Tollgate ale Christmas cake

'Tis the season to be jolly... Why not add a different tipple to your Christmas cake this year? Brewed on the Calke Estate, Tollgate ale is the perfect addition to every Christmas fruit cake.

Cakes and bakes
Calke Abbey in Derbyshire uses estate-brewed ale in their Christmas cake
  • Preparation time 30 minutes (prep. time)
  • Cooking time 1½ hours (cooking time)
  • Serves 8–10


  • 87g/3oz unsalted butter
  • 1 orange
  • 400g/14oz dried mixed fruit
  • 175g/6oz soft dark brown sugar
  • 200ml/6¾fl.oz Tollgate ale (you can drink the rest)
  • 5g bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g/10½oz plain flour
  • 10g mixed ground spice
  • 20g flaked almonds
  • 1 pack ready-to-roll icing
  • 1 pack ready-to-roll marzipan
  • 200g/7oz apricot jam


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan (180°C) gas mark 4.
  2. Place the butter, orange zest and juice, dried fruit, sugar and ale into a pan.

  3. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.

  4. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes; it should be cool so as to not scramble the eggs.

  5. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in the eggs.

  6. Sift in the flour and mixed spice, then mix thoroughly.

  7. Line a round cake tin with greaseproof paper, then pour in the mixture. Arrange the almonds on top of the mixture in a concentric circle design, then bake for 1½ hours or until the skewer is clean.

  8. Gently melt the jam, then roll out the marzipan (TIP: roll out the marzipan on cling film so you can lift it easily), using a little shake of icing sugar to help prevent it sticking to the rolling pin or surface.

  9. Brush the cake with the jam, then gently lay over the marzipan and smooth over.

  10. Roll out the icing and brush the cake with boiled water to give it something to stick to, then lay over the icing and give it a smoothing over.