A spiced fruitcake is a must during the festive season. But in our house, the fun starts long before we take our first bite, right back in November when we tip the ingredients into the bowl and bake together as a family.
This is our favourite recipe, developed over several years, and it's extra special because as well as using a classic blend of spices, sultanas, raisins, currants, candied citrus peel, cherries and nuts, it also contains two slightly more tropical fruits: mango and pineapple!
It might sound a little strange, but it's utterly wonderful, resulting in a sweet, intense, moist cake that looks gorgeous and brings so much extra flavour to this wonderful Christmas fruitcake.
Once made, it can be wrapped up to mature and get even more delicious ready for the big day, when you can finish it off with a little decoration and an amazing dark chocolate ganache.
Here’s what to do.
To soak the night before:
- 65g mixed peel
- 180g mixed dried fruit
- 200g dried pineapple, cut into small pieces
- 200g dried mango, cut into small pieces
For the cake batter:
- 240g slightly salted butter (plus 10g for greasing)
- 270g soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 6 medium free-range eggs
- 300g plain flour
- 1.5 tsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 120g glacé cherries
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 80g ground almonds
- 100g flaked almonds
- 2 tbsp rum, brandy or whisky
For the icing:
- 70g dark chocolate
- 30g double cream
- 80g glace cherries, halved
- 20g blanched almonds
The night before
Place the mixed peel, mixed dried fruit, pineapple and mango into a bowl and cover with water the night before you bake, this will allow them to plump up. They should absorb virtually all of the water.
To make the cake
Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan). Cube the butter and add to the bowl with the sugar and syrup, creaming together until pale.
Add the eggs one by one, with a little flour between each one so that the mixture doesn’t curdle.
Mix in the rest of the flour.
Add the mixed spice and nutmeg and mix through.
Drain the soaked fruit - you don't want to add too much excess moisture - and stir into the batter.
Add the cherries, lemon zest, ground almonds and flaked almonds and stir through.
Grease a 25cm x 10cm bundt tin really well - I use 10g of butter in mine.
Pour in the mix and level off.
Bake in the centre of the oven at 160C (140C fan) for 1.5 hours then turn the heat down to 140C (120C fan) and cook for a further 1.5 hours or until the cake feels very firm when pressed.
This is a trick I picked up from Marguerite Patten - cooking slow and low helps mature the fruit beautifully inside the cake, so it’s soft and rich, while the crumb takes on a beautifully deep hue. Marguerite also suggests that if you a hear a hum coming from the cake when removing the oven, then it needs to go back in to cook further.
It could be that your cake is almost done after 3 hours or it could take another hour or even two+ more for your cake to be completely firm. Do stick with it and keep checking for a very firm sponge, so that you can be sure your cake is fully cooked. NOTE: It is really important that all the excess moisture is cooked out of the cake right to the centre so don't skip this step!
It should rise quite flat and even, but if needed, you can trim to level off the base. However, but I would recommend holding off for now and only trimming on the day of serving.
Cool the cake in the tin on a wire rack. Feed your cake with a 2 tbsp of rum, brandy or whisky as it cools. This helps with the moistness and preservation of the cake.
Once completely cool, turn out and wrap tightly in foil or beeswax cloth, place in an airtight container and place in a dark, cool cupboard. Continue to feed the cake with 2 tbsp alcohol every fortnight up to the big day.
If you're making this cake last minute, never fear - a month of maturing is a wonderful thing, but it's still tasty straight from wire rack, so do whatever works for you.
On the big day, remove your cake from it's wrapping. Heat the cream (don't boil).
Stir the cream into the chocolate to create a ganache, then spoon it carefully over the cake so that it drips down the sides.
Add the cherries and almonds decoratively.
Leave to set for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Ta da! The cake pictured hadn't had long to mature, so expect an even more moist, fruity and delicious slice!
Join in with me on #StirUpSunday
If you love baking, why not join me on Stir Up Sunday to make this recipe. It's always on the last Sunday in November.
If you're not already familiar with Stir Up Sunday, tradition dictates that on the last Sunday before Advent, families and friends gather together to bake Christmas cakes and puddings. These fruity bakes involve the entire family, with everyone giving the mixture a stir.
