Traditional Christmas cake

Traditional Christmas cake

The Complete Asian Cookbook
Alan Benson

Many people have told me that after making this recipe they never use any other for a fruitcake. It is rich, dark and moist, fragrant with spice and laden with fruit. The semolina and ground nuts make its texture quite different from a cake made with flour.


Quantity Ingredient
250g raisins, chopped
385g sultanas, chopped
250g mixed glace fruit such as pineapple, apricot and quince, chopped, (avoid using fig)
260g preserved ginger, chopped
500g chow chow preserves, (see note)
120g mixed peel, chopped
260g glace cherries, halved
260g raw cashews or blanched almonds, finely chopped
60ml brandy
375g butter
500g caster sugar
12 egg yolks, (reserve 6 egg whites for this recipe)
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons natural vanilla extract
1 tablespoon natural almond extract
2 tablespoons rosewater, or to taste
1 tablespoon honey
250g fine semolina
6 egg whites
1 quantity Almond paste, for icing (optional)


  1. Line a 25 cm round or square cake tin with three layers of brown paper, then one layer of baking paper liberally brushed with melted butter. To insulate the tin even more, wrap the outside with a sheet of newspaper folded into three and secure it with kitchen string.
  2. Combine the raisins, sultanas, mixed glacé fruit, preserved ginger, chow chow preserves, mixed peel, glacé cherries and cashews in a large bowl. Pour over the brandy, cover, and set aside. (This step can be done the day before, allowing the fruit more time to soak in the brandy, if desired.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 130ºC. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest, spices, vanilla and almond extracts, rosewater and honey and mix well. Add the semolina and beat until well combined.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl or pan and use your hands to mix in the fruit until thoroughly combined — it’s much easier than a spoon and professional pastry cooks do it this way.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold through the fruit mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 2¼–2½ hours, covering the cake with foil after the first hour to prevent over-browning. The cake will be very rich and moist when done. If you prefer a darker and drier result, bake for 4½–5 hours — it will not be dry, but certainly firmer than if you cook for a shorter time. Allow to cool completely, preferably overnight, then remove the paper and wrap the cake in foil. A tablespoon or two of brandy may be sprinkled over the cake just before wrapping. If desired, ice the cake with the almond paste. This cake can be stored in an airtight container for 1 year or longer.


  • Chow chow preserves can be purchased at Asian grocery stores. If unavailable, substitute melon and ginger jam or ginger marmalade.


  • For a gluten-free version, omit the semolina and use a fine cornmeal, sold as 'dusting polenta'.
The Complete Asian Cookbook
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