Great Grandmother’s Rich Fruit Cake Recipe

by | Made, Recipes


Jessica Derrick

There are so many traditions that surround a wedding day, all which play their part in making the day distinctly yours.  The wedding cake is one such custom and originates in Roman times, where the cutting and sharing of cake became a symbol of the bride and groom’s affection, and promise to always provide for each other. Like these traditions, when a treasured recipe is passed down through generations, a certain meaning is held within the process of making and sharing the recipe. These time-honoured recipes are often reserved for special family occasions like Christmas Day, notable anniversaries, baptisms and of course, wedding days.  This rich fruit cake is one such recipe, passed to me from my husband’s mother, who was passed it from her husband’s grandmother.  It was the cake we made together for our wedding day and it holds a very special significance for me.

While it seems involved with lots of ingredients and a very long cooking time, the recipe is surprisingly straightforward with little need for special interpretation. The most important things to note are firstly to prepare the layers of paper correctly. This process will insulate the cake and protect the outer edges from cooking too quickly and drying out.  Secondly, once the butter and sugar have been creamed, adding the eggs slowly beating after each addition is key to ensure each egg is incorporated separately – if you add them too quickly the mixture will appear curdled.  If this does happen, all is not lost and the cake will still succeed, however will be slightly less light than if the eggs are incorporated correctly. Best of luck! One thing I can promise, is that it is definitely worth the effort.

You Will Need:

1 x 23cm Spring Form Pan

Brown paper

Baking paper

Butter for greasing


1.85kg mixed fruit

125g glace cherries

200g mixed peel

Handful of desiccated coconut

250ml Dark Rum


450g unsalted butter, cubed

450g brown sugar

9 eggs

Zest of one lemon

Zest of one orange

2 tbs marmalade

1 tbs coffee essence (make your own with equal parts instant coffee and boiling water)

1 tsp vanilla extract


510g plain flour

60g self raising flour

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

1/2 tsp salt


1kg Ready to Roll White Icing

Decorations for cake (we used pom poms and colourful serviettes)

Step One. Start the day before!  Cut up any of the dried fruit if not already pre-cut.  Sprinkle over a handful of desiccated coconut and mix well.  Soak in rum overnight. Leave a few days if you have time on your side to really let the fruit take in the rum.

Step Two. Turn oven to 150 degrees celsius.  If you have an option not to use fan forced, use it.  If you have to use fan forced, reduce heat to 130 degrees celsius. When you are ready to make the cake, prepare the cake tin first. Rub tin with butter. Then using a square of brown paper, butter both sides and arrange in the tin.  Repeat three times with brown paper.  Then butter two sides of a square of baking paper and repeat three times.  The 6 layers of paper  in the tin will protect the cake and maintain the moisture as it cooks slowly over a very long period.

Step Three. Cream together butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Add grated rinds and vanilla extract.  Add eggs, gradually, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add coffee essence and marmalade and mix well.

Step Four. Sift all dry ingredients into a bowl.  Add half of this dry mixture to the fruits and stir through so all are coated.  Fold remaining dry mixture through butter and egg mixture.  Add floured fruits to wet mixture and fold well until combined.

Step Five. Pour cake mixture into prepared pan and smooth out to ensure there are no air bubbles in mixture.  Place in oven for 3 hours.  Reduce temperature to 120 degrees celsius (115 fan forced) and cook for a further 2 hours.  Once time has passed, turn oven off and leave door ajar but leave cake to cool in oven (overnight is usually best).

Step Six. Once cake has cooled, turn out of tin upside down onto serving cake board.  Now prepare the icing as directed on the packet.  Roll out and place icing over cake, this is one of those tricky processes where confidence is key – be confident and purposeful when applying the icing and you are less likely to have lumps and bumps.  Decorate cake with pom poms, sparklers, fresh flowers, pretty coloured papers or whatever your heart desires!

Ms Zigzag says: Bonus points to Jess for baking her own wedding cake for her big day! What a lovely tradition to continue to pass down from one generation to the next. 

About Jessica Derrick: I’m a writer and a lover of words and stories, pretty papers and flowers. I find great satisfaction in creating something beautiful from the simplest of materials. I’m happiest in a home bustling with conversation and music, sitting at a beautifully decorated table surrounded by good friends and delicious food – with a glass of champagne in hand, of course!



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