Elders would hide coins in the mixes to bring the lucky finder health, wealth and happiness for the coming year, so it's a lovely way to mark the beginning of the festive season and all the yummy baking that will take place in the month ahead!
Pointers, tricks and troubleshooting tips for the perfect tropical fruit Christmas cake. Perfect for Stir Up Sunday
Is tropical fruit Christmas cake easy to make?
With a little preparation to soak the fruits the night before this recipe is simple to make, it takes time in the oven but the effort is well worth it.
You can gather the family to help weigh out all the ingredients, and remember to make a wish as they each have a turn to stir the cake.
Taking this time together is a really lovely way to start the festive season and there's quite a bit of stirring involved so it's good to have some helpers on hand when your arms get tired!
Will I need any special equipment for this recipe?
You should be able to find everything you need in the average kitchen. To start, weighing scales and a bowl to hold the dried fruit and water while it soaks, you can cover the bowl with a clean tea towel.
Then on the day measuring spoons, and wooden spoon for mixing, you can use an electric whisk to get you started, then mix the fruit by hand.
You’ll need your largest bowl to mix everything together in. I’m using a bundt tin to bake my tropical fruit Christmas cake, it makes a real statement, and the shape also helps the cake bake thoroughly all the way through. You’ll also need a wire rack for cooling, and a sealed container big enough to store your cake as it matures over the month.
Where can I buy mixed peel?
Mixed peel or candied peel is the preserved peel of citrus fruits lemon and orange. It would traditionally have been made by simmering the prepared peel in sugar syrup until tender, and then coating in more sugar, this is quite a long process.
You can easily find it ready-made in the supermarket. It will be in the baking section with the other dried fruits.
If you have some leftover after Christmas it’s lovely thrown into some flapjacks with dark chocolate chips.
How can I tell if butter has gone off?
Gone off butter with start to smell and taste sour or rancid. One of the easiest ways to check if you’re butter is still ok to use, is have a look at the Best Before End Date on the packet, this will give you a good initial indication.
Make sure the butter has been stored correctly. It’s a good idea to keep butter in its foil or paper wrapper, to help extend its life, because any exposure to air or light on the surface will start the oxidation process which makes butter go bad.
I would also recommend keeping it in a sealed container as I find opened butter has a tendency to absorb odors from the fridge. It's unlikely, but check there is no mould growing on the butter as this is a sure sign it's gone bad!
Is tropical fruit Christmas cake suitable for vegetarians?
Yes, as this recipe is made using no meat, poultry or fish it is totally vegetarian.
Is tropical fruit Christmas cake suitable for vegans?
As it is this recipe would not be suitable for a vegan because it contains eggs and dairy butter.
I haven’t tried this recipe vegan yet but you could give it a go using plant-based alternatives, let me know how you get on.
For the butter simply use vegan butter, and for the egg you’ll need to use a replacement, give one of these options a go (each = 1 egg, so multiply as needed for any given recipe).
- 1 tablespoon of crushed chia seeds or flax seeds mixed with 2 tablespoons of water and left for 10 minutes in the fridge.
- 3 tablespoons of aquafaba (the water you get in a tin of chickpeas).
- 3 tablespoons of applesauce (bear in mind this will add sweetness).
I’d probably try the chia or flax seed method, as the other two options may make the mix too wet.
Is tropical fruit Christmas cake gluten-free?
For this recipe I’m using wheat-based plain flour, so no this is not gluten-free.
If you want to try and make this gluten-free then go right ahead and use gluten-free plain flour.
I always recommend using a good quality brand, which will usually be made from a blend of different flours such as rice flour, and oat flour, raising agents, of course, and usually a binding agent such as xanthan gum.
Is tropical fruit Christmas cake safe to eat while pregnant?
This recipe contains a small amount of alcohol that you may well be avoiding whilst pregnant. Please see the NHS guidelines on alcohol consumption during pregnancy for further information.
You can make this cake without alcohol if you like, the alcohol does help in the preservation of the cake, so you should make an alcohol free version a little closer to Christmas day, rather than a month in advance.
