Left making your Christmas cake to the last minute? Suddenly and unexpectedly need a Christmas cake? Or perhaps you just want a really quick and easy Christmas cake recipe? Either way, this Last Minute Emergency Christmas Cake is your answer… ready in just 1 hour 30 minutes, it requires just a handful of simple ingredients and it can be decorated and served on the same day you make it!
Got a Christmas Cake emergency?
Were you planning to make a homemade Christmas cake this year, but somehow it kept falling of the to do list… until the last minute? Or perhaps you have a sudden and unexpected reason for needing a homemade Christmas cake in a hurry? (Unexpected relatives dropping in? School bake sale you forgot about? Christmas plans changed and now suddenly and unexpectedly you’re hosting?)
Whatever your reasons for needing one, this easy peasy Last Minute Emergency Christmas Cake will save the day! It’s super quick to make… it takes just 30 minutes to prepare and 1 hour to cook.
And you can even decorate it the same day… just as soon as the cake has cooled! This cake takes approximately 2 hours to cool and my super easy decoration can be done in 15 minutes flat!
So basically that’s raw ingredients to finished and decorated cake in under 4 hours! (3 hours 45 minutes to be precise!)
And don’t worry – there’s no compromise on flavour… In fact, I’d go as far as to say this cake is my best Christmas cake recipe yet!
A super easy Christmas cake recipe!
Alternatively, perhaps you are making a Christmas cake for the first time and are a little nervous about it? Or just super busy around Christmas time (who isn’t?) and so you really need a Christmas cake in a hurry.
Well, this cake is perfect for you… it’s super easy to make, is virtually foolproof and only involves 45 minutes hands on time!
All you need to do is place a bag of dried fruit in a saucepan, add sherry (see the recipe card for alternatives), orange juice and boiling water. Bring to the boil, then simmer.
Meanwhile, beat together butter and sugar, and add the eggs, flour and spices. Then add in the boiled fruit and plus some glacé cherries and tip the cake mixture into a lined cake tin (see below for step by step instructions on how to line the tin).
Finally, bake in a preheated oven for just 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean! (No skewer? No worries! Just use a teaspoon handle instead 😀 )
Super easy Christmas cake decoration!
And it’s not just the Christmas cake that’s easy to make… the Christmas cake decoration is also super easy… and yet looks really pretty!
Simply roll out shop-bought marzipan and cut out a circle the same size as the cake. (I use the cake tin as a guide to get my circle the right shape!) Lightly brush the cake top with a very small amount of water and then pop the marzipan circle on top. (This is just to help the marzipan to stick – don’t go too mad here… You don’t want to make your cake wet!)
Next, roll out shop-bought fondant icing and cut out a circle the same size as the cake. (Again, I use the cake tin as a guide to get my circle the right shape!) Lightly brush the marzipan with a very small amount of water and then pop the fondant circle on top.
Finally, use an assortment of star cutters (or other Christmas shapes!) to cut out stars from the remaining marzipan. Lightly brush the underside of the marzipan stars with water and arrange on top of the cake.
All of this takes just 15 minutes to do, but looks very effective… And it is SO MUCH easier than trying to cover the whole cake – sides and all – with marzipan and fondant icing.
Why boil the fruit?
You might be wondering why I boil the fruit for this recipe…
Well, most Christmas cake recipes require you to soak the dried fruit overnight… it makes the cake wonderfully moist and infuses it with sherry (or whatever tipple you prefer) – but that’s not an option if you need a Christmas cake in a hurry!
Boiling the fruit achieves all the same benefits but in a fraction of the time! All you need to do is place the dried fruit in a large saucepan, along with the sherry (or whatever tipple you prefer – see the recipe for alternatives), orange juice and some water. Then bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes – by which time the fruit will be juicily plump and infused with gorgeous flavours.
Honestly, once you’ve tried this method, you’ll never bother soaking the dried fruit overnight again – it’s so easy peasy!
(And if you want to make this booze free, simply use apple juice instead of the alcohol.)
Less time in the oven
Because this Christmas cake is smaller than a Traditional Christmas Cake, it cooks much faster! In fact, this Last Minute Emergency Christmas cake takes just 1 hour in the oven – how awesome is that?
And thanks to the easy prep, this whole cake takes just 1 hour 30 minutes from start to finish – perfect for all your Christmas cake emergencies!
The shorter cook time also means it’s much easier to get right (no sinking middles or burnt edges!) In fact, I’d go so far as to say this recipe is practically foolproof!
No need to feed…
Because this cake is already stuffed full of boozy, plump and juicy fruit, there’s no need to feed this cake with alcohol. It tastes amazing, just as it is. (Though if you want to feed it, that’s totally fine too – see below.)
How to feed a Christmas cake…
This cake tastes great, just as it is. But if you want to feed it with alcohol here’s how…
- Leave the cake to cool completely.
- Make several small holes in the top of the Christmas cake, using a skewer or knitting needle (or similar).
- Spoon approximately 4 teaspoonfuls of brandy over the top of your cake. (If you don’t like brandy, gin, whisky and rum also work well.)
- Carefully wrap the cake in a layer of baking paper and two layers of foil.
- Repeat once a week, up to a maximum of 4 times.
- Ensure you re-wrap your cake carefully each time after feeding.
- Leave at least a week after the last feed before you ice your cake.
How to store homemade Christmas cake
I’ve designed this cake so you can make it and decorate it all in one day. Once decorated, this cake should ideally be kept in an airtight tin to stop it going stale.
