How to bake Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cakes

Before I get chastised for writing a C*&^%$£~s post in October the organised amongst you will be beginning to prep for festive baking time. While Stir-up Sunday, when you traditionally make Christmas Pudding, isn’t until 20thNovember, now is the time to start on the cake to give it sufficient feeding time. A Christmas Cake that hasn’t been stuffed to the gills with alcohol is deemed as substandard in this house. This is the recipe I’ve used for years, and after many request to stop keeping the recipe close to my chest here it is. It’s from a 2005 edition of Prima magazine and produces a lovely moist fruit cake.

The first and possibly most important part of a Christmas Cake is the soaking of the fruit at the beginning. Personally I think it works best with alcohol like sherry, brandy or whisky. Given I’m banned from Hubs’ whisky collection after last year’s expensive whisky Christmas Pudding incident I decided to use sloe gin as we seem to have quite a few forgotten vintages hiding under the stairs.

As we struggle to eat a normal sized Christmas Cake betweeen the 2 of us, Pen reminded me that cakes can be cooked in small baked bean tins. As an avid fan of baked beans (look they are a good source of fibre and one of your 5-a-day) I knew it would be easy to amass the tins. To add a bit of variety I also picked up some tins whose contents I hadn’t eaten since I was about, ooh, 9 years old. Alphabetti Spaghetti, Spaghetti Hoops, BBQ beans and *whispers* beans with mini sausages. The things I do for my art. Many tins will do. I’ve been told pineapple rings tins also work well. Just don’t use tins that have contained fish. You may regret it.

Remember this is essentially lots of dried fruit and nuts bound together with a small amount of flour and egg and consequently takes a great deal longer to cook than conventional cakes. Times can also vary significantly from oven to oven. The only true way to know they are baked is to insert a skewer in to the middle of the cake. Only when it comes out clean is the cake cooked. This is why fruit cakes are often double wrapped to allow them to cook properly. It is important to do this if you want a decent cake. If you want to see how to properly line cake tins look here where I have written an information sheet. Just don’t underestimate how long it can take to line 12 mini tins. Put it this way, it took me an hour just to line and fill 6 tins.

There is an ulterior motive for me making the cakes now. I’m intending on decorating each of the cakes using a different method because I’m teaching an evening class in cake decorating in December. It also means they can be given away as gifts. During the following months I will post more blogs showing the different decorating techniques.

Part 2 – How to marzipan
Part 3 – How to decorate 

Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake

12 mini (small baked bean tin) cakes. 
Original full sized cake recipe from Prima Christmas 2005 supplement
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Keyword: Christmas
Servings: 12


  • 200 g glace cherries
  • 500 g mixed dried fruit Aldi do a very nice one
  • 500 g sultanas
  • zest of one orange
  • 200 ml sherry or other suitable alcohol like whisky brandy or sloe gin (if you don’t want to use alcohol, use orange juice instead)
  • 225 g butter softened
  • 225 g dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 225 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 50 g whole almonds


  • Put cherries and other dried fruits plus zest in bowl and soak in sherry overnight.
  • Line the cake tins: Lightly grease base and sides. Line sides with a double thickness of baking parchment that stands 5cm above tin. Make 1 cm cuts at base to help it lie flat. Line base with double layer of parchment.
  • Preheat oven to 150°c. Whisk butter and sugar for 5 min till light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs slowly. When almost added, whisk in some flour to stop it curdling.   
  • Fold in flour, spices, fruit and almonds. Spoon into lined tin and make a small dip in the middle of the mixture.
  • Wrap tin in a double thickness of brown paper (or parchment) and tie with piece of string. Cook for 60-90 minutes. If you want the top of the cake to brown a bit more untie the string, so the top of paper is open, for the last quarter an hour.


This recipe also makes a 8 inch (20 cm) round cake or a 7 in (18 cm) square one just bake for 3.5-4 hours instead.
 Look here for more detailed instructions on how to line cake tins. Lining mini cake tins takes a great deal longer than you think. 

