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Irish Christmas Cake

Updated: Dec 18, 2023


This recipe was given to me by a wonderful Irish lady, Mrs Dalby, back in 1996! She was an English lady married to an Irish man, at the time he was over 70, and this recipe comes from his grandmother! It makes a big, delicious Christmas cake that will last well until June! Yes, it’s full of booze and sealed with frosting, l kid you not, it lasts forever!





This one is a recipe that I actually am following without modifications (apart from reducing the amount of sugar). The measurements were given to me in ounces and pounds, so l converted them into the metrics system to be able to work them out. For decorations I also always try to get the typical Sicilian handmade marzipan fruit. They make these all year round, but at Christmas these get everywhere in Italy.


Time

Activity

Preparation time

12.5 hours: 12 hours (for the fruit to rest and soak) + 30 mins

Cooking time

4.5 hours: 30 mins at 170 degrees C., then 4 hours at 120 degrees C (using the fan)

Resting time

6 hours

Feeding Period

6 weeks

Finishing touches

15 mins + as long as you need, depending on the decorations you will choose

Ingredients:

With the quantities below, I make a round cake of 25.5 cm of diameter (inner measurement), and a rectangular cake loaf 21.5 cm long (inner measurement)


For the cake:

  • 340gr butter or margarine (at room temperature)

  • 340gr soft brown sugar, I use Muscovado sugar because of its flavour, but Demerara sugar would also work

  • 453gr plain flour

  • 2 level tsp Mixed Spice (they sell it here in Ireland, basically there's a mix of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg)

  • 1 pinch of salt

  • 6 Tbsp black treacle

  • 6 eggs (at room temperature)

  • 453gr currants

  • 170gr mixed peel (citrus)

  • 75gr chopped almonds

  • 453gr sultanas

  • 170gr raisins

  • 114gr glace’ cherries cut into quarters

  • Grated zest of 2 organic lemons (buy the bio type, and wash them well in warm soapy water

  • 3 cups of a mixture of Guinness, whiskey and brandy

For the feeding period:

  • 1/2 a glass of whiskey multiple time

  • 1/2 a glass of brandy multiple time

For the finishing touches:

  • 750gr of almond paste

  • 750gr of roll on icing (sugar fondant)

  • 1/2 a glass of vodka

  • 3 Tbsp of orange marmelade, no peel

  • 4 Tbsp of icing sugar

For the decorations:

  • Anything that tickles your fancy, I also like to wrap the cake with a clean tall fabric ribbon with a bow

What you need:

  • A very big bowl - really big

  • A big bowl - glass or ceramic

  • A bowl where to sieve the flour in

  • A sieve

  • An electric hand mixer

  • A spatula or a wooden spoon

  • A tall cake tin with a diameter of 25cm (the kind with a detachable bottom)

  • A lot of baking paper

  • A lot of tin foil

  • A brand new big and clean plastic bag

  • A pastry brush

  • A rolling pin

Method:

  • In your Big glass bowl, mix all fruit and the almonds with enough of the alcohol mixture so that it covers it completely, stir it well and cover. Let it rest overnight.

  • Drain well the fruit mixture and set aside (I reserve the remaining liquid and use it to soak other fruit for other cakes, it keeps very well in a closed jar in the fridge for 4 weeks)

  • Take your Very big bowl and using your wooden spoon, beat well the margarine with the sugar until very soft, creamy and fluffy. It will change colour and will have increased in volume.

  • Add the treackle 3 Tbsp at a time.


  • Mix the flour with the salt and the mixed spices, then sieve it all together

  • Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees C.

  • Line your cake tin with 2 layers of greaseproof paper, smearing the last one (that will be in contact with the cake) with butter (do it when it's still flat, then put it into the tin)

  • Start adding the eggs and the four keeping this in mind: the eggs will curdle your butter & sugar mix easily, so start with the flour: 2 tablespoons of flour mixture, mix it very well, then an egg, then another 2 tablespoons of flour mixture and so on, at the end of your eggs keep adding the rest of the flour a little at a time.


  • Mix the drained fruit with the lemon rind, then carefully add it to your Very big bowl, a bit at a time, mixing well in between additions

  • Once the oven reaches temperature put the cake in the center and reduce the temperature to 170degrees.


  • After half an hour reduce the temperature to 140degrees and set a reminder for a further 3 hours.

  • Cover the top of the cake loosely with tin foil

  • Back into the oven for another hour

  • At this point try the cake with a long cocktail stick, it needs to remain clean after having it inserted into the center of the cake. If not, leave it in the oven for another half hour and try again

  • Take the cake out of the oven and leave it in the tin until it reaches room temperature (about 5-6 hours), then push it up and out, turn it upside down and carefully lift off the greaseproof paper

  • Brush the bottom of the cake with whiskey, wait half an hour then wrap it tightly with plenty of greaseproof paper forming a tight parcel

  • Wrap it again in tinfoil a couple of times

  • Put it into a plastic bag and store it in a dark, cool place

Feeding the cake:

  • Unwrap the cake, side up make lots of deep holes with a long skewer and then carefully wet it well with half a glass of whiskey, wait 20 minutes and then wrap it well again as before (greaseproof paper + tin foil + plastic bag) and put it back to rest

  • Repeat every week, alternating between whiskey and brandy, until the week before Christmas

Decorating the cake:

  • Unwrap the cake, put it bottom up on a cake board and place the board on top of a ramekin or something else that lifts the cake off the table and allows you to work well down through the bottom of the edges

  • Brush it lightly with whiskey and wait 20 mins

  • Heat a little your marmelade and brush it over and all around including the edges (if your marmelade has some rind in it, you need to sieve it once it's warm, so that it gets just perfectly smooth)

  • Take bits of the marzipan and cover any holes of the surface with them

  • Seal the bottom edges of the cake to the cake board with a thin strip of marzipan so that there is no air between the bottom of the cake and the cakeboard

  • Knead well your marzipan, using icing sugar on the table to prevent it from sticking, roll it to 4mm thick to a size big enough to cover the cake including the edges then wrap it around your rolling pin and unroll it over the cake

  • Starting from the top, smooth the surface with yor hands ensuring no air is trapped, then work the border and the edges in the same way, forming a tight parcel. Trim away any excess and ensure the cake is wrapped tight at the bottom.

  • Knead well your sugar fondant (again, use icing sugar on the table to prevent it from sticking) and roll it again to 4mm thick and to the same size as before

  • Brush quickly the cake covered with marzipan with vodka, including the edges, then using your rolling pin again to lift the layer of icing, cover your cake with it. Smooth it with your hands making sure no air bubbles get trapped, trim the excess and work well the bottom edges

  • Now add your decorations, anything you fancy goes!

  • Store it in your plastic bag NOT tightly closed (the cake needs to breath and the marzipan/icing needs to harden, the bag is needed only to prevent dust) until Christmas Day

Storage:

  • This cake lasts for months on end, providing that you always wrap it into tinfoil and then put it back into the plastic bag

Note:

  • For the additional small cake in your small tin loaf, reduce the cooking times as follows:

  • 15 mins at 170 degrees C

  • Set a reminder for 1 hour 50 mins, then cover it loosely with the tinfoil

  • Back in the oven for another 40 mins before starting testing (if the toothpick doesn't come out clean, only leave it for a further 15 mins before testing again)

  • It will take 3 hours to reach room temperature

It's always nice to prepare a smaller second cake for somebody else as a pre-Christmas gift :-)



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