Left it too late to make a Christmas cake? This is the recipe for you

This Scottish favourite Dundee Cake brings a warm glow of nostalgia to Christmas baking

If you've left it too late to make a traditional Christmas cake, this week's recipe is just for you. This gorgeous Dundee cake is understated, old-school baking. It makes people feel nostalgic as everyone seems to know a relative who made this cake each year. It's perfect for cutting into over the next few festive weeks. Some suggest serving this traditional Scottish cake with a wedge of cheese, but I think it's perfect with a cup of tea. Since 2012 Scottish bakers have been in the process of applying to the EU to gain Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for Dundee cake, just like Stilton cheese or the Waterford blaa have.

My mother shared this recipe with me. It was always in the kitchen during winter months when I was little. Like most traditional recipes that have been handed down between generations, every baker makes changes. I made my own alterations to suit my family’s tastes, removing citrus peel and currants and adding extra mixed spice. I’ve also added marmalade to give some citrus warmth. Keillers, a Scottish marmalade brand, was the first to bake Dundee cake commercially and always used plenty of marmalade in their cakes. I’ve used whiskey here but you could also use brandy. I would think this is a lovely way to use mead or Cointreau too. Sherry is the traditional tipple of choice for Dundee bakers but make it your own.


Makes 1 large 10in cake

225g raisins


225g sultanas

4tbs Whiskey or sherry

2tbs marmalade

225g sugar

225g butter, soft

5 eggs

340g plain flour

1tsp Baking powder

1tbs mixed spice

110g cherries

30g ground almonds

100g whole blanched almonds

Line a 10in round baking tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.

Place the raisins and sultanas in a colander and rinse well with hot water to remove any oils. Drain well and place in a large bowl and cover with two tablespoons of whiskey and the marmalade. Stir well to combine and cover.

Rinse the cherries in a sieve to remove the sticky syrup. Dry the cherries on a little kitchen paper then tumble them in flour. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large wide bowl until light. Add the eggs one at a time and beat till well incorporated. Sieve the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a bowl. Gradually add to the egg mix along with the remaining two tablespoons, whiskey and the ground almonds.

Fold the dried fruit and cherries into the cake batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, smoothing the top with the back of a tablespoon. Leave a slight dip in the centre so it rises evenly.

Next is the fun part: arrange four almonds in the centre of the cake, then make four lines of almonds coming from each one to the side of the tin. Use this as a guide for arranging the remaining nuts on top of the cake. Bake for three hours until set and the cake is golden. Cover with paper over the top if the nuts darken too much. Leave to cool completely before cutting. It often tastes better after a few days, so let those flavours develop.

Wrap the cake well and store in an airtight tin. It keeps really well – up to three months if you continue to douse it with a little whiskey or brandy.