173 thoughts on “How to bake Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cakes”

  • What a great idea! Hardly anyone eats Christmas cake in my family…except my Dad who is constantly on a diet and really shouldn’t (!), so this looks perfect. Love the idea of different decorations for each one too.

    ps just noticed that I’m on your blogroll – thank you! :-)

  • what a fabulous idea. I made a Christmas pudding a couple of years ago but never cake. When mum made cake each Christmas growing up it was my younger brother who munched his way through 80% of it. It would be lovely to make little cake presents this year so thanks for sharing such a fab recipe (and I’ll look forward to seeing how you decorate them too :o)

  • I actually prefer the idea of cooking these mini cakes than I do of making just one large cake. I wish I could come to one of your classes to get some ideas as I am doing my PETLLS course at the moment and need to get some inspiration for my micro teach. Do you do adult classes and how far are you from Surrey???! x

  • I love the idea of having mini christmas cakes rather than one big one. My Nan used to make a cake for each of the couples at Christmas and it was just far too much! Thank you for the recipe, I can see it will come in very handy

  • This is such a great idea, had never thought of making baby cakes for Christmas. But I’m thinking of doing it now! Looking forward to seeing your decorating ideas.

      • I have been making something similar for some years now for my Church Christmas Fayre, decorated with different toppings, wrapped in ribbon and put into a small box with window. Makes a lovely present for anyone living on their own, or put into a small hamper along with some other treats x

  • We have been using this method at the school I work for 8 years or so to enable 60 + Year 6 children to make an individual Christmas cake to take home as a gift at the end of term. It always works out well and, once decorated, the children love the result. I agree wholeheartedly with the time taken to prepare the amount of tins as they are rather fiddly – but the result is well worth the effort!

    • I think bigger cake tins are easier to line than smaller, but still they are fabulous cakes for children to make. So far I’ve marzipaned 4 of the cakes ready to use in a demo next week.

  • Fab!! I’ve got neighbours who want me to bake for them, and wondered how to adjust quantities for small cakes – this is brilliant! I would never have thought of baked bean tins – I’d probably have spent unnecessary money on little tins. However, George & I can eat our way through a big Chrissy cake all on our own – Blush!

  • These look great! When you say you used small baked bean tins, what approximate size are they? I live in New Zealand and don’t have a clue if they are similar sizes to our tins. I’m not an experienced baker (yet – I’m working on it) and like to follow exact recipes/instructions. Thanks Anna

  • Hi Jules, these look wonderful. I’m planning on baking my first Christmas cake tomorrow and after having found your blog, I’m going like to make mini ones. Just wondering though, how many weeks should I keep feeding the cakes before covering with marzipan and icing? Thank you!

    • Hi Nicola,
      Because these are small cakes they do not need feeding as much as big cakes (because they’ll go soggy). Once baked feed every couple of weeks. Make sure they are wrapped in greaseproof paper & foil and stored in a tin. You can feed/mature it until beginning of December. Marzipan, leave for a few days then ice. Once iced keep in a breathable container. Let me know how you get on.

  • Hi Jules,
    What a fabulous idea!! I have a couple if questions though:
    1) Do I need to dry off the fruit that has been soaking overnight before I add it to the cake mixture?
    2) Can I reuse the brandy I used for soaking the first batch if fruit in for a second batch?
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Hattie,

      You’ll find that the fruit soaks up all of the alcohol, but if it doesn’t pour all of the fruit and remaining alcohol into the cake mix.

      I hope this helps

  • Thank you!! Is a Tupperware box ok for storing the cakes in once they’re iced? Sorry for all the questions but this is my first time making them :0))

    • I don’t recommend storing them in a sealed container. When the cake has been iced it is essentially a sealed cake. It’s best to keep them in a breathable container like the cardboard cake boxes you can buy. Once the cake has been cut then keep on a sealed box like tupperware.

  • Hello! I love this blog…. I make hampers every year and don’t usually add Christmas cakes as I’m not a great cake maker. This year I’d like to attempt it but here you don’t say about “feeding” the cake….. how do I do this? Just put all the fruit in a bowl and feed it with brandy every now and again?
    How many times should I do this (don’t want it TOO boozy) and how much brandy each time?
    Thanks tons!!

