Mindful Holiday Traditions: Eleanor’s Perfect Christmas Cake

Eleanor icing her Christmas Cake The cake, with greenery

By Valerie Hutterer | Living
Posted Dec 24, 2016

This season, in addition to our Magnifeco Holiday Gift Guide, we want to share more mindful ways to celebrate the holidays and asked some of our favorite people for their holiday traditions. Today, Eleanor O’Neill shares her perfect Christmas Cake.

My holiday tradition is making my Christmas cake. It’s made months in advance and ‘fed’ with brandy every few weeks until you get closer to Christmas and it’s time to marzipan, ice and eat it. It means the whole house smells like Christmas on a random Saturday in October…. delicious!

For the fruit cake

The fruit cake itself can be made months in advance and kept in cool dry place until needed. (Eleanor usually make hers about 3 months before Christmas).

Use a square 8” cake tin lined with two layers of baking parchment and an additional one wrapped around the outside secured with string.

Heat the oven to 140’c fan.


• 1KG of mixed dried fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, dried chopped prunes or dates and glace cherries)
• Zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
• 150ml brandy (and extra for drizzling)
• 250g butter (softened)
• 200g light soft brown sugar
• 175g plain flour
• 100g ground almonds
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 2 tsp mixed spice
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp ground cloves
• 100g flaked almonds
• 4 large eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla extract


Put the dried fruits, zest and juice, brandy, butter and sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, them lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Tip this fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Once cooled, add remaining ingredients to fruit mixture and stir well.

Tip mixture into prepared tin and level the top.

Bake for 2 hours 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, poke holes in the top with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp Brandy.

Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.

Store in an airtight container until it’s time to do the marzipan (drizzling a tablespoon of brandy over it every two weeks or so).

For the marzipan

The marzipan needs to be made in time enough to allow it to dry out on the cake a little before applying the icing (otherwise stains can come through to the white icing)

• 90g icing sugar
• 90g golden castor sugar
• 1 large egg, beaten
• a few drops of almond extract
• 1 tsp brandy
• 175g ground almonds

Sift icing sugar and castor sugar in a large ovenproof bowl and stir in the beaten egg.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk for about 10 minutes until thick and fluffy.

Remove bowl from heat and sit in 5cm of cold water.

Whisk in almond extract and brandy and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool.

Stir in ground almonds to form a paste

Kneed on a lightly dusted surface of icing sugar.

Bring some marmalade (or apricot jam) to the boil and brush the surface of the cake with it (this will encourage the marzipan to stick).

Using a rolling pin on a lightly sugar dusted surface, roll out the marzipan until it’s about 4mm thick (you can do separate pieces for the top and sides instead of all in one to make it easier if you like).

Lay the marzipan on top making sure it’s sticking to the cake on all sides and trim off any excess.

Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a cool dry place for 48 hours.

For the royal icing

• 500g icing sugar
• 3 large egg whites
• 1 tsp glycerine

Place egg white in a bowl and stir in icing sugar one spoonful at a time (until the icing falls thickly from the spoon)

Whisk for 10 minutes until the icing stands in soft peaks then stir in the glycerine.

Spoon onto the marzipan topped cake so it’s about 3/4cm thick.

Decorate with a sprig of holly…and you’re done!

About Eleanor

After graduating in 2013 with a degree in knitwear design, Eleanor O’Neil was excited to get out into the industry. But after working for an international luxury brand, as a global supply chain manager and finally as a knitwear designer for an Italian label she started to feel that something didn’t fit. The lack of creativity in the design office and lack of transparency in the supply chain along with the levels of waste being produced really made her question what she was doing. Eleanor decided to take a step back and return to the UK to really think about what she had learned and seen in her career so far and how she could use it to move forward. STUDY 34 started as a knitwear brand but has slowly grown to be much more than that. Over the last couple of years she has discovered so many amazing brands and people, and loves to shout about them! As the founder of STUDY 34 she is a champion of innovative and responsible brands and loves discovering people who make awesome products ethically and with respect to the environment.

Learn more and follow Ellie  - 

Facebook: @study34
Twitter: @study34_
Instagram: @study.34

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