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Aunty Rosaleen's Traditional Irish Christmas Cake. A cake made for generations that just keeps getting better.

Aunty Rosaleen’s Irish Christmas Cake

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Hi Bold Bakers!

One of our Christmas Traditions in Ireland is to eat fruit cake. A big part of that tradition is to make our fruit cakes in October, giving your cake enough time to mature its flavor and age. This recipe is from my Aunty Rosaleen who is a fantastic baker. She kindly shared it with me and I’m sharing it with you.

Part of the tradition of making Christmas Cakes is to make a wish when storing the ingredients together. I have very clear memories of mixing the big Mason & Cash bowl in the kitchen with my mum. We would line up to make a wish.

Like I said, these cakes get better with age. Store it in a tin or air tight container for up to 6 months. Don’t worry, the booze will keep it from turning bad and it will actually get better with age.

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Aunty Rosaleen's Irish Christmas Cake
  • 3 cups(16oz/454g) sultanas
  • 3 cups (16oz454g) raisins
  • 1 ½ cups (8oz/225g) glace cherries
  • ⅓ cup (2oz/60g) candied peel
  • 1 cup (8 floz/225ml) Whiskey
  • 2 cups (10oz/300g) all purpose flour
  • 1 ⅔ cups (10oz/300g) muscovado sugar or dark sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup (10oz/ 300g) butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 5 large eggs
  • ½ cup (2oz/60g) chopped or sliced almonds
  1. The night before, steep the fruit and candied peel in whiskey overnight on the counter top. This lets the fruit plump up and all the flavors macerate.
  2. The next day, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Next, mix in your flour and spices until combined.
  4. Lastly fold in the boozy fruit mix. At this point traditionally you make a wish while you stir. As kids my Mum always let us do this.
  5. Line a tin with parchment paper on the bottom and up the sides of the tin. The cake needs to bake for a long time so make sure to line your tin well to protect the edges from burning.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 280oF (140oC) for one hour then at 240oF (120oC) for about 2½ hours.
  7. Once baked let it cool down completely on a wire rack. Wrap it up well in baking paper and store in a tin or air tight container for up to 3 months. Don't worry, the booze will keep it from turning bad and it will actually get better with age.



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  1. Margaret on December 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Gemma, I love your recipe..definitely going to try it…But do we need to add baking soda to the batter?, also the eggs need to go in soon after creaming the butter and sugar..right? Thanks

    • Gemma Stafford on December 9, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Margaret,

      Yes you do need the baking soda. if you don’t have any here is a solution

      Also yes eggs go in after butter being creamed 🙂

      Happy Baking!

      • Maggie on December 10, 2017 at 6:54 am

        How much baking soda ? Maybe I’m just missing it in the recipe?

        • Gemma Stafford on December 11, 2017 at 3:51 am

          Hi Maggie,
          No baking soda in this recipe, this is a dense cake, it does not require a raising agent, it would not really do anything in the recipe,
          Gemma 🙂

  2. Claudette on December 1, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Hi Gemma,
    I want to do a brandy mix but to soak the fruit I don’t have the brand yet will ginger liqueur go well?

    Thanks so much

    • Gemma Stafford on December 2, 2017 at 3:16 am

      Hi Claudette,
      Yes! really you can soak the fruit in anything you have. Orange juice, applejuice, a liqueur, whiskey, anything really. I hope you like this cake, we do in our house!
      Gemma 🙂

  3. Eoghan Mag on November 19, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Gemma, nice recipe. Can a tablespoon of fresh lemon and a tablespoon of milk be added to this mix? Also when smoothing the mix in the tin should you create a slight hollow in the middle? If your cake cracks on baking is this to do with oven temperature variation or how well it was smoothed?

    • Gemma Stafford on November 20, 2017 at 1:59 am

      Hi Eoghan,
      Some people would say that the crack in the cake is a sign of a good bake!
      What I do not like to see are very dark/burnt edges. The careful lining of the pan, even wrapping it in brown paper and securing it with string, help to keep the pan cool, allowing an even bake. This was always done in my house!
      Yes, not so much a hollow, but flat as possible. The rise is slight enough. I never saw milk added to this type of cake, whiskey, apple juice, brandy, rum yes, but not milk. However I cannot see a compelling reason not to add it.
      Temperature is really important to this type of cake, it is vital really. It takes time to bake this!
      Good luck with your bake, I hope you enjoy this one,
      Gemma 🙂

  4. Renee on November 4, 2017 at 4:28 am

    Hi Gemma! Thanks for this recipe again. Quick questions – do I need to add salt in this recipe? If yes, how much? Also, I’m planning to feed the cake with triple sec. Is this a good or bad idea? I want the orangey flavour it will leave behind, but I’m not excited about the extra sugar.