    • Hi Nicola. You feed the cake once it is cooked and before you marzipan it. Every couple of weeks prick the top of the cake with a thin skewer or cocktail stick and drizzle a teaspoon or brandy/sherry. Just be careful you don’t over feed it or you’ll end up with a soggy cake.

      • Fantastic… thanks you…So really I need to be making my individual cakes in the next couple of weeks so I can feed each of them… a teaspoon between all 12??

        • I usually make my Christmas cakes mid to late October, feed until early December, marzipan then ice mid December. You will need a teaspoon of alcohol per cake. If the cakes begin to get too moist stop feeding.

    • Yes you always need to line for cakes like this. What’s the diameter of the individual parts of the tin? Baked bean tins are about 3inches. I’m not sure how well the mix would cook as a smallest cake.

  • Hi Jules,
    I’m going to marzipan some of my cakes tomorrow. Do i need to store them in an air tight container while they dry prior to icing? Also, with the cakes i’m doing the Florentine topping on, do they need to be stored in an air tight container until they’re eaten – they won’t have the marzipan and icing to seal them won’t they?
    Many Thanks,

    • Once you have marzipanned the cakes you need to let them dry. Either store in cardboard box or in the usual tin but leave lid off and cover with a tea towel. For the florentine covered one you can store airtight tin.

  • Hi Jules,
    Love your idea of mini xmas cakes. Since I dont have small tins handy I wanted to bake the cake in small loaf pan (20 cm X 6 cm) What do you suggest should be the baking time & temp – Would baking at 160 C for 45 mins then another 30 mins at 150 C is going to be okay or too much? please suggest.

  • Hi Jules – my minis are in the oven as I type, have been looking forward to trying this. I’m attempting a chocolate christmas cake recipe (with port, one for the mixture one for me!) that was in my mums November issue of Woman and Home mag – recipe only made ten tho. Am looking forward to tasting it.

  • Hi, I’m hoping to use this recipe with a group of parents but we will be using orange juice rather than alcohol, will we need to soak the fruit in the juice the night before? Thanks

  • Hi Jules,
    am looking forward to doing these small Christmas cakes soon and have saved my baked beans cans – but they are the large ones, will they still be ok to use?
    kindest regards Lin

  • Hi Jules,

    These look great, but I don’t quite understand what you mean in step 3 above by “Wrap tin in a double thickness of brown paper (or parchment) and tie with piece of string… If you want the top of the cake to brown a bit more untie the string, so the top of paper is open”? Does this mean that the brown paper is tied over the top of the cake so the cake is essentially covered?


  • Hi, I was just wondering how easily the cakes come out of the beans tins – I notice that there’s a lip left if you use the ring pull to take the top off? Should I be opening the tins upside down with a can opener to make it easier for them to come out?

    • The cakes come out of the tin quite easily with a little guidance. All the tins I use still have the little lip at the top due to the ring pull. The cake shrinks a small amount while baking which helps.

      • WOW – that was a speedy response! Many thanks, I am definitely going to give this a go for the school PTA Christmas Fayre – I think they’ll sell really well. Thanks so much x

  • I would like to know the recipe for ONE Christmas cake made in a baked bean tin, I just a bit concerned if I divide the ingredients for you 12 cakes it will not be correct.

    Many thanks

    • Hi Pauline, I’ve scaled down the ingredients for you below for one cake, but I wouldn’t recommend making just one cake as the ingredients are less likely to work together properly at such small quantities. I would make a minimum of 3 cakes.

      It would be:
      17g glace cherries
      42g mixed dried fruit
      42g sultanas
      zest of 1/12 orange
      17ml sherry or other suitable alcohol like whisky, brandy or sloe gin (if you don’t want to use alcohol, use orange juice instead)
      19g butter, softened
      19g dark brown sugar
      1/3 large eggs, lightly beaten
      19g plain flour
      pinch ground cinnamon
      pinch mixed spice
      4g whole almonds

  • Hi Jules

    Love your blog. I did these small cakes for my daughter’s wedding cake in 2006 and used baked bean tins. (96, it looked amazing and everyone had one to take home) I am in a bit of a hurry this year and did not have enough tins, so tried to make moulds out of doubled up cooking foil, (using the one tin I had to hand) and guess what, it has worked.

