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How To Feed A Christmas Cake

Christmas Cakes are one of my favorite holiday traditions — but you do have to feed them over a period of time. Here's exactly how that works!

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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, but as a professional chef, I’ve mastered them.

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.

The First Feed

Take 30ml/2 tablespoons of whiskey, rum, or brandy and pour on the warm cake surface fresh from the oven. The cake is then it is 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.

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 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??

For other Traditional Irish Christmas recipes check out my Mince Pies and even my from-scratch recipe for Traditional Mince Meat, and Aunty Rosaleen’s Christmas Cake.

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!

Then, follow my simple Christmas Cake Decoration tips!

Make More Cake!

And don’t forget to buy my Bigger Bolder Baking Cookbook!

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6 months ago

When I was a young boy, 70 years ago, I used to help my aunt make these Christmas cakes. They used to contain parchment paper wrapped prizes, (coins, toys etc just small things). They were baked and cooled then double wrapped in cheesecloth and soaked with whiskey or rum, then wrapped in more cheesecloth. This was done several times more up until Christmas. Then they would be unwrapped and glazed with a very sticky clear toffee like concoction. All except one would be given away to relatives or friends. One we kept would be served at Christmas dinner, after being… Read more »

Carolyn Gause
Carolyn Gause
6 months ago

How do you distribute only 2 tbl. Spoonfuls over the entire cake?

4 months ago

Hi Gemma, the cake turned out perfect. Waiting now to be covered with your homemade marzipan. How long before icing shall i leave the marzipan to dry and how to store the cake once coveted with marzipan?

Carlo's Bakery
Carlo's Bakery
1 month ago

Great post, thank you for sharing this blog.

5 months ago

Hi Gemma, Do you have an alcohol free recipe for a Christmas fruit cake for kids? Thanks

Juliette Wood
Juliette Wood
5 months ago

What can be done for an over-fed cake that’s looking soft and near mushy?!?

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere!

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