Alternatively, if you want to store this Christmas cake before decorating, wait until the cake is completely cold, wrap first in a layer of baking paper and then a layer of foil. Ideally you would then put the cake in an airtight tin. However, if you can’t find a cake tin the right size, simply wrap in a second layer of foil.
How long will homemade Christmas cake last?
Un-decorated, and correctly stored (see above), a homemade Christmas cake will last for up to 6 months, though I recommend eating within 3 months for the optimal flavour and texture.
Once iced, a homemade Christmas cake will only last for a few weeks – a month at most. But for optimal flavour, I recommend eating within 2 weeks.
However, this cake is so delicious, I doubt it will even last that long. (It doesn’t in this house!)
Can you freeze Christmas cake?
Amazingly yes! You can freeze the un-decorated cake. First wrap in baking paper and a double layer of foil – as explained above, then pop it in your freezer, where it will keep for up to a year.
Defrost at room temperature and decorate as above.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing an iced Christmas cake, however, as the marzipan and fondant icing do not fare well in the freezer!
How to line your Christmas cake tin
You will definitely need to line the tin for this Last Minute Emergency Christmas Cake recipe, but it’s really quick and easy to do! Simply take a sheet of baking paper and draw around the cake tin, then cut out this circle. This is to line the base of the cake tin.
Next, cut out two fat strips of baking paper – they should each be more than half the circumference of the tin and more than the height of the tin. (For a 20cm / 8inch tin, each strip should be roughly 7cm by 40cm or 3inches by 16inches.) This is to line the sides of the tin.
Then, lightly grease the base and sides of the tin with a little butter and place the circle in the base of the tin. Place the strips round the sides of the tin – they should slightly overlap and, height-wise, they should come to about 2cm / 1inch above the height of the tin.
Finally, grease the base and sides again, just for good measure. (In theory, cake shouldn’t stick to baking paper – in practice, an extra layer of butter really does help the cake come off the paper better!)
If you like this recipe…
…you might also like:
Last Minute Emergency Christmas Cake
- A large saucepan
- 2 wooden spoons
- Baking paper
- A round cake tin pan measuring approximately 20cm / 8inches in diameter and at least 5cm / 2inches deep.
- A large mixing bowl
- A skewer (You can improvise with a teaspoon handle if you don't have one)
- A wire cooling rack (You can improvise with a grill rack or oven shelf if you don’t have one)
- A rolling pin
- A sharp knife
- Star shaped cutters of various sizes (Or whatever Christmas shapes you like!)
For the cake…
- 500 g mixed dried fruit (ideally including mixed peel – see note)
- Juice of 1 orange
- 100 ml sherry (or brandy / whisky / gin / rum - or use apple juice if you want this to be alcohol free)
- 100 ml boiling water
- 150 g butter softened (plus extra for greasing)
- 150 g soft dark brown sugar (or muscovado sugar)
- 2 large eggs
- 150 g self-raising flour (US - self-rising flour)
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice (or pumpkin spice)
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 200 g glacé cherries halved
- 500 g marzipan (I prefer the paler ‘natural’ colour… but the bright yellow stuff works too!)
- 250 g white fondant icing
- Icing sugar (US - confectioner's sugar) (for rolling out the marzipan and fondant icing)
For the cake…
- Place the dried fruit in a large saucepan. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and pour over the sherry and boiling water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Leave to stand until needed.
- Preheat your oven to 160C / 140C fan / gas mark 3 / 325F. Grease and line your cake pan with baking paper (see above).
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar thoroughly.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture until smooth after each one.
- Gently fold in the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon until fully incorporated.
- Add the glacé cherries and the dried fruit, plus any remaining liquid from the saucepan. (There should be very little liquid left, as most of it will have soaked into the fruit or evaporated.) Stir gently until the fruit is evenly distributed.
- Tip the cake mixture into your prepared cake tin and get it straight into the oven. Bake for 50 minutes to 1hour or until a skewer, inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out clean. (I check every 5 minutes from 50 minutes. It usually takes 55 minutes in my oven.)
- Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin (or until cool enough to handle without burning your hands!), then remove the cake from the tin and allow to fully cool on a wire cooling rack… The cake should take approximately 2 hours from the time it comes out of the oven to cool fully. Do not decorate until completely cool!
- Dust your worksurface with icing sugar. Take half the marzipan and roll it out to just a fraction larger than the cake. Cut out a circle the same size as the top of the cake, using a knife – use the cake tin as a guide to help you get the circle just the right size!
- Brush the cake with a very small amount of cold water. (This is to help the marzipan stick to the cake – be very sparing, you don’t want to make the cake wet!)
- Place the marzipan circle on top of the cake and trim any overhanging edges with a sharp knife.
- Roll out the white fondant icing to just a fraction larger than the cake. Cut a circle the same size as the top of the cake, using a knife – again, use the cake tin to help you get the circle just the right size!
- Brush the marzipan layer with a very small amount of cold water.
- Place the fondant on top of the cake and trim any overhanging edges with a sharp knife.
- Roll out the remaining marzipan and cut out a variety of different sized stars. (Or whatever Christmas shapes you like!)
- Place these stars at random on top of the cake, using a little cold water on the back of each star to stick them down.
- Your cake is now ready to eat!
- Ideally you want the dried mixed fruit to be a mix of sultanas, raisins, currants and candied mixed peel. You can usually find this ready mixed in supermarkets. I have used both this one and this one in the past. If you can't find it ready mixed, buy the ingredients individually and go for these proportions: 40% sultanas / 30% raisins / 20% currants / 10% candied mixed peel.
- Suitable for freezing.
- Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
- The un-decorated cake is approximately 360 kcal per slice.
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