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Chocolate Fruit Cake

by . Featured in FEAST
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Introduction

This is the perfect cut-and-come again cake for any time of the year. It lasts for ages, but has the squidgy fabulousness of something so much less serviceable-sounding. I know there are a lot of ingredients listed, but you don’t have to do much more than bung them in a pan and stir, and even then only lightly. The hardest thing you have to do for this recipe is wrap the tin with brown paper. And I’m not being disingenuous: it is the sort of task that makes a klutz like me hyperventilate, but I find there is nearly always someone around who can deal with that part with magnificent ease.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

This is the perfect cut-and-come again cake for any time of the year. It lasts for ages, but has the squidgy fabulousness of something so much less serviceable-sounding. I know there are a lot of ingredients listed, but you don’t have to do much more than bung them in a pan and stir, and even then only lightly. The hardest thing you have to do for this recipe is wrap the tin with brown paper. And I’m not being disingenuous: it is the sort of task that makes a klutz like me hyperventilate, but I find there is nearly always someone around who can deal with that part with magnificent ease.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Chocolate Fruit Cake
Photo by James Merrell

Ingredients

Yields: about 10 slices

Metric Cups
  • 350 grams prunes
  • 250 grams raisins
  • 125 grams currants
  • 50 grams piece candied orange peel
  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 175 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 175 millilitres runny honey
  • 125 millilitres tia maria or other coffee liqueur
  • 2 - 3 oranges (juice and zest)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 150 grams plain flour
  • 75 grams ground almonds
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 cups pitted prunes
  • 1¾ cups raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 2 ounces piece candied orange peel
  • 1½ sticks soft unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup honey
  • ½ cup tia maria or other coffee liqueur
  • 2 - 3 oranges (juice and zest)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150°C/130°C Fan/300°F. Line the sides and bottom of a 20cm / 8-inch round, 9cm / 3½ inch deep, loose-bottomed cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment. Before proceeding any further, read the following which explains how to do it if you need the encouragement. The paper should come up higher than the sides of the tin; think of a lining that’s twice as deep as the tin. Cut out two circles of paper, and two very long rectangles that will fit along the sides of the tin coming up from it like a top hat. Before you put the rectangular cut-out paper in, fold one long side in of both pieces, as if turning up a hem of about 2cm / 1 inch, and then take some scissors and snip into this hem, at intervals of about 2cm / 1 inch – as if you were making a rough frill. Grease the tin, lay one circle on the bottom and get one of your long pieces, then fit with the frilly edge along the bottom, which you press down to sit flat on the circle to hold it in place. Press the paper well into the sides, and repeat with the second piece. Now place the second circle of paper on the bottom of the tin, but on top of the two pressed-down frilly edges, which will also help to hold the pieces around the edge in place. Finally, wrap the tin with brown parcel paper, again making it higher than the sides, and tie it in place with kitchen twine.
  2. Put the fruit, butter, sugar, runny honey, Tia Maria, orange juice and zests, spice and cocoa into a large wide saucepan and bring to the boil gently, stirring as the butter melts. Simmer for 10 minutes, and then take off the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  3. After the 30 minutes are up, it will have cooled a little (though you could leave it for longer if you wanted). Add the beaten eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, however you like, to combine.
  4. Pour the fruit cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place in the oven and bake for 1¾–2 hours, by which time the top of the cake should be firm but will have a shiny and sticky look. If you insert a cake tester into the centre of the cake it will still be a little gooey in the middle.
  5. Put the cake on a cooling rack. It will hold its heat and take a while to cool, but once it has, unmould it from the tin and, if you don’t want to eat it immediately (and like any fruit cake it has a very long life), wrap it in baking parchment and then in foil and place in a tin.
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150°C/130°C Fan/300°F. Line the sides and bottom of a 20cm / 8-inch round, 9cm / 3½ inch deep, loose-bottomed cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment. Before proceeding any further, read the following which explains how to do it if you need the encouragement. The paper should come up higher than the sides of the tin; think of a lining that’s twice as deep as the tin. Cut out two circles of paper, and two very long rectangles that will fit along the sides of the tin coming up from it like a top hat. Before you put the rectangular cut-out paper in, fold one long side in of both pieces, as if turning up a hem of about 2cm / 1 inch, and then take some scissors and snip into this hem, at intervals of about 2cm / 1 inch – as if you were making a rough frill. Grease the tin, lay one circle on the bottom and get one of your long pieces, then fit with the frilly edge along the bottom, which you press down to sit flat on the circle to hold it in place. Press the paper well into the sides, and repeat with the second piece. Now place the second circle of paper on the bottom of the tin, but on top of the two pressed-down frilly edges, which will also help to hold the pieces around the edge in place. Finally, wrap the tin with brown parcel paper, again making it higher than the sides, and tie it in place with kitchen twine.
  2. Put the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, Tia Maria, orange juice and zests, spice and unsweetened cocoa into a large wide saucepan and bring to the boil gently, stirring as the butter melts. Simmer for 10 minutes, and then take off the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  3. After the 30 minutes are up, it will have cooled a little (though you could leave it for longer if you wanted). Add the beaten eggs, flour, almond meal, baking powder and baking soda, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, however you like, to combine.
  4. Pour the fruit cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place in the oven and bake for 1¾–2 hours, by which time the top of the cake should be firm but will have a shiny and sticky look. If you insert a cake tester into the centre of the cake it will still be a little gooey in the middle.
  5. Put the cake on a cooling rack. It will hold its heat and take a while to cool, but once it has, unmould it from the tin and, if you don’t want to eat it immediately (and like any fruit cake it has a very long life), wrap it in baking parchment and then in foil and place in a tin.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
The cake can be made 2 weeks ahead and stored, wrapped in a double layer of greaseproof paper (parchment paper) and a layer of foil, in an airtight container in a cool place.

