Fruited Cocoa Cake or Christmas Cake

This is a very old “receipt” from one of my ancestors.

This is not a “fruitcake” per se, but it has dried fruits and nuts in it. The inclusion of cocoa (Dutch process only) adds a component to the cake that takes it into a different realm.

Here is a very old family recipe. The earliest mention of the cake is in one of my ancestor’s journals ca. 1690. My great-grandmother found the “receipt” and deciphered the recipe in about 1880.
Although it was prepared at other times of the year, it was always called Christmas Cake.
I brought it up to date about 20 years ago when I was allowed access to my great grandmama’s journals. I have continued to refine it right up to the present.

Like many cakes of that era it contains dried fruits and is fairly heavy. You can use a combination of dried fruits, but the larger ones have to be chopped so all pieces are about the same size. I have used cherries, cranberries, blueberries, black currants, Zante currants, sultanas and my home-dried extra sweet seedless red grapes, dried plums, dried persimmons, peaches and pears.
As long as the total amount is as listed in the recipe, it doesn’t matter about the combination.
I often make this for parties and most people love it. Technically it is a “fruit” cake but even people who do not care for fruitcake will eat this.
Also like most of the English cakes that are served at tea, it keeps very well, as I have noted in the recipe.

original recipe ca. 1690

It is important to use Dutch process cocoa. If you can’t find it you have to use baking POWDER instead of baking SODA.
I use King Arthur Flour’s Double Dutch Cocoa and Black Cocoa Half and Half.

When glazed with the glaze at the end of the recipe, this cake will keep for several days at room temp and will stay incredibly moist. I have in the past made this cake ahead of time and wrapped it well in aluminum foil and kept it in a cool place for 6 weeks. However I now live alone. When my family was still all together, I could not keep it more than a couple of days……to give you an idea of the way things used to be, the original “receipt” called for 6 pounds of twice-boulted flour and 3 full pound loaves of sugar well beaten….. 2 pounds of butter and 3 dozen eggs.


1 cup BUTTER unsalted
1-1/2 tsp SALT
1 tsp CINNAMON, ground Any of these spices are better if freshly ground.
1 tsp CLOVES, ground
1 tsp NUTMEG, ground
1 tsp ALLSPICE, ground
1/3 cup COCOA, Dutch process IMPORTANT!
2 1/2 cups superfine SUGAR
4 extra-large EGGS
4 cups unbleached FLOUR
1-1/2 cups CURRANTS or raisins, any color.
1-1/2 cups DRIED CHERRIES or dried cranberries, dried blueberries.
1-1/2 cups Toasted WALNUTS, chopped or pecans or macadamia nuts, etc. I’ve used pistachios and even used pine nuts one time.
3 cups APPLESAUCE, unsweetened chunky style if you can find it, even better is homemade.

Optional: Add 3 tablespoons of espresso powder to the dry ingredients when preparing this cake without the fruit. You can also omit the nuts but I have found that toasted pecans add greatly to this cake. It is very good plain.


Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease and flour a deep 11″ x 15″ pan or 2 10-inch square pans or 2 holiday mold pans. This will fill a large Bundt pan with enough batter left for a mini loaf or 2-3 muffins.


In a large mixing bowl (or mixer bowl) cream together butter, salt, spices, cocoa and sugar. beat until smooth.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each one.
Mix baking soda with flour and sift, reserve 2 heaping tablespoons.
Instead of sifting the flour you can simply put it in a large bowl and run a wire whisk through it which does the same as sifting, i.e. fluffing it up a bit.
Add flour to batter alternately with applesauce.
Sprinkle the fruit and nuts with the reserved flour, toss to coat well and fold into cake batter.
Pour batter into pan and bake for about 1 hour or until cake tests done. (deeper pans will require longer baking)


For assurance that the cake is fully baked, I recommend using an instant read thermometer to check that the internal temperature has reached 205 degrees F. Check in at least two places near the center of the cake (halfway between the inner and outer edges if using a Bundt or tube pan) to be sure the probe is not touching a piece of fruit. Temperature of fruits in dense baked items can be significantly higher than the temperature of the surrounding dough.
Turn cake out onto cooling rack and allow to cool completely if simply dusting with confectioner’s sugar for presentation.
If using glaze, it can be applied while cake is still slightly warm.

Combine ingredients in saucepan, bring to simmer, stirring constantly, continue cooking until liquid is reduced by 1/2. Drizzle over cake ( I use a turkey baster and a perforated spoon as the glaze is too hot to dip my fingers into which is usually the way I drizzle icing).
After the glaze has set, decorate edges of the cake and the plate edges with powdered sugar sifted thru a fine sieve or use a cut-out pattern or paper “lace” doily.
You can also drape the cake with rolled fondant or decorate with cutouts of the fondant and brightly colored candied fruits.
For dedicated chocoholics, melted chocolate can be drizzled or poured over the cake. Some people like the fluffy white “7-minute” frosting similar to that used on “Black cakes” from Jamaica.

A version for the Thermomix was converted by Helene who did a marvelous job and it can be found at the following link:
Super Kitchen Machine blog

One Response to Fruited Cocoa Cake or Christmas Cake

  1. nikki serra says:

    Okay! I passed the math! Whew!
    I’m thinking this might be the fruitcake I was thinking of! How cool to find it here!

    Needing to get ready for bed again, but looking forward to browsing your blog more and more! It’s truly like visiting an old friend…which it totally is!

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