Maroochy Quays

Keeping it traditional – Families reveal handed-down Christmas recipes

Keeping it traditional - Families reveal handed-down Christmas recipes

Christmas is a time for families and friends to get-together and enjoy some traditional festive fare. Each year, this includes favourites such as Christmas pudding, mince pies, seafood, and ham, many made from recipes handed down from generation to generation.

All are lovingly prepared once a year and enjoyed by loved ones of all ages. We invited GemLife residents to share some of their favourite or `secret’ traditional family recipes.

Four generations of Christmas cake tradition

There is nothing more delicious or traditional than Melissa Parkinson-Lee’s Grand Nanny’s Christmas cake.

“The faded recipe was given to me by my mum forty years ago. It was her mum’s recipe and has been the basis of all my Christmas cakes and puddings,” said the GemLife Maroochy Quays resident.

Melissa said the way the instructions for the recipe were written made her smile.

“The instructions are in pounds and ounces, and teaspoons and tablespoons are written as `teas’ and `tabs’. It is all slightly ambiguous which allows the chef to add their own interpretation,” she said.

The fact that her grandmother, born in 1911, even wrote the recipe down was amazing, according to Melissa.

“Most of her recipes were in her head and died with her. She would have been 110 now!”

Melissa said all her recipes were cooked on a wood stove and, in addition to her Christmas cake, she also made a great sponge roll.

The Christmas cake recipe is set to continue into a fourth generation of the family with Melissa’s eldest granddaughter keen to learn how to make it.

This year, Melissa and her family will be joined by her mother, 82, who will soon be a fellow GemLife Maroochy Quays resident, much to everyone’s delight.

“We will all be together to share this year’s cake, plum pudding, and a special ham which was a friend’s secret family recipe that I was so lucky to be given. It is so delicious. The best I’ve ever tasted.”

Melissa said she virtually had to beg to get the recipe about eight years ago, but now that she has it, the Christmas ham will be passed down just as her grandmother’s Christmas cake had been.

Melissa is already thinking about getting started on this year’s Christmas cake.

“I orchestrate it and I have four granddaughters who are all keen to help. I do the ham with mango, prunes and a really nice sauce on Christmas day, and everyone does their bit to help. It’s a fabulous, fun day. We can’t wait.”

GemLife Maroochy Quays Xmas Pudding with custard - Melissa Parkinson-Lee
GemLife Maroochy Quays Xmas Cake - Melissa Parkinson-Lee1

Grand Nanny’s Christmas Cake


  1. Prepare fruits
  2. Cream butter and sugar separately
  3. Add fruit rind, essences and marmalade
  4. Drop in eggs one at a time beating well after each addition
  5. Fold in prepared fruit alternating with sifted dry ingredients
  6. Mix well
  7. Fill into a square or round cake tin, lined with 3 layers of brown paper and 1 white layer
  8. Bake in lower half of a very moderate oven 3 1/2 hours. Do not open oven door before 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven, allow to cool in tin, then wrap cake in towel


  • 2 3/4 lb mixed fruit
  • 1/2 cup rum, brandy or sherry
  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz brown sugar
  • 1 teas lemon and orange rind, grated
  • Few drops of almond essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teas spice
  • 1/4 teas nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teas vanilla
  • 2 tabs marmalade jam
  • 1 teas caramel or Parisian essence
    (caramel in a bottle that you add to sauces, gravies and other cooking to give a darker appearance)
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