Pineapple Christmas Cake


This Christmas cake recipe is well known to New Zealanders, and has been ever since our pre-eminent chef Alison Holst first made it on national television 30 years ago. It has received thousands of positive reviews and comments over the years and many look to it as the tried and true ‘go-to’ cake. Given its rave reviews I didn’t want to mess about too much with the original recipe, though I did get creative with the fruit mix. Instead of just adding the pineapple and juice to the mixed fruit, I also added orange zest, orange juice and a good dash of orange liqueur. I figured you couldn’t go wrong with a more distinct orange flavour and that the extra liquid would simply make the fruit juicier and plumper (which it did).

This was my first go at Christmas cake and I was rather apprehensive to say the least. But, in the end, despite the looming threat of failure and, with it, a huge waste of expensive ingredients, it proved quick and easy to make. And just to make double-sure that it was everything you want in a Christmas cake, I took a tiny core sample out of the middle of the cake (it’ll be covered with icing later anyway) and guess what? It was the most flavoursome, moist piece of fruit cake I think I’d ever eaten. So the accolades that Alison Holst receives for this cake are well deserved.

I used a heavy-duty 21cm square (8cm deep) cake tin and the mixture fitted in perfectly. As you can see, it’s one hefty cake and should do the family and guests pretty darn generously.



For 1 x 23cm; 2 x 18cm, or 12 x 10cm cakes

Ingredients: (Click here for unit converter)

  • 1.5kg mixed fruit
  • 450g can crushed pineapple in juice
  • Zest of 1-2 oranges
  • ½ cup orange juice or orange liqueur (or combination of the two)
  • 3 cups high grade (bread) flour
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon and mixed spice
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 225g butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp each vanilla, almond and lemon essences
  • 6 large eggs

For decoration (if you don’t plan to ice the cake/s):

  • 50g each glace cherries and blanched almonds


  1. The day before mixing the cake, put the dried fruit, undrained pineapple, orange zest, orange juice and liqueur (if using) in a large, preferably non-stick fry pan. Cover the pan and heat until the liquid boils, then simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Leave in the pan overnight (I left mine for 3 days to give the fruit more time to absorb the liquid), or until cold.
  2. Next day: Prepare the tin/s. Line with a double layer of baking paper. For extra protection, you can wrap a further layer or two of brown paper or damp newspaper around the edges of the cake pan/s so the sides don’t dry out.
  3. Mix the flour and spices together and put aside. In a very large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and essences until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, adding 2 tablespoons of the spiced flour with each egg. Stir in prepared (cold) fruit mix and remaining spiced flour. If mixture seems too soft, add extra flour until mixture just drops from the spoon. Put into the baking pan/s, leveling the tops. Decorate with blanched almonds and cherries if you don’t plan to ice the cake/s.
  4. Bake the 23cm cake at 150°C (300°F) for 1 ½ hours, then 130°C (265°F) for about 2 hours longer (this will depend on your oven, but mine was cooked exactly in the time suggested). Bake the 18cm cakes at 140C (280F) for 1 hour, then at 130C (265F) for about an hour longer. Bake mini cakes at 130C (265F) for about 1 ½ hours. Once the top of the cake is browned sufficiently (may be anywhere between half way or two thirds of the way in), you can lightly place some foil over the top to prevent further browning.
  5. The cake is cooked when a skewer pushed to the base of the middle of the cake comes out clean. Upon removing the cake from the oven, and while it’s still hot, you can brush it with extra liqueur if you like. Remove cake/s from pan/s when cold.
  6. If storing, for best flavour and texture, wrap the cake/s in two layers of greaseproof paper, then two layers of foil (or you can use tea towels) and leave to stand in a cool place for a few weeks. If preferred, wrap the cake/s in plastic bags and refrigerate or freeze. Do not leave cake/s in sealed plastic bags at room temperature, since they may become mouldy if the temperature fluctuates.

Note: Many recipes call for adding further liquid (juice or alcohol) to cakes in the lead up to Christmas. You simply make numerous holes in the cake with a skewer (from top to bottom) and then every week ‘feed’ the cake by brushing on the liquid. However, this cake is so moist, there’s really no need to do that. But, should you find, for whatever reason, that it’s on the dry side, this would be the solution.




Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Top picture – Canon 55-200mm lens; Middle picture – Canon 18-55mm lens; Bottom picture – Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting


9 thoughts on “Pineapple Christmas Cake

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