    • Gemma Stafford on November 5, 2017 at 3:32 am

      Hi Renee,
      No, you do not need salt for this cake.
      Triple sec is a lovely thing, but as you say it is very sweet.
      What I would prefer to do is add extra orange zest to the batter, and then the traditional feeding will be with whiskey, which will give the flavor, without additional sugars. It will also help to preserve the cake. This cake, when well wrapped, in a cool place, will hold for months! A great one for a wedding cake too.
      I do hope you like this recipe, we always love this in our house. Watch your oven temperature and timing.
      Gemma 🙂

  5. Binu on November 2, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Hey, can I add red wine instead of whiskey? Haven’t got whiskey. Planning to make one during Xmas season.
    Got a query, What’s the difference between your recipe n fruit cake recipe you shared above,the spice mix? Tia

    • Gemma Stafford on November 3, 2017 at 2:15 am

      Hi Binu,
      This cake is a traditional Christmas cake mix. It is full of sugars, and the whiskey, or brandy helps to preserve it. It is often made at least a month before Christmas, well wrapped, and in a cool place it will keep for months. Red wine will NOT do this, do not add it. You would be better to make it nearer to the date, a few weeks, wrap it well and it will be good. Use apple juice, or orange juice to soak the fruit. Read through the recipes to decide which is best for your need. The richer the cake the longer it will store,
      Gemma 🙂

  6. Candace on September 17, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    These recipes sound delicious! I grew up with my mom making her own fruit cakes, adding brandy. After they were baked and cooled, she covered them with brandy dipped cheesecloth in pretty tins and stored them in a cool closet to give as Christmas gifts. The cakes were moist and everyone loved them. As a result, I couldn’t understand why many people didn’t like fruit cake until I tasted store bought kinds.

    Apart from the nostalgia–can these cakes be successfully made using a gluten free flour blend?

    Thank you,
    Candace in the USA

    • Gemma Stafford on September 18, 2017 at 2:05 am

      Hi Candace,
      I consulted Aunty Rosaleen!! As it happens she has a daughter in law who is celiac. She said that you would need to use zanthum gum with the AP gluten free flour, or a strong GF flour, formulated for yeast baking.
      I do hope this is of help. Yes, I remember that too, the baptizing of the cake with brandy, or whiskey. This was done a few times in the month or so after baking, it is said to preserve the cake, and add flavor. I don’t know, but it certainly worked. A delicious thing in small portions!
      Gemma 🙂

  7. SusanMargaret on December 19, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Gemma: There are a couple of things omitted in this recipe: In the “method” for baking this cake, there is no mention of when the 5 eggs or almonds should be incorporated into the batter. Also, I think it would be most helpful to give the appropriate pan size for the recipe. Luckily, I have enough experience with cakes to know these things (and can approximate the pan size which ended up being a 10″ round pan) but others may find the instructions confusing. I made my own mixed spice combination because I was unfamiliar with a packaged spice mix but I wish I had read your suggestion about leaving out the cloves altogether. Too late now – the cake is in the oven. Fingers crossed the cloves don’t overpower this cake.

    • Gemma Stafford on December 20, 2016 at 2:20 am

      Hi Susan,
      I am so sorry to confuse, I took it as I got it, and because I am so familiar with the process did not double check all of the anomolies.
      I have re-visited the recipe now and adjusted it.
      The amount of clove will be small enoug in any case, so it will be good for you.
      Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
      Happy Christmas to you and yours,
      Gemma 🙂

  8. Abhi on December 16, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Can we replace the alcohol in the dish, because I am going to have some kids over.

    • Gemma Stafford on December 17, 2016 at 2:58 am

      Yes, you can add more fresh orange juice if you wish. Remember that the alcohol burns off in the baking, leaving just the flavor. In Ireland we do pour whiskey, or brandy over the cake at the end of the baking, when the cake is still warm, but the alcohol still evaporates, it is the angels share!!
      Gemma 🙂

  9. Arpita Mukhuty on December 16, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Can it be made in microwave oven

    • Gemma Stafford on December 17, 2016 at 2:59 am

      Absoloutely NO!!!
      Gemma 🙂

  10. Judy on December 16, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    This sounds wonderful, I’m going to give it a try. I love fruitcake! What is “mixed spice”? Is it a specific mixture? Can I improvise at home making my own mixture?

