The Christmas adverts on telly are already inescapable, decorations are tentatively going up, and the present-shopping fear is beginning to kick in. And to top it all, today is Stir-Up Sunday – a time to break out the Christmas cake recipe and get mixing!

The last Sunday before Advent is officially considered ‘Stir-Up Sunday’, so if you haven’t prepped ahead and carefully stashed a homemade fruitcake in the freezer to mature all year (which serious bakers do), you’re in luck. No need to reach for a shop-bought Christmas cake just yet.

So, what do you need to know to nail the kind of festive celebration cake that will have the whole family enthralled – as well as get the kids to help mix up the mixture – this late in the day?

Need some inspiration from the experts? Try Bake Off finalist Steph’s Great Grandma’s Christmas cake recipe for a truly delicious cake.

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1. Make time to pre-soak your fruit
Especially if you want your cake super boozy, or really imbued with citrus. Let it soak over night if you can.

2. Don’t be constrained by traditional dried fruit rules
Jamie Oliver puts prunes and dates in his Christmas cake.

3. Booze-wise, you can go rogue
Brandy is a shoo-in, but Mary Berry has been known to use sherry, Nigella has advocated rum, and Oliver stout, but if you’re feeding teetotallers, fruit juice can substitute.

4. The icing to marzipan ratio is crucial
It depends on preference of course, but as a general rule, more than 1cm of royal icing is hard work on the teeth. Three inches of marzipan is fine by us though…

Of course, you could always take advice from royal baker Fiona Cairn – read her guide to making the perfect Christmas fruit cake along with her top tips for the perfect bake.

5. Opt for the darkest sugar you can find (or have in the cupboard)
Felicity Cloake argues the case for dark muscovado for a treacly taste, without loading your cake with actual treacle.

6. Store it well 
Once your cake is baked, pierce it all over, wrap it firmly in baking paper and then a layer of tin foil. Put it in plastic only if you want a sweaty, mouldy mess.

7. Remember to top up with booze
Once a week up until eating, uncover your cake and brush the top with a tablespoon of your booze of choice, it should drizzle down and stop everything from drying out. Ice the day before eating.

8. Be kitsch with your decor
Classy cakes might be more grown-up, but you can’t beat a kitsch, tacky, Eighties-style Christmas cake complete with model reindeer and bits of holly everywhere. You know it’s true.

Need more? Our perfect Stir-Up Sunday Christmas pudding recipe will get you on the right track and have a pudding to compliment your brilliant bake.