    Your comments are so inspiring and thanks for all your ideas.

    Kind regards


  • Hi your blog & just attempting these mini cake now….just wanted to check…is the 150c fan forced or non fan forced? Thanks

  • Hi, this might be a stupid question but I’d seen this idea before and we don’t use a lot of tins so started storing them a about a month ago but have stored standard size (400g) rather than mini size. Can I still use but fill as if mini size? Thanks

  • Hi Just taken my 12 mini cakes out of the oven, they look great, a little pale but I did use light brown sugar, is it essential to feed them with more alcohol?

  • I make mini cakes to sell at markets, lining tins was a hassle. I have now made permanent liners out of silicone sheets , just wash them afterwards and reuse time and time again

    • Don’t have a pic to hand but I get a large square of parchment, place tin in the middle then gather the corners together above the cake. I then tie the corners with string. It doesn’t matter too much if there’s gaps.

      Alternatively you wrap paper around the outside of the tin and make a separate lid.

      • Wow, thank you so much… Stupidly I read through the comments AFTER I sent message and saw you’d replied to someone else too!!
        Thankyou… Looking forward to making these :) xx

  • Help and Hello, I have to bake 16 4″Christmas cakes for members of our church family. How can I calculate the correct cooking time?

    • They will take 75-105 minutes, however cooking times for fruit cakes can vary significantly from oven to oven. I recommend checking the cakes are cooked with a cocktail stick (It’ll come out clean if cooked) from 60 min onwards.

  • Seasons Greetings from Downunder. Used your recipe to make mini Christmas cake gifts and they look and smell absolutely lovely, confirmed by a small taste.Thank you so much!

  • I know that you used the empty tins to bake a fruit cake in, but do you think that this method could be used to cook a vanilla sponge in? As i think this would be a nice size to use to make a third tier for a castle birthday cake i’m planning on making for my daughters upcoming birthday. Please can you advise me as to how i can adapt this method to suit a sponge recipe.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      These should work with sponge cake. Line the inside of the cake tin to help get the sponge out, but you won’t need to cover the tin again before cooking.

      Hope this helps

  • I made christmas cake last year as part of my christmas pressie for everyone, but lost the recipe, will deff be trying out this one, thank you so much.

    • yes it still needs to be a decent depth. Although the cakes don’t rise too much the tin helps to protect the cake. You can achieve this by using foil up the sides of the tin.

  • perfect for after school club we’ve collected the tins already which is great because we have recycled too which ticks the eco schools box !

  • i made them in muffin tins and cupcake pattty pans straight ones tho, both worked well, as well as they large cake.. i wont know how that tastes till Christmas.. just need to decorate them now

  • As my husband has just been diagnosed with Diabetes he can no longer have his Xmas Cake…but I can especially now that I have found your recipe. I am a young 72 but love baking, I can’t do as much as I used to but a little nibble no and again won’t hurt me. Thanks Jules.

  • Hi
    I am teaching Food in a Special School as of next month and whilst looking at national curriculum I also want to go back to basics and this looks fab – I did these years ago when I first started teaching. Will incorporate shopping/costing/recycling/labelling/local foods into this project and hopefully fun!

      • Hi Jules
        Just planning my lessons. I see the children every 2 weeks. This is my plan
        lesson 1 – Shop/weigh/soak fruit/line tins (leave fruit in bowls covered in cling film ok for 2 weeks?)
        lesson 2 – Make cake/bake (storage suggestion for 2 weeks?)
        lesson 3 – marzipan (storage suggestion for 2 weeks?)
        lesson 4 – ice and decorate.
        Will these cakes be ok with 2 weeks in between each lesson and can you advice on my queries at each stage..
        Many thanks

  • Hi, these look amazing! I’d like to follow your recipe but split half the amount between 6 bean cans, and make half a standard size cake with the other half. That way I get to give 6 minis away as gifts, and husband (who adores Christmas cake!) gets a half sized cake all to himself (he’s the only one on our house who eats fruit cake). What size cake tin would you suggest for the half sized cake, and how would you cook it (time and temp)? Excited to start already! Have all the ingredients, 3 bean tins ready, 3 more ‘bean meals’ planned and ready to buy the final tin! Many thanks in advance!

