Farmersgirl Kitchen

How to Bake Paul Hollywood’s Christmas Cake

Uncategorized | November 6, 2012 | By

What do you think about when you think of Paul Hollywood?  Oh stop it, you naughty readers.  If you were behaving yourselves, you might think of baking but more specifically, baking bread.  Certainly, I associate Paul Hollywood with bread baking rather than cake baking.  So I was surprised and delighted when I received a copy of his book ‘How to Bake’ to review, to see that there were indeed lots of bread recipes but also lots of other bakes too.

How to Bake by Paul Hollywood

Getting started with Bread
is a great way to start, it’s a comprehensive guide to baking bread covering
everything from different types of flour, through techniques and tools.  I liked the use of step by step pictures as
well as written instructions.
Basic Breads covers white
and wholemeal loaves in different shapes and variations, soda bread, flat
breads, Italian breads  and even crumpets.
Flavoured Breads moves us on
to introducing savoury and sweet ingredients into the dough, some lovely
recipes for bread sticks, Coriander, olive and onion bread, Bacon and Cheddar
loaves, Pecan loaf and Hot Cross Buns.
Sourdough Bread is a real
challenge for any baker but Paul takes us through all the steps and makes it
sound achievable.  As well as basic
sourdough breads, he offers recipes such as Sour olive bread, Muesli and banana
sourdough and Lavender honey and toasted almond sourdough.  So many tempting flavours, it makes me really
want to give this a go!
Croissants, Danish & Brioche
takes us into the realm of sweetened yeasted dough, there is a lot of technique
involved in making these sweet breads and they can be time consuming. If you
are worried about  technique there is a
double page spread of photographs showing how to make the croissant dough, they
are clear and easy to follow.
Biscuits, Puddings and Cakes and
now we come to the chapter which surprised me, however it’s clear that these
recipes are just as important to Paul as the bread.  Sweet and savoury biscuits, strudels,
Baklava, crumble,  soufflé, cheesecake,
chocolate cake, muffins, brownies, Buche de Noel and Christmas cake.
Tarts and Pies
If you’ve seen the Great British Bake off, you will know that pies are
something Paul is passionate about.  In this
chapter Paul demystifies pastry making 
with recipes and techniques for different types of pastry and recipes
for everything from Lemon meringue pie to hot water crust pork pies.

Who is it for?

How to Bake is a book for
anyone who wants to bake, whether you want to learn how to make bread for the
first time,  to extend your repertoire or
challenge yourself to try something new.

Pros and Cons


I loved the step by step photographs and there is also a photo of every
recipe.  I like to know what I’m aiming
for.   The introductions to each chapter
make you feel that you are really getting the benefit of Paul Hollywood’s years
of experience
It’s a big book and quite heavy, but that is a very little ‘con’ and
only relevant if you are trying to read it in bed!

Ease of use

The instructions are easy to follow, there is quite a lot to read at
the start of each chapter and it’s worth reading this through before diving
into the recipes.

 Worth buying?

I would recommend this book, it is well thought out with techniques
explained clearly in words and pictures, definitely worth buying.

 As I hadn’t yet made my Christmas cake, I decided to try Paul’s recipe, the photograph above is from the book.

Christmas Cake

Makes at least 16 slices / prep 1 hour, plus pre-soaking fruit / bake 3–3½ hours
This is a classic, richly fruited Christmas cake – deliciously moist and
substantial. It tastes wonderful just as it is, but of course the addition of
marzipan and snowy white icing make it much more festive and spectacular.
You can either make your own marzipan, or use a good-quality bought
one. The same goes for the icing.
450g sultanas
225g raisins
225g dried apricots, chopped
115g prunes, chopped
55g glacé pineapple
225g glacé cherries, chopped
225g chopped candied peel
115g blanched almonds, toasted and very roughly chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
70ml brandy
225g unsalted butter, softened
200g light muscovado sugar
5 large eggs
280g plain flour

To finish
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 quantity marzipan (see page 255), or a 500g packet ready made marzipan
Icing sugar for dusting
1 quantity royal icing (see page 255), or a 500g packet ready-to-
roll royal icing