FREEZE NOTE:
The cake can be frozen, wrapped in a double layer of clingfilm (plastic wrap) and a double layer of foil, for up to 3 months. To thaw the cake, unwrap it and put it on a plate in a cool place overnight, then wrap and store as above.  Slices of leftover cake can also be wrapped individually and put in a resealable container and frozen for up to 1 month. Unwrap and thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
The cake can be made 2 weeks ahead and stored, wrapped in a double layer of greaseproof paper (parchment paper) and a layer of foil, in an airtight container in a cool place.

FREEZE NOTE:
The cake can be frozen, wrapped in a double layer of clingfilm (plastic wrap) and a double layer of foil, for up to 3 months. To thaw the cake, unwrap it and put it on a plate in a cool place overnight, then wrap and store as above.  Slices of leftover cake can also be wrapped individually and put in a resealable container and frozen for up to 1 month. Unwrap and thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Tell us what you think

What 45 Others have said

  • I've made this cake for the last 20 years as my go to Christmas cake. Well loved in our house. Would never go back to any other Christmas cake.

    Posted by salnz on 27th November 2022
  • A most deliciou chocolate Christmas cake that makes a fantastic alternative cake for the festive season ring the changes try this moist succulent dark chocolate cake that I'm sure that you'll enjoy as much as I do with the traditional spices and nuts you'll expect to find in a fantastic Christmas cake but it's much easier to make the results are superb! A great cut and come again cake that everyone will love as much as I do I'm sure! Fantastic enjoy! Many thanks for sharing another winner Nigella!

    Posted by Odelle on 17th November 2022
  • This has been my go to Xmas cake for the last 6 years. Always fabulous, and everyone always enjoys it. I use brandy though instead of Tia Maria and feed the cake up til Xmas x x

    Posted by Simon82 on 28th October 2022
  • I've just made this as a change from my usual Christmas fruitcake. I used Xanthum gum and gf flour as I have a friend who is Coeliac whom I want to try it on - will let you know if it is successful nearer the time!

    Posted by Carolyn1234 on 16th October 2022
  • Made it for the first time. What an easy yet fabulous recipe that make a delicious cake. It’s moist, rich and the cocoa prune liquor combination takes it to the next level. Next Christmas this will be my go to. Thanks Nigella.

    Posted by IngieNaw on 28th April 2022
  • I started out baking this cake years ago, and then my husband, who is a chef, took over. We have it every Christmas and it never disappoints. It's always a hit with anyone who tries it and especially with people, like me, who detest ordinary fruit cakes. We often eat it as a dessert with runny cream. Just so rich and wonderful and chocolatey! Thanks Nigella for a long-lasting and seasonal treat. Eaten in our house in New Zealand every year!

    Posted by CaroWillow on 6th January 2022
  • Love this cake - it’s the second year I’ve made it and it’s even better this year than it was last year! I used 4 mandarins this year as I found the mixture was a little too wet last year from all the orange juice. It’s worked a treat! I also add a heaped teaspoon of ground ginger to the mix which adds to the Christmassy flavours!

    Posted by theroccoco on 21st December 2021
  • This is a wonderful, easy recipe that makes a really delicious cake. I would definitely recommend it as an alternative to the usual Christmas cake.

    Posted by MummaDarbs on 19th December 2021
  • Thank you Nigella for this delicious recipe!

    Posted by AmateurG on 14th December 2021
  • I have made this cake for Christmas for the past 4 or 5 years and it never disappoints! And nobody ever believes it's full of prunes!! I do pre-soak the fruit for 24 hrs for an extra boozy punch, but it's great without pre-soaking, too. The tin wrapping is rather a trial; I almost cried at the first attempt. Oiling the tin so the paper sticks, helps!

    Posted by CatMac71 on 4th December 2021
  • Originally I made this as an alternative to traditional Christmas cake and suet pudding for my daughters, when they were young and we’d spend the holiday with their grandparents in north wales. However over the years it’s become a family staple and is included in my homemade hampers as well as Church and school table top sales.

    Posted by MooDee72 on 28th November 2021
  • If there is one thing I really do not like, is fruit cake! Nigella's version, however, is so delicious I have been making it every Christmas for the past 5 years. It is just to die for

    Posted by Lula81 on 14th December 2020
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