NZ Woman's Weekly

Ginger ale Christmas cake

With a few weeks left till the 25th, it’s not too late to make a Christmas cake. Traditionally you would have made it months before and stashed it away to mature and become rich in flavour. But my favourite recipe needs just a few weeks to mature and it makes a lovely, lighter cake than the traditional heavy, dark cake.

This recipe was handed down to me from my grandmother. I call it Fitzroy Christmas Cake because my grandparents lived in Fitzroy, New Plymouth but it’s probably best known as Ginger Ale Christmas Cake. I always make several of these a few weeks out from Christmas Day, wrap them in foil and store them in a dark cupboard until needed.

My stash of cakes usually sees us through Christmas, then a month at the caravan at the beach. If you are thinking of making some homemade mince pies this year then you have just enough time to whip up your own fruit mince.

The stuff you buy ready-made often has bits of red and green jelly which are artificially coloured and are meant to imitate cherries, so it’s nicer if you can make your own. You just need two weeks to let it sit and develop in sealed jars, so if you get cracking now, you’ll be ready for the week leading up to Christmas. This recipe is one of former Weekly food editor Tui Flower’s wonderful creations.

Fruit mince

  • 1 cup currants
  • 1 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup mixed peel
  • 1/2 cup well-drained pineapple pieces (tinned)
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds
  • 225g apples
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brandy or rum
  • 125g clarified butter

1. Chop the currants, raisins, sultanas and peel and place in a bowl. Chop the pineapple and almonds coarsely and add them to the fruit.

2. Peel and core the apples and chop finely. Add lemon rind and juice to the apple, together with the sugar, spices and brandy or rum. Mix well together.

3. Melt the butter over a low heat and pour into the fruit mixture. Stir until the butter is blended into the mixture.

4. Spoon into dry jars and seal. Allow to mature for at least two weeks before using.

Ginger ale Christmas cake

  • 1kg mixed fruit (sultanas, currants, dried peel)
  • 300ml dry ginger ale
  • 1 tsp rum essence (I just use brandy)
  • 125g butter
  • 250g sugar
  • 2 dessertspoons golden syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 375g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice

1. Soak the fruit with the ginger ale and essence overnight.

2. In the morning, preheat the oven to 150°C. Cream butter and sugar, then stir in the golden syrup and add the eggs one at a time, beating well.

3. Add the dry ingredients and finally the soaked fruit along with any liquid that’s left behind.

4. Bake for 2.5 to 3 hours.

Do you have a Nana recipe you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at: or write to Nana’s Pantry, NZWW, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

Issue 1541

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