1. Combine all the dried and glacé fruit, candied peel and almonds in
a large bowl. Add the orange zest and juice, and the brandy. Mix well,
cover and leave for several hours or overnight.
2. Heat your oven to 150˚C. Line the base and sides of a 20cm round deep
cake tin with a double thickness of baking parchment, cutting it so that
it stands a good 5cm proud of the top of the tin.
3. In a very large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for
several minutes until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time,
adding a little of the flour with each to prevent the mixture splitting.
Stir in the fruit mixture. Sift the remaining flour over the mixture and
fold in, using a large metal spoon. Spoon the mixture into the prepared
cake tin and level the surface.
4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 3 hours, then check by inserting
a skewer into the centre – if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.
If not, give it a further 15–30 minutes. Leave the cake to cool before
removing it from the tin.
5. When your cake is completely cooled – and ideally after a couple of days
– you can marzipan and ice it. Warm the apricot jam gently in a saucepan
with a splash of water to thin it down, sieve, then brush all over the cake.
6. Roll out 300g of the marzipan to a large circle, about 4mm thick. Using
the cake tin as a guide, cut a round of marzipan to fit the top of the cake
and position it. Roll out the other 200g marzipan with the trimmings
and cut 2 long strips to fit around the side of the cake. Position these,
then smooth the marzipan and mould the edges together.
7. If you are using ready-to-roll icing, roll it out on a surface lightly
dusted with icing sugar to a thickness of about 5mm. Lift it over the
marzipan, smooth down and trim off the excess at the base.
8. If you are using homemade royal icing, smooth it over the cake with
a palette knife. You can leave it smooth or swirl it into peaks with the
back of a spoon or your palette knife, as you choose. Leave to set.
9. Wrap a ribbon around the side of your Christmas cake and finish as you
wish with festive decorations.

Here is my cake, it is much lighter than the one I usually make but it is packed full of fruit.  There seemed to be a lot of mixture, too much for my 20cm tin, so I baked the remaining mixture in a small loaf tin.

The advantage of this was that I was able to taste the cake without cutting into my Christmas cake!  In fact the cake cuts very well as the texture of the cake is quite dense but moist and not over sweet. As an apricot and prune fan, I particularly enjoyed the dried fruits.  I’ll be interested to see how the cake matures.

How to Bake by Paul Hollywood is published by Bloomsbury  RRP £20,  Popular On line Retailer £8.86

Thanks to Bloomsbury for the opportunity to review this book


  1. Leave a Reply

    belleau kitchen
    November 7, 2012

    Excellent review and lovely cake. I like that it looks lighter and paler than traditional Christmas cake which I find too rich. Must have been the most incredible aroma in the kitchen.

  2. Leave a Reply

    November 9, 2012

    It's a great book. I have only had a read of it so far and haven't tried a recipe yet.I don't seem to have had the time. Your cake looks good. Are you going to keep it for Christmas and feed it alcohol?

  3. Leave a Reply

    Milo Cakecraft
    November 13, 2012

    Great post Janet, can see many people this Christmas looking at what Paul Hollywood has to offer!

    Hayley x

  4. Leave a Reply

    November 16, 2012

    Loving this book! The cherry and chocolate muffins are easy and delicious. Mixed up the fruit for this cake last night and was a bit doubtful about the lack of treacle and spices in the recipe, so greatly appreciated your comments and the photo of the finished cake slice – very useful! Definitely going to give it a go and, in fact, it might make a really nice change from the usual round of Christmas sweet things that all end up tasting the same!

  5. Leave a Reply

    November 16, 2012

    Glad you found my post useful, Helen. It is a lovely cake, but as you say not the usual Christmas Cake you expect!

  6. Leave a Reply

    Adela Bell
    September 26, 2013

    Hi, can I bake this in advance?. If so can I add alcohol and how would I store it. My first time baking this Christmas Cake.

  7. Leave a Reply

    Janice Pattie
    September 26, 2013

    Hi Adela
    Yes, do make it in advance wrap in baking parchment and then foil and you can 'feed' your cake with alcohol by pricking it with a skewer and pouring over some whisky, brandy or rum. You can repeat this every two weeks until you want to eat the cake. If you want to add alcohol at the baking stage I would suggest you soak your fruits overnight in alcohol, they should soak it up and you can then use the fruit. As per the recipe. Hope you enjoy the cake.

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