Other than that there is nothing that would usually pose a risk to a pregnant woman as long as the ingredients are in good condition and good food hygiene is followed when making this cake.
The advice regarding egg safety whilst pregnant does vary from country to country as egg production methods and handling are different so please do check information local to you. Most eggs in the UK are produced to a food standard, the Red Lion Code.
A Mummy Too does not offer medical advice, please speak to a health professional if you have any questions or concerns.
What goes well with tropical fruit Christmas cake?
This tropical Christmas cake is perfect for a festive tea party, delightful after a mix and match dinner of leftovers on Boxing day.
Can I make this recipe without alcohol?
Yes, you can, if you want or need to avoid alcohol for any reason you can, of course, make this cake alcohol-free.
There are a few things to keep in mind, the alcohol is bringing moisture, flavour, and most importantly preservative properties which helps keep this cake when made well in advance.
If you wish to make this cake alcohol free I would recommend making it closer to the day you want to serve, a few days or up to a week in advance would be best.
You’ll need to replace the alcohol in the cake batter with another liquid, you can use milk, or fruit juice like apple, pineapple, or orange.
Unfortunately, you can’t really replace the alcohol used to feed the cake after it's baked with anything else. Don’t try and give your cake a drink of orange juice to moisten it as this will likely make the cake go off and no longer be safe to eat!
I haven’t got soft brown sugar, can I use caster sugar?
Soft brown sugar contains molasses which is the treacle element of sugar, that is removed in the process of making white sugar. This brings colour as well as flavour to recipes like this tropical fruit Christmas cake.
The moisture content is also slightly higher, which is why brown sugars, particularly dark brown sugars have the consistency of wet sand, as opposed to the very dry granulated white sugar.
In a pinch, you could use caster sugar instead, but I would recommend replacing it with a different brown sugar, like muscovado if you can. Otherwise, your Christmas cake will be missing out on all that lovely caramel flavour, as well as the slight bit of extra moisture this type of sugar brings.
You could of course go really tropical and try coconut sugar as an alternative option too which would work nicely with the pineapple, I haven’t tried this recipe with coconut sugar, let me know how you get on!
Can I add extra fruit to this recipe?
This tropical fruit Christmas cake is already fully loaded with all the classics raisins, cherries, and sultanas with the added bonus of pineapple and mango too. If you try to add more fruit the cake batter will become unbalanced and won’t be enough to evenly cover the fruit, and won’t cook properly.
If you want to add more fruit you could use it as decoration perhaps. I’ve kept the decorative elements quite simple but you could create something more elaborate if you wish.
How should I store tropical fruit Christmas cake?
Once completely cooled it's crucial to keep this cake well wrapped and in a sealed container, in a cool dark spot in the cupboard or pantry.
It’s really important to follow good food hygiene as this cake is made so far in advance, poor hygiene will increase the risk that by Christmas the cake will no longer be safe to eat.
Make sure the container you’re using to store the cake is clean and dry and each time you unwrap the cake to feed it, wash your hands first, and handle the cake as little as possible.
The shape of the cake makes it a bit fiddly to cover, so you might want to use a few pieces of tin foil, or beeswax wraps to build up around the cake, and cover the hole in the middle.
If you’re giving the cake a few drinks in the run-up to the big day, then make sure to carefully re-wrap the cake each time.
After the cake has been decorated it's important to still keep it in a sealed container, in the pantry or cupboard.
How long does tropical fruit Christmas cake keep?
When stored correctly this cake undecorated will keep for more than a month, once the cake has been decorated, make sure to still keep it in a sealed container and it will keep for a further week or two.
Can I leave tropical fruit Christmas cake out on the counter?
No, other than for serving this cake needs to be kept in a sealed container to protect it from possible contaminants, and also to stop it drying out.
Can I make tropical fruit Christmas cake ahead?
Yes! This is usually my first bake of the festive season as you can make it well in advance, in fact, it's better to make ahead if you want to have time to give it a few drinks before Christmas day.
If you’re making an alcohol-free version, I would recommend making this no more than a week ahead, because without the alcohol the cake has fewer preservatives so probably won't keep as long.
