If you’re yearning for a taste of Ireland this holiday season, the traditional Irish Christmas cake is a must-try. This classic fruitcake is a staple during the festive season in the Emerald Isle, and its rich flavours and textures make it a beloved treat for many. In this post, we’ll walk you through how to make your own perfect traditional Irish Christmas cake, even if you’re thousands of miles away from Ireland.
Understanding the Irish Christmas Cake
Before we delve into the different ways you can make an Irish Christmas cake, it’s important to understand what it is. The Irish Christmas cake, like its British Isles counterpart, is a type of classic fruitcake. However, it has a unique spin, incorporating exotic eastern spices and a lovely alcohol—most commonly, Irish whiskey. The cake is typically covered in a layer of almond paste and topped with royal icing to resemble the snowy landscapes often associated with Christmas Day.
The Preparation: Soaking Fruits and Preheating the Oven
The first step in creating your Irish Christmas cake is to prepare your dried fruit. This involves soaking the fruit in a small amount of brandy or your own favourite drink overnight. This not only plumps up the fruits but also infuses them with a rich, boozy flavor. The next day, you’ll need to preheat your oven to a gas mark of 3, or roughly 160°C/325°F.
Preparing the Cake Mix
Next, you’ll combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. This includes ground almonds, brown sugar, and a mixture of warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. These spices are what give the cake its distinctive Christmas pudding-like aroma and flavour. You’ll also need to add a generous amount of butter at room temperature, beaten egg yolks, and a cup of flour to create a creamy mixture.
Lining the Cake Tin
The next step in this Christmas cake recipe is to prepare your cake tin. You’ll need a round tin, which you’ll line with greaseproof paper or sheets of parchment paper. This step is important to ensure that the cake doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan during baking. It’s recommended to use a double layer of parchment paper for best results.
Adding the Cake Batter to the Tin
Once your cake tin is lined, you can add your cake mix. You’ll want to make sure to spread the batter evenly in the pan, smoothing out the top with a wooden spoon or spatula. Then, it’s time to place the batter-filled tin in your preheated oven. The cooking time for an Irish Christmas cake can vary, but it typically takes around 3-4 hours.
Letting the Cake Cool
After the cake has finished baking, it’s crucial to let it cool completely in the cake pan on a wire rack. This can take several hours, but it’s worth the wait. As the cake cools, you can also poke small holes in it with a fine skewer and spoon over a few tablespoons of whiskey. This gives the cake an extra boozy kick and helps to keep it moist.
Applying the Almond Paste
Once the cake has cooled, you’ll need to apply a layer of almond paste. To make the paste, combine ground almonds (or almond flour), sifted icing sugar, egg whites, and a little lemon juice. Spread this paste evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Then, leave it to dry overnight in a cool dry place, like an airtight container. This will give the paste enough time to harden and form a solid base for the royal icing.
Decorating with Royal Icing
The final step in making your Irish Christmas cake is to decorate it with royal icing. To make the icing, combine powdered sugar, egg whites, and a little lemon juice until you have a stiff but spreadable mixture. Spread this icing over the top and sides of the cake, using a spatula or a knife. You can create different shapes and textures on the icing to make it resemble a snowy landscape.
Storing the Cake
Once your cake is decorated, it’s best to store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. This helps the flavours to mature and the cake to become denser and moister. If stored properly, an Irish Christmas cake can last for several weeks, making it a perfect treat to make in advance for the holiday season.
Enjoying the Irish Christmas Cake
Finally, the best part about making an Irish Christmas cake—eating it! Enjoy a slice of this traditional treat on Christmas Day, accompanied by a cup of hot tea or a glass of your favourite drink. The rich, fruity, and spicy flavours combined with the boozy kick of the Irish whiskey make this cake a festive delight that encapsulates the spirit of an Irish Christmas.
So, there you have it! A step-by-step guide to making a perfect traditional Irish Christmas cake. We hope you enjoy making and eating this festive treat as much as we do. Merry Christmas and happy baking!
- 1 pound mixed dried fruits
- 1 cup Irish whiskey
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons treacle or dark molasses
- 2 cups chopped almonds
- 1 pound marzipan
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Combine the dried fruits with the whiskey in a bowl, cover, and let them soak overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Grease and line a 9-inch round cake tin with parchment paper.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices into a bowl.
- In another large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour mixture with each egg.
- Fold in the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the lemon and orange zest and juice, treacle or molasses, soaked fruits, and chopped almonds.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for about 4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin. Once cooled, remove from the tin and wrap in foil until ready to ice.
- Roll out the marzipan to fit the top of the cake. Brush the top of the cake with a little warmed apricot jam then place the marzipan on top.
- To make the icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Add the icing sugar a little at a time, along with the lemon juice, beating well until the icing is thick and glossy.
- Spread the icing over the marzipan and leave to set.
This cake is traditionally made in advance of Christmas, giving the flavors time to develop. If you wish, you can 'feed' the cake with additional whiskey every week until Christmas, by poking holes in the top with a skewer and drizzling over a little whiskey.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 600Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 300mgCarbohydrates: 75gNet Carbohydrates: 71gFiber: 4gSugar: 50gSugar Alcohols: 0gProtein: 10g