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Hi Bold Bakers!
In this article, you’ll learn exactly How To Feed A Christmas Cake, one of my very favorite holiday desserts. The process for a perfect Christmas Cake does take some time and some patience, but it’s absolutely worth it. Not only did I grow up making these in Ireland, but as a professional chef, I’ve mastered them. For other Traditional Irish Christmas recipes check out my Mince Pies and even my from-scratch recipe for Traditional Mince Meat, and, of course, my Aunty Rosaleen’s Christmas Cake.
What Is A Christmas Cake?
Traditionally, Christmas Cakes in Ireland and the UK are rich, heavy, and dense fruit cakes. The fruit for these cakes was carefully assembled, cleaned, stoned, and treasured. This type of cake is baked at a low temperature for many hours. This was originally a rare treat using the produce of the harvest. Even the eggs, which were seasonal in the past, were preserved for use in this great cake. Most families would have a Christmas Cake pan, and sometimes this pan was shared with a neighbor. If you want an authentic Christmas Cake recipe, try my Aunty Rosaleen’s Irish Christmas Cake.
What Is “Feeding” A Cake?
There are a number of reasons to “feed the cake,” and families had their preferred time to bake the cake and the choice of spirit, whiskey/rum, or brandy, with which to ‘feed’ it. The purpose of the feeding is to develop the flavor of the cake and, along with the sugars in the fruit, to preserve it and to mature it for the best flavor. Feeding the cake is simply soaking it in your favorite alcohol.
Prior to home refrigeration, the cake was well wrapped and stored in a cold place – and there were plenty of cold places in European houses up to the middle of the 20th century. It was usually fed once as it came from the oven – a good glass of whiskey was traditional, that would be about 30ml/2 tbsp of whiskey.
What to use instead of alcohol?
You can use apple juice or orange juice instead which tends to ferment to yield similar booze to alcohol. However, without alcohol as a preservative, do not make the Christmas Cake more than 1 month ahead of serving.
The First Feed
Take 30ml/2 tablespoons of whiskey, rum, or brandy (or apple juice/orange juice) and pour on the warm cake surface fresh from the oven. The cake is then allowed to go completely cold. It should be stripped of its baking paper, be carefully wrapped, and stored in a cold place for 2 weeks. (In a very warm climate with a temperature higher than 24°C/76°F and high humidity, refrigerate it. )
The Second Feed
You’re not done yet! Two weeks later, poke holes in the cake with a long skewer. Again take 30ml/2 tbsps of whiskey (apple juice/orange juice) and slowly pour it over the cake. Wrap it up well again and rest it for another 2 weeks.
The Third Feed
After another 2 weeks later, repeat step two.
The Fourth Feed
You guessed it! Two weeks later, and this is the last time you will repeat the feed as above. This should be sufficient feeding for any heavy fruit cake like my Aunty Rosaleen’s Christmas Cake.
Allow the cake to rest for about two weeks after the last feed, especially if it is to be iced.
More Christmas Cake Tips
- For a rich cake, the amount of feed and how often you feed it will depend on how early you make the cake — and how much time you have before Christmas. If you make it very early then it can be frozen after the last feed.
- For a light fruit cake, one or two feeds will be sufficient.
- You can over-feed the cake. At this point, it will be wet and boozy and really not so nice.
Are you in the Holiday spirit yet??
Decorating Christmas Cakes!
If you want to successfully decorate a Christmas Cake, here are a few things you might need… starting with the cake itself!
- Christmas Cake (Fruitcake)
- Marshmallow Fondant
- Easy Homemade Marzipan
- Royal Icing For Cake Decorating
Then, follow my simple Christmas Cake Decoration tips!
Make More Cake!
- Pound Cake With Sprinkles
- Citrus Olive Oil Cake
- Best-Ever Chocolate Cake with Whipped Dark Chocolate Ganache
- Best-Ever Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Swiss-Meringue Buttercream Frosting
And don’t forget to buy my NEW Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day cookbook, which is a perfect gift (even for yourself) for the holidays.
Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.