I hear conflicting advice online about how far in advance of Christmas the cake should be made. Some suggest 6 weeks is sufficient whereas others say that 12 weeks is optimum. I have time this week to make it: will the cake be all the better for 12 weeks of maturing, or will that simply limit its freshness when Christmas finally arrives?
Opinions on the "maturing" of Christmas cakes does vary and is partly an issue of personal taste, but for the rich fruit type of Christmas cakes we would suggest making them up to 3 months ahead of Christmas. Fruit cakes can also be frozen for up to one year so you could happily make one earlier and freeze it, or if you store it correctly then it should be fine if made in the late summer and kept for Christmas.
To store a cooled Christmas cake, wrap it tightly in a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment (parchment paper) followed by a double layer of foil and then store it in an airtight container or tin in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Do not wrap the cake directly in foil as the fruit in the cake can react with the foil. If you are making the cake more than 3 months in advance then you will need to "feed" it occasionally to help it to stay moist. Feeding involves brushing the surface of the cake with a couple of tablespoons of alcohol (brandy, whisky or bourbon are the most popular choices). This is usually done after the cake has been baked, but if storing for a long period we would suggest unwrapping the cake and feeding it every 4 to 6 weeks then re-wrapping it after feeding.