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    Step by Step - Bay Decorated Christmas Cake

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    Step by Step - Bay Decorated Christmas Cake

    This moist and fruity cake can be made now so that it matures, and is ready for the marzipan and icing the week before Christmas. Feed with brandy, rum or orange liqueur to give it a rich, festive flavour and even moister texture. The suggested bay leaf and cranberry decoration is easy to create and really effective. Decorate just 1-2 days before serving so the decorations stay in good condition. Once decorated, store the cake in a cool, dry place, loosely covered, until ready to serve.

    • Vegetarian
    • Christmas

    Makes: 23cm round cake


    • 500g pack Waitrose Australian Sultanas
    • 250g pack Waitrose Australian Lexia Raisins
    • 250g pack Waitrose Dried Apricots Ready to Eat, quartered
    • 200g tub Waitrose Glacé Fruits Italian Cut Mixed Peel
    • 200g tub Waitrose Glacé Fruits Provençal Cherries, halved
    • 100g Waitrose French Prunes Ready to Eat, quartered
    • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
    • 100ml brandy
    • 250g unsalted butter, softened
    • 200g Waitrose Light Brown Muscovado Sugar
    • 5 medium eggs
    • 300g plain flour, sifted
    • 200g pack Waitrose Walnut Pieces
    • To decorate
    • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
    • 3 tbsp apricot jam
    • 750g Waitrose White Marzipan
    • 1kg white ready-to-roll icing
    • 100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
    • 50g caster sugar
    • 6 packs fresh bay leaves, separated if in sprigs
    • 1 metre silver string or ribbon, or raffia
    • 6 nightlights, wrapped in small squares of foil
    • 75-100g fresh cranberries


    1. Place all the fruit and mixed peel in a large bowl and stir in the orange zest and juice, and the brandy. Cover and leave to soak overnight. When you are ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 150°C, gas mark 2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition (if the mixture begins to curdle, add a little of the flour). Add the nuts, the soaked fruit and any liquid, and stir well. Fold in the remaining flour. Prepare the 23cm round tin (see Cook's tips).
    2. Spoon the mixture into the tin, spreading it out evenly and making sure there are no air pockets. Level the top carefully as the tin will be very full. Bake for 3½-4 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If the cake starts to overbrown, cover the top with a piece of baking parchment. Leave it to cool completely in the tin. Store in a cool, dry place wrapped in greaseproof paper and a double thickness of foil. (You can feed the cake with brandy, rum or orange liqueur every 2-3 weeks - see Cook's tips - until it is ready for the marzipan and icing.)
    3. Warm the jam with 1 tablespoon of water in a small pan. Press through a sieve into a small bowl. Invert the cake onto a flat plate or platter. Lightly knead 50g marzipan to soften it slightly, then roll small pieces into thin sausage shapes and use to fill any gaps between the cake and plate or platter. Brush the jam over the top and sides. Roll out the remaining marzipan to a 35cm round. Lift it over the cake and ease to fit around the sides, making it as neat as possible around the base. Trim off the excess with a sharp knife.
    4. Lightly knead the ready-to-roll icing on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Roll out to a 35cm round and lift it over the cake. Ease the icing to fit around the sides of the cake to eliminate as many creases as possible. Trim off the excess around the base. Using the palms of your hands, lightly dusted with icing sugar, use a polishing action over the top and sides of the cake to make the icing as smooth as possible.
    5. To frost the bay leaves and cranberries, place the egg white and caster sugar in two separate small bowls. Using your thumb and forefinger or a small paintbrush, coat about 0.5cm of the edge of each leaf with egg white then sprinkle with the sugar. Brush half the cranberries with the egg white, then sprinkle with sugar. Leave to dry in a cool dry place. Beat the icing sugar in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of cold water to make a smooth paste.
    6. Using a palette knife, spread half the paste in a band around the side of the cake. Reserve 5-6 bay leaves. Arrange the rest around the side of the cake, with the frosted side facing outwards, pressing them gently into the icing paste. Wrap the string, ribbon or raffia around the cake and secure in a bow. Arrange the nightlights on the top of the cake, spacing them slightly apart and securing with more icing paste. Just before serving, pile up most of the cranberries around the nightlights, then scatter the remainder around the base of the cake. Prop the reserved bay leaves among the cranberries.

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    Cook's tips

    To prepare a 23cm round cake tin, line the base and sides with a double thickness of baking parchment, cut so it comes 5cm above the edge of the tin. Fold a double band of brown paper around the outside of the tin and secure with kitchen string. Stand the tin on several sheets of newspaper of brown paper. Wrapping the tin in brown paper stops the edges of the cake from drying out before the centre is cooked and helps to keep it moist. Covering the top with a piece of folded baking parchment will also stop it overbrowning before the centre is cooked.

    To feed the cake, every 2-3 weeks prick the surface with a fine skewer and spoon over 2 tablespoons of Waitrose Brandy. Do not overfeed or the cake will become soggy and pudding-like.

    The alcohol in which the fruit is soaked evaporates during cooking, but if you would prefer not to use any alcohol, soak the fruit in an extra 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice instead.

    If a dome forms on the cake during cooking, slice off the top just before covering with marzipan, to create a flat surface.

    Make sure the bay leaves on the cake are kept away from the nightlights and never leave burning candles or nightlights unattended. Take care not to allow the nightlights to burn too long at a time, as they will melt the icing if they become too hot.


    The cake can be covered with royal icing instead of ready-to-roll. Beat 4 medium egg whites in a large bowl, the gradually beat in 900g icing sugar until the icing is thick and smooth and forms soft peaks when the spoon is lifted from the bowl. If the icing is too soft, add a little extra icing sugar; if too firm, add a few drops of water. Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake, swirling it in an even layer with a palette knife. (This icing contains uncooked egg so it is not suitable for elderly people, young children. pregnant women or those whose immune systems are weak.)

    Kitchen tools

    Scales and measuring jug
    2 large and 3-4 small bowls
    Grater and juicer
    Wooden spoon
    23cm round cake tin
    Greaseproof paper
    Baking parchment and foil
    Brown paper or newspaper
    Kitchen string
    Small pan
    Flat plate or platter
    Pastry brush
    Rolling pin
    Small sharp knife
    Small paintbrush
    Palette knife


    Average user rating

    4 stars