Can I keep tropical fruit Christmas cake in the refrigerator?
This cake doesn't need to be kept in the fridge, so no need to use up vital fridge space. It will be just fine in a sealed container somewhere cool and dark.
Can I freeze tropical fruit Christmas cake?
Yes, this tropical fruit Christmas cake freezes well. If you want to freeze some I would recommend cutting it into slices first so you can more easily get out what you need, it will also defrost quicker.
It's a good idea to wrap each slice well with cling film to help reduce the risk of freezer burn, and I like to keep them in a container together so the slices don’t get lost all over the freezer. Pop a date on the box so you know when to use it up by. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months
What is the best way to defrost tropical fruit Christmas cake?
When you're ready, simply get out the number of slices you want, unwrap them, and pop them on a plate to thaw out overnight in the fridge.
As this cake isn’t being reheated it's important to keep it in the fridge to defrost slowly at a low temperature, this reduces the risk of bacterial spread.
Can I make tropical fruit Christmas cake in a different quantity?
Yes, you can make more or less of this tropical fruit Christmas cake, if you want to make more you’ll need to split the batter over two tins, and conversely use a smaller tin if you’re making less.
To change the amounts on the recipe, simply head down to the recipe card below and you’ll see the number of servings is set to 16 slices. When you click or hover over this number a small slider will appear that you can adjust to reach the number of servings you want to make. The ingredients will be updated automatically into the correct ratio for the size of the cake you wish to make.
Can I make tropical fruit Christmas cake in individual portions?
To make this tropical fruit Christmas cake into individual portions you could use a muffin tray, instead of a bundt tin.
I haven’t tried this method, and you may wish to half the quantities of the ingredients as this recipe makes a rather large cake. With a rough estimate, this would divide into probably over 24 cupcake size cakes.
Make sure to grease whatever tray you decide to use really well, or you could use cupcake cases if you like.
Another thing to bear in mind will be cooking times, the cakes will bake much quicker, and be more susceptible to drying out so keep an eye on them. I would suggest checking them after 30-45 mins to see if you need to turn the oven down at this point. Continue to bake at 140C(120C fan) until the cakes are very firm.
Can I make tropical fruit Christmas cake in a different tin/tray?
Don’t have a bundt tin? No problem, this recipe is enough to fit a 25cm round cake tin.
If you’re using a regular cake tin you might like to go down the classic Christmas cake method of double lining the tin. Grease with butter and add two layers of baking paper around the bottom, and edge, this helps protect the outside of the cake and stops it sticking to the tin.
Can I make tropical fruit Christmas cake in a stand mixer such as a KitchenAid or Kenwood Mixer?
If you find it easier you can use a stand mixer to mix this cake, though you may find it easier to mix the fruit and nuts in by hand as the mixer can get overwhelmed with all the ingredients unless you have one with a very large bowl.
Use the KitchenAid to beat the sugars, butter, and golden syrup until light and fluffy.
Then you can add the eggs one by one with a few generous tablespoons of the weighed out flour, mix on low so all the ingredients stay in the bowl.
It's important to mix a bit of flour in with each egg to stop the batter from splitting. Once the eggs are mixed, add the remaining flour and spices and mix through.
You may need to scrape the sides down as you go with a spatula to make sure everything is evenly incorporated. Now for the drained fruit, mix this on low in the stand mixer, or by hand if you prefer. And then add the flaked almonds, glacé cherries, and lemon zest stir well until everything is completely mixed in.
How do I stop my cake from sticking to the tin?
Traditional Christmas cake is baked in round or square tins that you can easily line with baking paper reducing the risk of the cake sticking to the tin, but we’re being adventurous and using a bundt tin so its key to make sure it's well prepared before you put the cake batter in.
Depending on the shape of your bundt tin, they can have quite a few indents and it's really important to grease the tin super well.
You can give this job to one of your helpers to grease every nook and cranny, and make sure to check once they are done.
I find it easier to just use my hands, or you can use a little bit of clean kitchen paper to help rub the butter in, but the warmth from your fingers melts the butter a little and helps it get into all the hard to reach spots.
