Aunty Lillian’s plum cake

When I was growing up there were certain things that happened every year. One of those things was the ceremonial baking of the Christmas cake.

No faffing about with looking for recipes; the go-to recipes were all written down in a dog-eared little black book. Long before the days of internet, apps and bookmarking favourites, this little book held all the family secrets that were worth baking. Such delights as Kate’s parkin and Mary Mullen’s niff-naff  graced its pages, but it was always aunty Lillian’s plum cake for Christmas.  (I knew Kate and Mary very well, but have no idea who Any Lillian was)

So, for this who want a traditional family Christmas cake, here’s aunty Lillian’s offering (in imperial measurements – it was a long time ago!):

  • 1lb butter
  • 1lb sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 1lb 2oz plain flour & a pinch of salt
  • 2lb currants
  • ½lb sultanas
  • ¼lb ground almonds
  • 2oz split almonds
  • 2oz cherries
  • Brandy

No written instructions – just passed down by hand – cream the butter and sugar, add eggs then fold in the flour. Add the fruit and nuts, mixing in well, then add brandy. (no quantities given, just till it looks ‘right’!  I seem to remember quite a lot was used……

It appears that the most important thing was to prepare the baking tin properly – at least three layers of greaseproof lining, and five sheets of newspaper tied with string around the tin, then another five layers of newspaper on top of the tin when the mixture was spooned in.

Bake at Gas number 1 for at least 5 hours, until a test skewer comes out clean.

Feed the cooled cake with brandy every two or three weeks until Christmas.


Sadly I don’t use this recipe much these days – over time we’ve found other recipes that suit us better, but this one remains in the tattered little black book, and the new recipe gets the same treatment with the layers of newspaper – giving us that same delicious aroma of cake and roast newsprint. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it!



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