The cake is often made with currants, sultanas and almonds; sometimes, fruit peel may be added to it. The original development of the cake began in Dundee in the late 1700s in the shop of Janet Keiller. It was mass-produced by the marmalade company Keiller's marmalade who 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 glacé 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 However, after 1980 the cake was withdrawn from the market though it continued to be supplied privately as a corporate Christmas gift by the maker.