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Irish Christmas Cake

Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney

Christmas Cake is not your Auntie's fruitcake. It's a moist, luxurious cake created using delicious vine fruits, cherries, and fine spirits. Yes, it's rich, and perhaps a bit much during the indulgent holiday season. But believe me, it keeps extremely well, and is very welcome to find it on a St. Patrick's or Easter table, a poignant surprise, and a credit to the housekeeper. Irish Christmas Cake is a cherished tradition indeed, but it's a delicious treat to offer family and guests at any special time of the year. They'll be surprised and delighted if a wee bit of it magically appears from the back of the cupboard, carefully wrapped in waxed paper and covered with foil.

However! Christmas will still come, and tradition be served even if there is no temptation to spend the time and energy to buy the best fruits and marzipan, make the icing, and lovingly combining, bake, and nurture the perfect Christmas Cake. To my great delight, I found a perfectly respectable, delicious, and charming replica from Ireland's Tea Time Express. Handmade Irish Christmas Cake tastes like the real thing because it is. With my last Brown Bread Flour order, I went a little indulgent and bought one---on sale, of course, after Christmas---and it was easily as good as any I've tasted. Well, perhaps the royal icing and marzipan are a little thick, but that's just a matter of taste. They, and the moist, fruity cake tasted wonderful. They're on sale now in Febuary; if you hurry, there may be a few left.)

Irish Christmas Cake

On Sale now for FoodIreland.com, Delicious Irish Christmas Cake by Tea Time Express.

As for the homemade version that you will surely want to try in the coming Christmas once you taste the Tea Time version, Christmas cake is usually made several months ahead to allow the ingredients to mature, as they say. I have found that this cake can be made as late as a week before Christmas, and it is perfectly fine, but anticipation is an important part of the ritual, so I try to pick up ingredients at every opportunity. The cake is allowed to cool and is then wrapped in waxed paper and then with aluminum foil. Some folks use newspapers.

Each family member stirs the batter, making a Christmas wish as they stir. A ring is wrapped in muslin, and popped into the batter just before baking. Good luck to the finder!


1 cup raisins
1 cup yellow raisins
1 cup dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, etc.)
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped dried plums
1 cup candied citrus peel, chopped finely
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of brandy (I use Christian Brothers)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
8 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups flour
2 cups slivered almonds

Combine first six ingredients in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup brandy. Let stand overnight, stirring occasionally.

Position the rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 F. Butter a 10-inch-diameter tube pan. Line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper. Butter parchment and dust with flour. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy, add in the 2-1/2 cups sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon peel and juice, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. Mix in flour. Fold in almonds and dried fruit mixture. Spread evenly in the pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 275 degrees.

Bake the cake until toothpick comes out clean, about 4 hours. Dribble the remaining brandy over the cake. Cool for five minutes. Turn the cake out onto the rack. Cool completely. Store, wrapped, until just before serving. Additional brandy can be dribbled over the top of the cake weekly until icing.

To decorate the cake, shortly before serving:

First layer honey and marzipan.

3 7-ounce packages of marzipan
1/2 cup honey

Press the marzipan into a circle. Sprinkle a cutting board with powdered sugar. Roll out marzipan to 14-inch round. Turn cake right side up; place on serving plate. Drizzle the honey over the cake. Drape the marzipan over cake, trimming around the top of the cake only. Press lightly mold it to the top of the cake.

Royal Icing:

2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

Beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add in the sugar and mix gently until smooth and shiny. Use immediately or store in an airtight container.

The final frosting of royal icing is spread over the marzipan and honey layers.
When the royal icing has hardened, wrap the cake first in waxed paper, then in a layer of aluminum foil for keeping.

The crystal and china of the Waterford Company have been traditional Irish wedding gifts by generations of families. Enjoy knowing that you're serving your Irish traditional feasts in authentic fashion with the lovely pieces from Waterford. On Sale now at Waterford Crystal, Grafton Street Bolton 11" Cake Plate

These whimsical collectibles appreciate in both senses of the word. Used, they are appreciated by the sipper; collected, they gain in value appreciably. Either way, enjoy these charming crystal flutes in good health and prosperity.

Waterford Crystal 12 Days of Christmas Flutes 6-piece Set & Chest
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Plum Pudding and Brandy Butter
Irish Brown Bread
Irish Charms from Tara's Diary
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Content copyright © 2014 by Mary Ellen Sweeney. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Mary Ellen Sweeney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bee Smith for details.


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