One of the signs of the cake being cooked is it coming away from the edge slightly, it does shrink a bit when it's baked, so this will also hopefully mean your cake comes out in one piece.
Allow the cake to cool fully before attempting to take it out of the tin, a warm cake is more likely to split and break when it's being removed from the tin.
What's the best way to feed the cake?
If you’ve made your tropical fruit Christmas cake far enough ahead and want to give it a little Christmas drink to make the cake nice and moist then the best way to do this is make a few channels into the cake, using a metal skewer.
You can push the skewer quite far in, but don’t go right through! Then evenly distribute a couple of tablespoon fulls of your chosen tipple, whisky, brandy, or rum.
I actually find it easier to use a teaspoon to spread the drink over the cake, this way you can put a little all over, rather than accidentally getting one side of the cake drunk.
You can do this a couple of times over the month, and one final drink before you decorate if you like.
How can I make sure my tropical fruit Christmas cake is perfectly cooked?
Low and slow is the order of the day for any Christmas cake cooking, this is a very dense fruit rich cake that we want to keep for a while so it also needs to dry out, too much excess moisture in the cake will increase the risk of it spoiling before Christmas day.
This poses the obvious problem of having a potentially burnt cake. You can reduce the risk of this by following a few simple steps.
Soaking the fruit is key to a moist Christmas cake, if you skip this step the cake will likely turn out incredibly dry, no matter how much alcohol is added afterward.
Arrange the shelves in the oven so the cake can be positioned right in the middle, this is the area in the oven with the most constant temperature. Preheat your oven to 160C(140C fan), if you find your oven runs hot you might want to use an oven thermometer to check the actual temperature in the oven.
Set a timer so you remember to check the cake after one and a half hours, turn the oven down to 140C (120Cfan) at this point. If you can see the top of the cake is burning at this stage you can try using a piece of tin foil to cover the cake and create a lid, this will protect it from burning further.
Once the 3 hours of cooking is up, the cake should look dark brown on top, perhaps with a few cracks on the surface, it will feel very firm and shouldn’t leave an impression when you press on the top. The cake will also shrink away from the edge of the tin so check this has happened too. You can also use the skewer method if you want to double-check the middle is cooked, it should come out clean.
The cake may take longer than 3 hours to cook depending on your oven, it’s important that the cake fully drys out at this stage because any unwanted moisture in the middle of the cake will increase the risk of it going bad. So don’t be afraid to return to the oven for longer, check it again in half an hour intervals until it's done.
Why did my tropical fruit Christmas cake turn out dry and burnt?
It's a fine line with Christmas cake being burnt and dry rather than cooked to a deep brown, and thoroughly cooked. The top may look burnt but remember this is a rich fruit cake that will look a lot darker than a regular sponge that you might be more used to baking.
Check your oven temperature, you want it set to 160C (140C fan) for the first hour and a half, and then remember to turn down for the rest of the cooking time.
If you think the cake is burning on top you can cover with tin foil to help protect it.
Why did my tropical fruit Christmas cake turn out wet in the middle?
This cake has such a long time in the oven it shouldn’t turn out wet, the aim of the game is patience if when you check the cake after the 3 hours of cooking at it is still not firm, return it to the oven until it's done.
Why didn’t my tropical fruit Christmas cake rise?
For this tropical fruit Christmas cake, we’re not using any raising agents, the properties of the combination of egg and sugar will allow the cake to rise slightly but we don’t want it to dome up.
Remember the top of the cake in the tin will become the bottom when it’s turned out so you actually want it to be as flat as possible. If your cake has risen up unevenly don’t worry, you can level it off just before you decorate.
How can I add/change the flavours in this tropical fruit Christmas cake?
As long as you keep the total amounts of dried fruit the same you can play around with different flavours, figs work well, or how about cranberries to add to the festivities.
I’m using water to soak the fruit as I find it absorbs best, but you can soak the fruit in fruit juice like pineapple or orange, or if you like the alcohol you’re using.
I’ve kept the spice mix quite simple too, but you can play around with this if you like, don’t go wild adding in lots of different spices, add a little and taste before putting more in, the flavours will develop as the cake is baked.
