Sometimes I manage to bake a Christmas cake well ahead of time, in October, and then feed it regularly with more brandy. Other years, I fail entirely and then get to mid-December and wonder about quick recipes which don’t need months to mature or regular feeds. Or hours in the oven. But even Delia’s Quick Mincemeat Fruit cake takes a couple of hours to bake.
That’s the main reason I usually put it off: four or more hours is a bit off-putting with electric ovens. It’s different if I visit my parents, when I can borrow the Aga.
However, I have recently remembered an alternative recipe I used occasionally as a teenager. Not necessarily to make fruit cakes, but more to make sponges more exciting. It’s very simple, and doesn’t take more than half an hour, maybe forty minutes, to bake.
What you do is you take your preferred sponge cake recipe – the Victoria sponge works well – and you stir in your preferred quantity and mix of dried fruits. If you think about it ahead of time, soak the fruits in the alcohol of your choice overnight. Or for an hour or two before baking. Add spices to taste and bake until it looks done, usually 30-40 minutes, at about 180C (or whatever your sponge recipe calls for).
Marzipan and ice to taste.
It’s usually somewhat lighter than a Proper Christmas Cake, but it’ll do the job if you don’t want one that takes ages. Anyway, I nearly always burn the top of fruit cakes, but not if I make them this way. You could probably make it a chocolate sponge if you wanted, and ice it with chocolate buttercream. I have been known to make this using chocolate-covered fruits.
A fully customisable Christmas cake, which can be made much closer to Christmas.