Christmas Cake at the Cape

Here’s a cake from the Cape Winelands that’s bound to knock off your socks – if only because of the copious use of brandy; these cakes are British in origin & were brought here when the Brits occupied the country. Here, as everywhere else in the world, Christmas cakes are personal and recipes are passed from mothers to daughters for generations, each generating adding its own special touch to suit circumstances. This recipe is my grandmother’s who gave it to my mother who gave it to me.

She also gave it to my daughter who now lives in Germany and makes it every year; normally this cake is baked at the end of September with the help and advice of the whole family. Once it cools down, it is drizzled with brandy and wrapped up, put in a tin and packed away until the following week; every week the cake is drizzled until a few days before Christmas when it’s iced. I have my family’s permission to share this one with you and I’m honoured to do so.


  • 500 g butter
  • 500 g sugar
  • 500 g cake flour
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace
  • 250 ml brandy
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 125 g seedless raisins
  • 250 g sultanas
  • 500 g dates
  • 125 g pecans halves
  • 250 g almonds, roasted and cut in half
  • 250 g glace cherries, halved (mix red and green for a great effect)
  • 250 glace figs
  • 500 g mixed peel (orange and citron)
  • 250 glace apricots
  • 375 g glace pineapple rings
  • Extra brandy for drizzling throughout the period


  • Soak fruit over night in brandy.

The preparation of the cake tin is very important to prevent the cake from burning. It is a very heavy cake and weighs close to five kilograms.  For this reason 3 layers of wax paper is used, each layer greased before the next one is put on. (and if you want to put in a fourth, feel welcome)

  • Mix and sift all dry ingredients together
  • Whisk butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
  • Add eggs one by one, beating carefully after each addition and after the fifth egg, sift in a little of the dry ingredients.
  • Sift in a little flour after each egg and continue until all the flour is incorporated with the exception of two tablespoons to sprinkle over the fruit later.
  • In the meantime, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda over the fruit, wait for the reaction, sprinkle over the flour and incorporate the fruit into the dough.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake tins, making a small hollow at the top so that the cake does not rise too much, should it do so.
  • Bake for 5 and a half hours on 140 C.
  • Remove from the oven, place on rack very carefully and allow to cool down completely.
  • Sprinkle with brandy and then wrap up in soft tinfoil and then in a stiff foil, folding carefully to close the cake with the opening of the foil on top.
  • Open once aweek and drizzle a little brandy over the top.
  • My mother used to bake the cake a few months before Christmas, icing it only a few days before Christmas eve.


  • Traditionally we spread a very thin layer of apricot jam over the cake, then apply marzipan to the whole cake, either freshly made with almonds or the ready rolled marzipan, made especially for the busy housewife.
  • As an outer icing, use any royal or a stiff setting white icing that contains a little glycerine; decorate as you choose.

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