quick-release spray in place of the butter and flour.)
  2. Put the measured flour into a bowl with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and whisk to combine and break up any lumps. Beat the butter and sugar together (preferably in a stand mixer or with an electric hand whisk) until light and very fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time with 2 tablespoons of the flour, folding in gently, but thoroughly, then add the rest of the flour.
  3. Add the soured cream and zests. Measure the lemon juice and top up with enough limoncello or other citrus liqueur to give 100ml/7 tbsp liquid, then add this too. Fold this in with the candied citrus peel and glacé cherries. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake in the oven for around 1 hour, but start checking after 45 minutes. The cake will be done when it is springy to the touch and has slightly shrunk away from the sides. Test with a cake tester or skewer if you like – it should be batter-free if the cake is done.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack – it should fall straight out. Make sure the cake is completely cool before you ice it.
  6. To make the glaze, stir the limoncello or Mandarine Napoléon into the icing sugar in a bowl, then carefully and gradually add just enough boiling water, starting with just a few drops, to make a consistency that is thick enough to coat the cake, rather than running right off. Drizzle the icing over the cake – covering the top and drizzling pleasingly down the sides.
  7. Decorate as you wish – I sometimes like to use upturned rosemary sprigs, dipped in egg white and then sugar to look frosted, arranged with small figures.
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