You can also get creative with the decoration, I’ve used a dark chocolate ganache for the icing, you could use white chocolate, and how about infusing the chocolate with some spice itself. As you melt the chocolate pop 5 cloves into the bowl to add a bit of extra spice, use a fork to retrieve the cloves before icing the cake!
What is the origin of this recipe?
I think as with a lot of Christmas cake recipes this has developed over a few years of trial and error to get a tropical fruit mix that the family adores.
We all love playing around with flavours and trying out different ideas, it's been a really fun journey and team effort to create our perfect tropical fruit Christmas cake.
Print this tropical fruit Christmas cake recipe
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Tropical fruit Christmas cake
To soak the night before
- 65 g (2.29 oz) mixed peel
- 180 g (6.35 oz) mixed dried fruit
- 200 g (7.05 oz) dried pineapple cut into small pieces
- 200 g (7.05 oz) dried mango cut into small pieces
For the cake batter
- 240 g (8.47 oz) slightly salted butter plus 10g for greasing
- 270 g (9.52 oz) soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 6 medium free range eggs
- 300 g (10.58 oz) plain flour
- 1.5 tsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp (0.5 tsp) nutmeg
- 120 g (4.23 oz) glacé cherries
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 80 g (2.82 oz) ground almonds
- 100 g (3.53 oz) flaked almonds
- 2 tbsp rum, brandy or whisky
For the icing
- 70 g (2.47 oz) dark chocolate
- 30 g (1.06 oz) double cream
- 80 g (2.82 oz) glacé cherries halved
- 20 g (0.71 oz) blanched almonds
The night before
- Place the mixed peel, mixed dried fruit, pineapple and mango into a bowl and cover with water the night before you bake, this will allow them to plump up. They should absorb virtually all of the water.
To make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan). Cube the butter and add to the bowl with the sugar and syrup, creaming together until pale.
- Add the eggs one by one, with a little flour between each one so that the mixture doesn’t curdle.
- Mix in the rest of the flour.
- Add the mixed spice and nutmeg and mix through.
- Drain the soaked fruit - you don't want to add too much excess moisture - and stir into the batter.
- Add the cherries, lemon zest, ground almonds and flaked almonds and stir through.
- Grease a 25cm x 10cm bundt tin really well - I use about 10g of butter in mine.
- Pour in the mix and level off.
- Bake in the centre of the oven at 160C (140C fan) for 1.5 hours then turn the heat down to 140C (120C fan) and cook for a further 1.5 hours or until the cake feels very firm when pressed.
- This is a trick I picked up from Marguerite Patten - cooking slow and low helps mature the fruit beautifully inside the cake, so it’s soft and rich, while the crumb takes on a beautifully deep hue. Marguerite also suggests that if you a hear a hum coming from the cake when removing the oven, then it needs to go back in to cook further.It could be that your cake is almost done after 3 hours or it could take another hour or even two+ more for your cake to be completely firm. Do stick with it and keep checking for a very firm sponge, so that you can be sure your cake is fully cooked. NOTE: It is really important that all the excess moisture is cooked out of the cake right to the centre so don't skip this step!
- It should rise quite flat and even, but if it doesn't for any reason, you can trim to level off the base. However, I would recommend holding off for now and only trimming on the day of serving.
- Cool the cake in the tin on a wire rack. Feed your cake with a 2 tbsp of rum, brandy or whisky as it cools. This helps with the moistness and preservation of the cake.
- Once completely cool, turn out and wrap tightly in foil or beeswax cloth, place in an airtight container and place in a dark, cool cupboard. Continue to feed the cake with 2 tbsp alcohol every fortnight up to the big day, if you wish.
- If you're making this cake last minute, never fear - a month of maturing is a wonderful thing, but it's still tasty straight from wire rack, so do whatever works for you.
- On the big day, remove your cake from it's wrapping. Heat the cream (don't boil).
- Stir the cream into the chocolate to create a ganache, then spoon it carefully over the cake so that it drips down the sides.
- Add the cherries and almonds decoratively.
- Leave to set for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.