This exclusive heirloom cake recipe from baking blogger Erin Clarkson (Cloudy Kitchen) just might become your new holiday go-to. It is the New Zealand native’s great grandmother’s recipe. Erin enjoyed it every Christmas of her childhood. Love the cake stand it’s on? Order our Exclusive Bake from Scratch AHeirloom Cake Stand. (will ship in 4 to 6 weeks)
One of my most treasured possessions is my grandmother’s recipe book. I’m not quite sure how this came to be—as grandchild 17 of 18, I am literally almost at the bottom of the pile. But I somehow managed to get lucky. It’s falling to pieces in a way only the most loved books do, the favourite recipes recognisable by messy tattered pages. Aside from a few recipes taken from magazines or glued in recipe cards, and a couple written by the grandchildren (along with their name and age at the top), the majority of recipes are written in my grandma’s familiar curly writing, which got a little shaky toward the end as her eyes failed her.
There’s something insanely soothing about baking from this book. On the pages are the recipes that taught me to bake. We spent every summer holiday staying with my grandparents, and Grandma and I would spend hours and hours in the kitchen, where she taught me all sorts of things. The recipes themselves can be quite vague—often there are no tin sizes or baking times, but that is part of the fun of working out how she used to do it. Parts of it I remember, parts of it I turn to my mum or one of my aunties to ask them, and I just wing other parts of it and hope some sort of muscle memory will help me. And usually, they turn out just as I remembered. It’s probably good luck or an educated guess, but I like to think that my grandma is secretly helping me out. The diamond in my ring belonged to her, so whenever I bake from the book, it gets turned around so it is inside my hand, just the way she wore it, like my little good luck charm.
Something that was made every year at the start of December was a Christmas Cake. This isn’t quite the one that I remember eating. As Grandma’s eyes got worse, Mum took over the cake-making duties and would opt for a slightly lighter cake, but this is the one I remember making with Grandma when I was very young. According to her book, this was her mother’s recipe, and it is one of the dirtiest, most used pages of them all.
I had to interpret the recipe a little—there was no method or indication of what size cake tin to use (Grandma used her mum’s tin, and it was just “the Christmas Cake tin”)—but as soon as I took the first bite, it tasted exactly as I remember, so it must have all turned out just fine.
- I made this in an 8-inch tin, and it turned out to be quite high. My tin had 3-inch sides, so if yours is a little lower, I suggest baking it in a 9- or 10-inch tin. It will yield a lower cake, but it cooks incredibly slowly, so the baking time shouldn’t be too different. Keep a close eye on it anyway.
- Make sure that the pan is well lined. I greased it and then gave it a double lining of parchment paper, making sure that it extended out over the top of the tin to accommodate any rising.
- 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1¾ cups (340 grams) dark brown sugar
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 grams) golden syrup
- 3 cups (425 grams) all-purpose flour
- 7 eggs
- 3 cups (510 grams) currants
- 2 cups (340 grams) raisins
- 1 cup (170 grams) sultanas or golden raisins (if you can’t find, regular raisins are fine, too)
- ¾ cup (100 grams) nuts (I used pecans)
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C). Grease an 8- or 9-inch cake tin with at least 3-inch sides, and line with two layers of parchment, ensuring that the parchment is higher than the sides of the tin.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the golden syrup and mix until combined.
- Measure the flour into a medium bowl and set aside. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of flour between each addition.
- Measure the currants, raisins, sultanas, and nuts into a large bowl. Add the remaining flour, and the spices, and stir well to evenly coat the fruit. Add the creamed mixture and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until evenly combined.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin, and smooth down with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for an hour, then reduce the oven temperature to 285˚F (130˚C) and cook for a further 2 to 3 hours, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely in the tin before removing. Store in an airtight container wrapped in parchment paper until ready to serve.