Irish Christmas Cake: A Delicious Traditional Recipe

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As the holiday season approaches, there’s no better way to spread a little joy than by baking a traditional Irish Christmas cake.

This rich, fruity, and moist cake is a staple in Irish homes during the festive period. It will bring a touch of Irish cheer to your Christmas Day celebrations! (But really we love this for the entire holiday season.)

Experience the joy of baking a traditional Irish Christmas cake. Discover the rich history, ingredients, and preparation methods in our festive guide.

The Tradition of the Irish Christmas Cake

The traditional Irish Christmas cake, also known as a fruit cake, has been a part of Irish times for centuries.

It was traditionally baked on “stir-up Sunday,” the last Sunday before Advent, giving the cake enough time to mature before Christmas.

In fact, the Irish Christmas cake recipe is often handed down through generations. So if you have an Irish gran who’s still around, start by asking her!

Ingredients and Preparation

While the recipe for an Irish Christmas cake can come in different shapes and sizes, the basic elements remain the same. The cake mix is a lovely blend of mixed spice, ground almonds, brown sugar, and a bounty of dried fruit.

The fruits are usually soaked in a generous amount of Irish whiskey and left to soak for 3-4 days. You’ll find that this infuses the fruit mix with a lovely alcohol flavor and ensures a moist cake.

Cake Batter and Baking

The cake batter is prepared in a large bowl, starting with the creaming room temperature butter and sugar.

The soaked fruits, along with the rest of the ingredients including almond flour, lemon rind, and egg mix, are then gradually folded in using a wooden spoon.

The batter is then transferred into a prepared cake tin, usually a round tin or a square tin, lined with double layers of parchment paper and brown paper.

The cake is then baked in a preheated oven at a low temperature, usually around gas mark 2, for a long, slow bake.

A round tin filled with raw Irish Christmas cake batter, ready to be baked in the oven.

Feeding the Irish Christmas Cake

One of the unique aspects of the traditional Irish Christmas cake is the process of “feeding” it.

You pierce the cooled cake with a toothpick and gradually spoon over small amounts of brandy or whiskey.

This is typically done every week, from the day after baking until the last week before Christmas.

This process keeps the cake moist and enhances the flavors.

Applying the Almond Paste

A few days before Christmas, the cake is covered with almond paste or marzipan.

This involves brushing the cake with a warm apricot jam, then rolling out the marzipan and carefully laying it over the top and sides of the cake.

Some prefer to add a layer of marzipan in the center of the cake as well for an extra almondy taste.

The cake is then usually left to sit for a day or two to allow the almond paste to dry and firm up.

An Irish Christmas cake covered in almond paste, ready for royal icing decoration.

Decorating the Irish Christmas Cake

The final step in preparing the Irish Christmas cake is the decoration. This is typically done with royal icing, which is spread over the almond paste using a palette knife.

Some people prefer a smooth finish, while others create a peaked effect to resemble snow. Traditional decorations include holly leaves, Christmas figurines, or even the three wise men.

Once decorated, the cake is stored in a cool dry place until it’s time to cut it on Christmas Day.

More Christmas Inspiration

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Enjoying the Cake

When Christmas Day finally arrives, the cake is served as part of the festive meal. Some families have a tradition of saving a piece for the following year or for special guests.

Whether you enjoy it with a cup of tea, a glass of mulled wine, or on its own, the Irish Christmas cake is sure to bring a touch of warmth and festivity to any gathering.

A beautifully decorated Irish Christmas cake served on a festive table setting.

Conclusion

With its rich flavors, warm spices, and festive decorations, the traditional Irish Christmas cake is more than just a delicious treat.

It’s a symbol of the holiday season, a celebration of family traditions, and a labor of love.

So this year, why not try baking your own Irish Christmas cake? You might just find it becomes a beloved tradition in your family, too.

Other Irish Recipes You Might Like

Here are three more recipes we think you’ll love!

Traditional Irish Christmas Cake Recipe

Traditional Irish Christmas Cake Recipe

Yield: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes

This traditional Irish Christmas cake is rich, moist, and packed with festive flavors. It is sure to be a hit with your loved ones this holiday season.

Ingredients

cake

  • 500g mixed dried fruits
  • 200g glace cherries
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 225g butter
  • 225g dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • zest and juice of 1 orange

almond paste

  • 350g ground almonds
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • dash of almond essence

royal icing

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 625g icing sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 150°C (300°F). Then, line an 8-inch round cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dried fruits, glace cherries, mixed peel, and ground almonds.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little flour if the mixture starts to curdle.
  4. Fold in the remaining flour and mixed spice. Then, add the fruit mixture, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange zest, and orange juice. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Transfer the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for about 4 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Let the cake cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. While the cake cools, prepare the almond paste. Mix together the ground almonds, icing sugar, and caster sugar in a bowl. Beat the egg and almond essence together, then add to the dry ingredients and mix to a stiff paste.
  8. When the cake is cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out half the almond paste to fit the top. Press it onto the cake and crimp the edges.
  9. To make the royal icing, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Gradually add the icing sugar, a spoonful at a time, still whisking all the time. Stir in the lemon juice and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.
  10. Cover the top of the cake with the icing, using a palette knife to create a rough surface to resemble snow.
  11. Let the icing dry out and harden, then serve and enjoy!

Notes

This cake is best enjoyed with a cup of hot tea or coffee.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 650Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 80mgSodium: 150mgCarbohydrates: 90gNet Carbohydrates: 84gFiber: 6gSugar: 60gSugar Alcohols: 0gProtein: 10g
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