Penny’s Alcohol Free Rich Fruit Cake

Tips For Success

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As you may know, I am getting Married in 2021. So iIt seemed a good idea to make the wedding cake at the same time as the Christmas cake.

When we moved to our new house this year, there was some inevitable big spending I needed to do, so using my John Lewis Partnership card to make these bigger purchases meant I earned enough points to splash out on Waitrose’s luxury sweet and juicy dried fruit mix, and glace cherries, and candied peel. We were making 2 cakes 30cm x 40cm so it took a lot of ingredients.  I am sure the fact they were ‘free’ will enhance the flavour no end.

 We moved on a lot of books when we prepared for the move.  But I certainly held on to my Mum’s recipe collection.  And in there is the family Christmas Cake Recipe which has been passed down through the generations.  Mum stated that it was ‘a very old baker’s recipe.’  I am not sure how many generations it has been passed through, but I should imagine that it is from the late 19th Century which is when my Great Grandmother would have acquired it, if not earlier.  Sadly, I do not know the full provenance.

I am Tea-total, and while I have reluctantly used brandy to pre-soak the fruit before on occasions, I had a flash of inspiration when I was drinking a cup of spicy tea and realised what an amazing soaking liquor it would make.  So, when I was asked to make a Golden Wedding Anniversary Cake, I decided to try out my idea.  When I added the orange juice into the tea before soaking the fruit, the aroma that came from the jug was just mind-blowing.  It was amazing, it conjured up all kinds of wonderful memories of celebrations gone by.  I just knew my idea was going to work.  And at the party, the cake was handed out and you could hear a pin drop as everyone munched on the cake.  They could not believe that the fruit had not been soaked in alcohol.  I felt so very proud.

Mum’s cook book, right, see how well used it is. (The mark of a good recipe book I understand!)

On To My Tips For Success:-

Prepare the cake tin lining before you cook the cake.  Grease an 8” round, or 7” square cake tin.  Then, double line the cake tin with baking parchment.  Before you put the paper in the tin, grease that too with either butter or a bland cooking oil.

Cut  the side pieces of parchment a bit wider than they need to be,  and then snip along one long edge about 1” deep all the way along at 1” intervals, so you have a fringe of sorts.  You fold this up and then lay the ‘fringe’ flat on the bottom of the tin as you line the sides.  This makes the paper sit better up the sides and avoids crease marks in the cake.  Then add your cut bottom pieces of paper inside the cake. (See photo ->).

Now, you need to line the outside of the tin with at least a couple of layers of either newspaper or brown paper.  I usually tie the paper around the sides with string or cotton thread, and then sit the tin in the oven on a couple of layers of paper.  This helps to stop the outside of the cake getting over cooked while the middle catches up.

I always assert that a recipe is a guide, not a rule book.  And the recipe I have for you here gives you lots of optional tweaks to make the cake your own.  The one thing that for me is non-negotiable is the pre-soaking the fruit in spicy turmeric tea.  Apart from that, the rest is fully customisable to your own preferences.  E.g., if you do not like prunes, maybe add chopped apricots, or any other dried fruit.  I prefer light brown sugar because I am not a fan of black treacle or dark brown sugar.  Sometimes I do 50/50 light and dark brown sugar, but I usually add marmalade or apricot jam instead of black treacle.

How long ahead you need to soak the fruit should determine how hot your tea is.  If you are very organised and planning a day ahead then I would suggest that you let the tea go cold before you add it to your fruit.  But, if you only have a few hours in hand, then add the tea when it is warmer.  The heat accelerates the absorption of the tea.  And if you add hot tea to the fruit the night before, it could possibly make your fruit mushy.  If the tea  is cooler than lukewarm when you add the fruit to the cake mix  it will be fine. 


My Amazing Rich Fruit Cake Recipe – Adapted from Mum’s Very Old Baker’s Recipe

500g Mixed Currants, Sultanas and Raisins

125g Chopped Dried Prunes

Spicy Tea Bag – I use Sainsbury’s Spiced  Turmeric Tea Bags.

Juice and Grated  Zest of one Orange

250g Plain Flour (Gluten Free or Wholemeal Works Too)

1 tsp each ground nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon – or mixed spice, to taste.

¼ tsp ground cloves – optional

250g Butter

250g Brown Sugar – light or dark brown, depending on how dark you like your cake

5 Eggs beaten well.

100g Glace Cherries chopped as small or big as you like- optional 

 100g  Stem Ginger in Syrup  chopped  – optional                         

100g Mixed Citrus Peel – optional

50g Almonds, chopped, ground, or sliced

1 tbsp of something Syrupy – eg. Black Treacle, Golden Syrup, Maple Syrup, honey or marmalade

Grated Zest of 1 lemon



  1. Make a 200ml cup of Spicy tea, with one or 2 tea bagsPre-soak the fruit according to the advice in the Tips for success.  .  Make sure you leave the tea long enough to infuse well to get a good flavour,  about 10 minutes should do it. 

Meanwhile, Put the mixed fruit and prunes (or substitute) into a bowl.

When the tea is to your liking, add the squeezed orange juice into the tea. Prepare to be knocked out by the amazing aroma.  Now pour the tea onto the fruit and give it a good stir.    You can add the orange zest you grated at this point or add it later with the lemon zest and the glace fruit.

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until the mix gets lighter in colour.
  2. Sift together the flour and the spices. If using wholemeal flour, toss the bran into the mix if it gets caught in the sieve.
  3. Add the eggs and the flour to the butter and sugar mixture, a bit at a time, stirring between each addition.
  4. Now add the rest of the ingredients, including all the mixed fruit with any of the remaining tea mixture that has not been absorbed by the fruit. Stir well.
  5. Place in a prepared cake tin and bake at 130 – 140 Deg Centigrade (Gas mark 1, 275 deg F) for about 3 hours , checking after 2.5 hours or so.

The cake will look  cooked, possibly coming away from the edges of the tin and a cocktail stick or skewer should come out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. 

This can be made well ahead of time, 2-3 months even, so wrap the cake up well.  I double wrap the cooked cake in baking parchment, and then double wrap that in foil.   

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