The cake is often made with currants, sultanas and almonds; sometimes, fruit peel may be added to it. The cake originated in nineteenth-century Scotland, and was originally made as a mass-produced cake by the marmalade company called Keiller's. Keiller's marmalade company first mass-produced the cake commercially and have been claimed to be the originators of the term "Dundee cake". However, similar fruit cakes were produced across Scotland. A popular story is that Mary Queen of Scots did not like glace cherries in her cakes, so the cake was first made for her, as a fruit cake that used blanched almonds and not cherries. The top of the cake is typically decorated with concentric circles of almonds. Today, the cakes are often sold in supermarkets throughout the United Kingdom.
The cake was also made and marketed in British India, and in independent India after 1947, by Britannia Industries and its successor firms. However, after 1980 the cake was withdrawn from the market though it continued to be supplied privately as a corporate Christmas gift by the maker.