Christmas cake is an integral part of British yuletide festivities. There are some varying traditions in eating it (it’s eaten with a piece of cheese in Yorkshire) and what to drink with it (tea or sherry?) but one thing remains — it’s just not Christmas without it.
Baking and storing a Christmas cake takes some careful planning. The ‘feeding’ of the cake with sherry, brandy or whisky in the run-up to Christmas is a tradition that makes the whole process extra special. We’ve put this guide together so that you can make sure that your Christmas cake is stored correctly so that it’ll be the pièce de résistance of the celebrations and you can continue to enjoy the leftovers into the new year.
How to store a Christmas cake
Christmas cakes are traditionally made well ahead of time. Not only does this help to improve the taste of the cake, but it also saves time over the Christmas period when the kitchen is busy and the oven is full. So storing the cake before the big day needs to be considered. Plus it’s unlikely the whole cake will be eaten with so much other food on offer; the leftover cake will also need to be stored as well. Let’s take a look at the best way to store a Christmas cake pre and post-Christmas.
What equipment is needed to store a cake
Firstly, you’ll need to place the cake on a cake board. Then wrap the cake in a double layer of baking paper and then in a double layer of foil. Secure the layers with an elastic band and put the wrapped cake in an airtight container.
To ‘feed’ the cake you will need a cake syringe or pointed teaspoon and a skewer or BBQ stick.
Feeding the Christmas cake
If you’re making Christmas cake it’s worth ‘feeding’ it with additional alcohol every month to experience the benefits: extra flavour, added moistness and it helps to preserve the ingredients. And if you like the taste of strong spirits, you can add a sneaky bit more to give it a boozy kick! If you’re planning on freezing your Christmas cake, you can freeze it before or after feeding it.
So what alcohol works best when feeding a Christmas cake? For some added spiciness, go for brandy, rum or whisky. If you want an almond flavour try amaretto or cherry brandy. To add more citrus notes, go for an orange liqueur.
How to feed the cake:
- After storing it as per the instructions above, simply unwrap the cake and turn it upside down.
- Then using the skewer or BBQ stick, puncture the bottom of the cake to create tiny holes.
- Next, using a pointed teaspoon or syringe drip, press a little of your chosen alcohol into the holes.
- Now you can wrap the cake back up in the double layer of baking paper and a double layer of tin foil.
- Put the wrapped cake back into the airtight container.
You can feed the cake every couple of weeks for 3-4 feeds in total. But if the cake appears wet, then stop feeding (no ‘soggy bottoms’ here!)
How long can you store Christmas cake?
Depending on what recipe you use, Christmas cakes can be kept wrapped up in an airtight container for up to three months in advance. Or you can make the cake even earlier and then freeze it, defrosting it when you want to feed or decorate it.
One tip that some festive bakers swear by is to soak linen in alcohol such as rum and wrap up the cake in the soaked linen. This helps to protect the cake against mould or yeast problems.
It’s worth noting that the container that you store your Christmas cake in must be airtight as otherwise, the proteins in the ingredients (eggs, butter, nuts…) will become oxidised if exposed to air — which causes rancid odours and flavours.
Fruit cakes can generally be stored for up to a year in the freezer. But they could probably last for even longer. This is because the alcohol prevents mould and kills bacteria and the sugar helps to preserve the cake for longer. The dried fruit in the Christmas cake has ‘low water activity’. This means that there is little moisture present. Microorganisms such as bacteria need moisture in order to thrive. So this means that Christmas cake lasts a long time in storage. However, the quality of the fruit cake will lower the longer it is left in the freezer. The issue here is food spoilage, rather than food safety. So while it may be possible to keep the fruitcake forever, it’s probably best to eat it within a few months.
When you are transporting, gifting or eating the Christmas cake, there are many different cake boxes on offer, which you can decorate or label. Many cake boxes come with a window so that you can display your decorated cake (it would be a shame to hide it!)
Christmas preparations seem to be getting earlier every year that passes, with Christmas goodies on display in shops the day after Halloween. But Christmas cake has traditionally been made around the start of November. This allows you plenty of time to feed the cake with your favourite liqueur. Don’t worry if you find yourself making a Christmas cake at the last minute though — the richness of the fruits, nuts and spices are flavoursome without it. There’s just nothing quite like that first bite of crumbly Christmas cake to get you into the festive spirit.