    • Hi Lily, I’ve done my maths and for a half sized cake you’d need a 13cm square or 14cm round tin. temperature the same. Time wise I’d predict 2.5-3hrs. However fruit cakes are fickle beasts and cooking time can greatly vary from oven to oven so I’d keen an eye on it from 2hrs onwards.

      I’d love to see the finished cakes.


  • Please help, have baked my first 6, at 90 mins at 150 they were still liquid dough, have now baked for 3hrs and finally got skewer out clean and first 4 cakes have fallen out of tin in bits, what did i do wrong?

    • Hi Nikki, cooking time for fruit cakes can vary considerably from oven to oven due to the nature of the cake.

      Crumbly cakes are often due to over baking or due to the egg size you used. Eggs are key in this recipe for binding all the fruit together. If the eggs are on the small side it won’t provide enough structure to hold the cake.

      Hope this helps.

      • Hi
        This is my second year of making these in school . We did 70 last year and doing 100 this year . They work best if left in tin to completely cool . Then wrap in clean grease proof . I drizzle with sherry each week .. sooooo moist !

  • Hi Jules,

    Thank you so much for sharing your amazing recipe. Last year I made them with the children I work with in a preschool. I exchanged the alcohol with orange juice, and they went down so well I’ve been asked to do them again this year. (However for batches I made for gifts I used Grand mariner)…. The only down fall is this year I’ve been asked not to add the nuts. Would you recommend I just use the same weight in fruit as a replacement? Or is there something else I could use instead??

    Many thanks again

      • Excellent, thank you for your speedy response. We’ll soak and bake them next week and decorate them on our Christmas activity morning in December. The children absolutely love making them. As do I. Thank you!! 🙏🏼🎅🏻🤶🏼🎄🦌⛄️

  • Hi do u soak the fruit in orange instead of alcohol an pour juice over when finished, it’s 1st Xmas cake an u think mini Xmas cakes will be good 1st try xx

  • Hi Jules, I have been looking for a mini Christmas cake recipe that does not use alcohol to make with groups of children at school and Cubs. Can you tell me if I use orange juice instead of alcohol how long will the cakes keep, if they do not have alcohol in them to preserve them. As want to start making them this week but not send them home for at least a month! Would I then feed them with orange juice once cooked instead of the alcohol or not bother. Also would the recipe work in a muffin tin and if so would the holes need to be doubled lined and would the cooking time stay the same. Sorry for so many questions!

    Thanks Lucy

    • Hi Lucy,

      This recipe is used by many schools and groups for making mini Christmas cakes.

      You can use orange or apple juice instead of the alcohol. Feeding the cakes isn’t essential and as long as the cakes are kept in a cool dry place they’ll easily last a month.

      I have heard about the cakes being made in a muffin tin but couldn’t be sure on the cooking times. You’d have to line the inside of the muffin holes then I would then wrap the whole tin.

      Alternatively bake the cake in a large square tin then cut the cake up into individual square and decorate these.

      Hope this helps
      Happy baking!

  • Hello, just about to make the mini Christmas cakes and was wondering if you bake them on a tray or directly on the oven shelf? Thanks Kate x

  • Hi brilliant idea. I misread the bit about putting a lid on the cake or tying together but they have come out ok. I did lower the temperature a tad for last half hour. I had no brandy so have used Port instead and they taste fine. I halved the mixture and that also worked. I am not a marzipan fan so am going to try to decorate without. Thanks and great to read all the other comments as they will help next time.

  • Hi Jules, I’ve just been browsing my ‘stir-up’ Sunday blog posts to see whether I’ve got enough motivation to make something this year. I was reminded of the year I was pregnant with my son and I shared this post instead, full of intention to make mini cakes, but never actually got round to it. We’ve both been a bit busy with small ones over the last several years. Lovely to refind you and your fab recipes. I’ll let you know if this is the year for mini cakes – I like the idea of making some for my son’s teacher and letting him loose on decorating (perhaps the old school rock hard icing sugar type though for novelty factor!)

  • I love Christmas cake but live on my own and am not really a cake maker but I feel I must give these a go. Thanks for all your helpful suggestions.

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