How to make a traditional Irish Christmas cake
Christmas cakes are made in many different ways, but generally, they are variations on the classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy etc. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, royal icing, a dusting of icing sugar, or plain.
The spices and dried fruits in the cake are supposed to represent the exotic eastern spices brought by the three Wise Men to the newborn King. The fruit is all soaked overnight in the whiskey in a covered bowl, before use, to add flavor. I always make three of these cakes - one for Christmas Day and the other two to eat every day for tea until then.
This Christmas cake is a lot easier to make than you would imagine and your friends will love it.
5oz (150g) raisins
4½oz (125g) stoned dates
4½oz (125g) sultanas
4oz (100g) quartered glace cherries
4 fl oz (100ml) Irish whiskey
(all of the above are soaked together overnight before making the cake)
8oz (225g) real butter
extra butter for greasing
7oz (200g) caster sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 tbsp black treacle (or molasses)
8oz (225g) plain (all purpose) flour
½ tsp salt
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
2oz (50g) ground almonds
2 fl oz (50ml) extra Whiskey
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C), Gas mark 2. Grease a 8" (20cm) cake tin and line it with grease-proof paper. Wrap some newspaper around the outside and tie it with string. This will help the outside of the cake from browning too much during the cooking and prevent it from drying out.
2. Beat together, in a bowl, the sugar and butter until creamy. Gradually add the eggs, dusting a little of the flour in with each egg added. Add the treacle and grated fruit rinds and mix well.
3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl of soaked fruit and add the salt, spices and almonds. Stir all of this together, mixing well.
4. Fold the fruit mix into the egg mix, stirring evenly. Spoon the completed mix into the cake tin.
5. Bake in the center of the oven for 3 hours. If it is browning a little too much, cover it loosely with tinfoil. Cook for another ½ hour. The cake is cooked when a fine skewer, inserted into the center, comes out clean and dry.
Make small holes all over the warm cake with a skewer and spoon the extra 50ml whiskey over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
When the cake is cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap it first in clean grease proof paper and then in foil.
A small amount of brandy, sherry or whiskey (depending on your favorite tipple) should be poured onto the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding the cake”. You also should turn the cake over, each week, before you pour another little bit of your favorite tipple over it. This ensures that all that lovely alcohol penetrates to the very middle of the Christmas cake and definitely creates that "Yum!" factor on Christmas Day.
* Originally published December 2014.