Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” Christmas Cake Recipe

Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” Christmas Cake Recipe

Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” Christmas Cake Recipe

Here’s an updated version of Odlum’s recipe, mentioned in Small Things Like These. It seems to turn out well, every time. The trick, I think, if there’s any, is in getting the oven temperature right. Is there anything lovelier than a slice of Christmas cake with tea after a walk on Christmas Day?

-Claire Keegan


Claire Keegan’s Christmas Cake

Claire Keegan suggests serving Odlum’s Christmas Cake, the dried fruit and almond cake mentioned in her novel SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE, for a book club discussion. Recipe adapted from Odlum’s (

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cups dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups sultanas or raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups Shamrock Fruit Mix (sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, currants)
  • 1/2 cup candied cherries
  • Rind and juice of 1 orange
  • 3 1/2 cups brandy, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups all- purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon Goodall’s Mixed Spice (see recipe)
  • Icing: top with marzipan, if desired
  1. Place butter, sugar, fruit, rind, juice, and half of the brandy into a large saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted.
  2. Remove from heat and cool for approximately 30 minutes. Heat oven to 275°F. Line an 8″ round deep cake tin with parchment paper.
  3. Stir the eggs, chopped almonds, and ground almonds into the fruit mixture and mix well. Stir in the sifted flour and mixed spices.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth it out evenly (use the back of a metal spoon dipped in water)
  5. Bake for 2½-3 hours. After 2 hours, cover with foil if cake is browning too quickly. The cake is done when you insert a toothpick into the the center and it comes out clean.
  6. Poke holes in top of warm cake with a toothpick, and pour remaining brandy over cake.
  7. Leave cake in pan to cool completely. Top with marzipan if desired.

The batter can be divided between two 2 pound lined loaf pans or two 6″ round cake pans (or a combination of both) and will bake in about 1½ hours at the same temperature.

Christmas Cake, Fruitcake

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