The English Christmas cake, a beloved tradition, traces its roots back to the humble beginnings of plum porridge in medieval England. Over the centuries, this delectable treat evolved into the rich and luxurious dessert we enjoy today, thanks to the increased availability of ingredients to home bakers. At its core, a traditional English Christmas cake is a delightful blend of currants, sultanas (golden raisins), and raisins, soaked in the warmth of rum. As times have changed, modern bakers have embraced creativity by incorporating various dried fruits like cranberries, apples, apricots, and cherries into the mix, adding even more depth and flavor to this already delightful cake.
To make it extra special, some bakers choose to add a final touch, piercing the cooled cake and drizzling it with the remaining rum from the soaked fruits. This step ensures an even richer, moister cake, amplifying the indulgence. During the Victorian era, people would add coins to these cakes as good luck charms. Finding a coin while indulging in the Christmas cake was believed to bring luck and prosperity to the fortunate discoverer, adding an exciting element to the festivities.
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing cake pan
1 cup brown sugar
6 eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract or Madagascar Vanilla Paste
2-4 cups rum-soaked dried fruits* such as golden or regular raisins, currants, dried cranberries, diced apple or apricots or fruitcake mix
1 teaspoon British Baking Spice
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher Flake Sea Salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting pan)
Powdered sugar for dusting
*To soak fruits, place them in a bowl with the rum and leave overnight, until they are soft. Drain well using a strainer, reserve the rum. You can use more or less fruits depending on your preference.
Preheat oven to 350° F with the baking rack in the middle of the oven.
Grease and flour a bread pan or bundt cake pan. Rub butter all around the insides of the pan, sprinkle with flour and swirl the pan to coat it with flour. Turn over the pan and tap to remove the excess flour.
Cream butter and sugar until the mixture reaches a pale cream color about 5 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and British Baking Spice into a large bowl and set aside.
Whisk eggs in a large bowl until frothy.
Add extract to eggs and continue to whisk until incorporated—about a minute.
Pour whisked eggs into the bowl with the creamed butter and sugar mixture and stir gently using a rubber spatula. Keep stirring until incorporated. The mixture will look appeared separated but that alright.
Add the rum-soaked fruits to the egg-butter-sugar mixture and stir to fully incorporate.
Add the dry ingredients gradually to the wet ingredients and mix gently but thoroughly to incorporate. Do not over mix or beat the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to get all the batter from the bowl. Lift the pan a little and let it drop back to the surface about 2 to 3 times, this is to remove any bubbles in the batter
Bake for 90 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Remove pan from oven and let cool on a wire rack in pan for 10 minutes. At the end of the 10 minutes, carefully, gently and quickly invert the pan, removing the cake. Cool completely before either cutting and serving or performing either of the below optional steps.
Optional - If desired once cake has cooled completely you may pierce cake all over with wooden skewer and pour left over rum from soaking fruits over cake and let soak in, at least a few hours.
Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired when completely cooled and all rum has soaked in.