    • Gemma Stafford on December 17, 2016 at 3:04 am

      Hi Judy,
      good question. We buy it mixed but it is a combination of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Mace, Cloves and Ginger. This is a good basic idea, you can adjust to your taste.
      Warning: Take it really easy with the cloves, they can dominate, so leave them out if you wish.
      Mace is the husk of a nutmeg, and has a slightly warmer flavor.
      hope this igives you the idea. Auntie rosaleen is delighted that her recipe is finding its’ way around the world.
      Gemma 🙂

  11. Tanners Mom on December 16, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Gemma! I hope you’re going to tell us what some of these ingredients are because I’ve never heard of some of them. I want to make this but I don’t know what to shop for. Thanks, as always for your help. Love cheryl and Tanner

    • Gemma Stafford on December 17, 2016 at 3:14 am

      Ah! Really? Which ingredients are a mystery?
      Glace cherries are preserved cherries, but in a sugar syrup, can be left out, they do give a lovely color to the cake.
      Candied peel is citrus peel which has been preserved in sugar syrup too.
      Mixed spice is a mix of cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, clove, ginger – to taste, careful with the clove!
      At one time in Ireland, not that long ago, all produce was home grown and seasonal. Fruits were preserved to be used in baking in the Winter months when imported fruits were expensive, or in short supply. the same thing applied to eggs, which were seasonal in the natural world, and were preserves too for Christmas baking in a substance called waterglass. So, that is what I think may be a mystery!
      Gemma 🙂

      • Tanners Mom on December 17, 2016 at 8:14 am

        Hi Gemma, one thing I’ve never heard of is sultanas and the other is caster sugar. I was reading about some of the ingredients online from someone from the UK and they said most people in the States have never heard of some ingredients that are usually just used in the UK and in Europe. So now I don’t feel so bad that I didn’t know what these two things were. Thank you for your help and the light fruit cake receipe. You mentioned icing the cake after it has cooled, what kind of icing do you use?

        • Gemma Stafford on December 18, 2016 at 2:43 am

          Hi there,
          For this light cake you will use a fondant icing, though a royal icing would work well too, with a light layer of marzipan under the frosting. Marzipan is use at Eastertime for this cake, which is called a Simmnel cake, the marzipan is scorched and it looks really lovely. Simmnel cake also has a layer of marzipan baked in the cake!
          Gemma 🙂

  12. Cindy on December 16, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    1 teaspoon mixed spice….what spices?

    • Gemma Stafford on December 16, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Mix spice is itself an actually mix of spices. It can be bought in the supermarket. It’s a mix of nutme, cinnamon etc. If you can’t buy it in a store you can find a recipe for it on line. 🙂

  13. Tanners Mom on December 16, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Hi Gemma! I’m so anxious to try your fruit cake. Most people cringe if they get one at Christmas because they usually are stale. I was wondering if you have a receipe for a light fruit cake. It was so good and everyone was happy to receive one, but I lost my receipe. I thought you could help me out. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

    • Gemma Stafford on December 17, 2016 at 3:31 am

      When i finished my chef training my parents sent me to a special cookery school in Ireland called Ballymaloe, for a ‘polish’ my Mum said lol.
      my teacher there was the great Darina allen, and this is her Mum’s light fruit cake recipe:

      – 50g (2oz) whole almonds 200g (7oz) sultanas 200g (7oz) raisins
      – 100g (31/2oz) chopped candied peel
      – 50g (2oz) currants 50g (2oz) real glacé cherries, cut in quarters
      – 50g (2oz) ground almonds 225g (8oz) butter, softened 225g (8oz) caster sugar
      – 4 large or 5 small eggs, preferably free-range and organic
      – grated rind of 1 orange
      – 275g (10oz) plain flour pinch of salt
      – 1/8 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
      – 1 teaspoon milk
      Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Line a 20.5cm x 30.5cm (8in x 12in) cake tin that is 5cm (2in) deep with parchment paper. Mum cooked this cake in an oval enamel tin with a lid.
      2. Blanch the whole almonds in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop. Mix together all the fruit, candied peel and the ground and chopped almonds.
      3. Cream the butter until it’s really soft, then add in the caster sugar and beat until light and creamy. Whisk the eggs and add them in bit by bit, beating well between each addition. Add the grated orange rind.
      4. Sieve the flour and salt together, then stir in the flour and all of the fruit.
      5. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk and stir it thoroughly through the mixture.
      6. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50–60 minutes. Allow to get cold, then turn out of the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper until you are ready to ice it.
      This is not converted to cups, but you can do this!
      Gemma 🙂

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