Christmas cake is best eaten when you are very hungry…. with a good, strong cup of tea.  🍵 🎄 Now this may be controversial, but I hate the addition of any sort of icing, especially that thick royal icing.  You can just  stud the top with almonds, and decorate the sides with a festive wrapper.

Mr Thomas Heathorn of Hobart surely deserved the title King of Cakes.  He arrived in Tasmania in 1875 and opened The Melbourne Cafe, at 97  Liverpool Street. Each Christmas he would produce a giant cake salted with treasures. Customers could buy a pound of cake for a shilling and hope to find a gold ring or some other trinket  in their  chosen piece. It was an ingenious variation on the tradition of coins in a Christmas pudding, and  of course solid gold PR for the cafe.

Thomas Heathorn, Tasmanian king of the Christmas cake.



Advertisement for Mr Heathorn's monster Christmas cake.


The cake had three tiers and stood about nine foot high. It was illuminated at night. Oh the excitement  when it was distributed to customers just before Christmas;


Mr Heathorn's Christmas cake ready for distribution.


Many years later  Launceston’s Examiner newspaper held a competition to find the best Christmas cake recipe. I detect some cultural cringe in choosing Miss Chapman with her English diploma as judge, but never mind. Wow,  ten eggs!  The addition of walnuts along with the traditional almonds is interesting.

I can’t remember what recipe my mother used for her Christmas cakes, but they were wonderful.  When I was working in Scotland back in the 1970s she posted a little one to me its tin.  Perhaps it was originally my paternal grandmother’s recipe. Grandma used to win prizes with her rich fruit cakes at the Ulverstone show. I did wonder if it was passed down to my  older sister Robbie, but no, she uses one that sounds even better. Apparently a Tasmanian man  rang up a TV station  some forty years ago and said that his wife made the best Christmas cake ever. Who was she I wonder? Robbie wrote down  the instructions  and has made that cake every since. Now her daughter and granddaughters make it too, so another  family tradition has been established.

Shamefully, I have never made a Christmas cake myself. For decades my mother-in-law Jean would bake one for us. We enjoyed every delicious morsel.

Robbie was a bit embarrassed to send me the following,  cake stained page, but I assured her that’s what a much loved recipe  should look like.

My sister's Christmas cake recipe.


And here is the finished product (look, no icing!) . The topping of toasted, slivered almonds is her own addition, but she says it’s the dried apricots soaked in rum that add the extra flavour. I do love the cask of  Sauvignon Blanc in the background. Well, every cook deserves a little cheer. 😍









  1. Always had a home baked fruit Christmas Cake with the same familiar and much loved decorations stuck into the top icing as we were growing up. A tradition I kept up when I had my own married home. However, Christmas Puddings, also always home-made, always had the odd silver sixpenny bit in them, which were tiny little coins. Fortunately, none of us ever accidentally swallowed any of them, but guess if you had, they’d have eventually come out of the ‘other’ end!

  2. My Mum’s Christmas cakes always had the whole almond decoration and festive ribbon. Loved going with her to the ‘health food shop’ to buy all the dried fruit in little white or larger brown paper bags (depending on the amount). More recently, a friend makes delicious cakes with the full icing – marzipan layer topped by royal icing. I love those, too! In fact, any fruit cake goes down well with me!

    • Pauline

      Thanks for sharing your memories Megan. Christmas cakes and puddings will always be special for us.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.