Aunty Rosaleen’s Traditional Irish Christmas Cake Recipe

4.67 from 168 votes
Join in my family tradition and make an Irish Christmas Cake this holiday season. It's my Aunty Rosaleen's recipe and I'm excited to share it with you!
Aunty Rosaleen's Traditional Irish Christmas Cake. A cake made for generations that just keeps getting better.

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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 Christmas Cake in October, giving your cake enough time to mature its flavor and age. This Christmas Cake is rich, moist, boozy, and very delicious. 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.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was updated and improved on 10/19/2023, to include a new step-by-step tutorial video and 25 most frequently asked questions and answers.

I’m proud to say there’s a connection to the much-loved O’Driscolls Irish Whiskey used in this Christmas cake recipe and in this lovely O’Driscolls Irish Whiskey Cake. My cousin, Michael J. Stafford is the managing director of Stafford Bonded in my hometown of Wexford, Ireland. Michael carried on the family business created by our grandfather (James Stafford) and also our fathers (George Stafford Snr and Michael Stafford Snr). Michael has chronicled the history of the Stafford family in Wexford beautifully on the Stafford Bonded website. O’Driscolls Irish Whiskey is inspired by Diarmuid O’Driscoll, Michael’s other grandfather, a true inspiration and a great storyteller who recently passed away at 104. You will understand the inspiration when you hear Diarmuid talk of the O’Driscoll family.

If you haven’t already, make sure to learn How To Feed A Christmas CakeThe 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 don’t miss my Traditional Mince Pies, my from-scratch recipe for Traditional Mince Meat, and my Mum’s Christmas Pudding.

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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.

As I said, these cakes get better with age. Store it in a tin or airtight container in a cool dry place (up to 24°C/76°F) for up to 6 months. Don’t worry, the booze will keep it from turning bad and it will actually get better with age. In a very warm climate with high humidity, refrigerate it. 


  1. Q: What’s the other name for Irish Christmas Cake?

    A: “Christmas Cake” in Ireland is also known as “fruitcake”.

  2. Q: When is Irish Christmas Cake typically made?

    A: Christmas Cake is traditionally made in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as early as October to allow the flavors to mature. The longer you let it sit, the better it gets in taste and texture.

  3. Q: What nuts can you use in Christmas Cake?

    A: Besides almonds, you can also use walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, pistachios, other nut(s) of your choice, or a mix of different types of nuts. If preferred, toast the nuts before adding them to the cake batter to enhance flavors.

  4. Q: What can I use instead of nuts in Christmas Cake if I have a nut allergy?

    A: You can use seeds, shredded coconut, rolled oats, chocolate chips, graham crackers, or crushed cookies.

  5. Q: What’s in mixed spice? What’s the difference between mixed spice and all spice?

    A: “Mixed spice” usually contains all spice, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ground mace, ground cloves, ground coriander, and ground ginger. Check out my Homemade Mixed Spice Recipe for the exact measurement and ratio.

  6. Q: What are raisins, currants, sultanas and what are their differences?

    A: 1) Raisins are from different variations of grapes dried for around 3 weeks in a dark brownish color.
    2) Currants are dried from a variety of small, seedless grapes called “Black Corinth” and “Carina.”
    3) Sultanas/golden raisins are dried from green seedless grapes and are typically coated in an oil-based solution before drying to speed up the process to have a lighter golden color.

  7. Q: If I don’t want to use the cherries and candied peels can I use more raisins, currants or both?

    A: 1) If store-bought candied cherries and candied peels put you off, try my recipes How to Make Candied Cherries (Glacé Cherries) and How To Make Simple Candied Mixed Peel with no chemical taste or unpleasant texture.
    2) Alternatively, you can use raisins, currants, or other dried fruit per your preference.

  8. Q: What egg substitute will work the best in an Irish Christmas Cake?

    A: Flax eggs from my Egg Substitute Chart will work the best in this Christmas Cake because they bind ingredients well and retain moisture well.

  9. Q: Can I replace the whiskey with brandy or rum? What other alcohol can I use?

    A: Yes, you can use brandy or rum in place of whiskey. Sherry will also give a Christmas cake booze.

  10. Q: What can I use instead of whiskey to make an alcohol-free Christmas Cake?

    A: 1) To make the Christmas cake alcohol-free, add about 1 tablespoon (15ml) of orange juice, apple juice, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar (the one with the mother) to the cake mix to help ferment the fruit and develop flavors.
    2) Without alcohol as a preservative, do not make it more than 1 month ahead of serving. In a very warm climate with high humidity, refrigerate it.

  11. Q: Can I use almond flour in this fruitcake to make it gluten-free?

    A: You can replace part of the all-purpose flour with almond flour for extra flavor, different texture or nutrients.
    To make it gluten-free, you can use gluten-free all-purpose blend flour for the best result.

  12. Q: Can you make a dairy-free Irish Christmas Cake?

    A: 1) Use vegan-baking butter and plant-based milk of your choice for the best result.
    2) You can use margarine but the result can be different in taste and texture.

  13. Q: What’s Marzipan?

    A: Marzipan is a sweet, pliable paste made from ground almonds, sugar, eggs, and sometimes almond extract. Make your own using my recipe Easy Homemade Marzipan.

  14. Q: What kind of icing is used on an Irish Christmas Cake?

    A: Royal icing is typically used to cover the cake, giving it a smooth and decorative finish. Check out details in my Bold Baking Basic: Simple And Beautiful Christmas Cake Decorating.

  15. Q: Do Irish Christmas Cakes have a special design or decoration?

    A: 1) The traditional way to decorate a Christmas Cake has three layers, namely apricot jam for holding the marzipan layer, marzipan adding unmistakable almond flavor and lovely texture, and royal icing coating the outside of the Christmas Cake and resembling a snowy winter wonderland.
    2) It will be topped with fondant Christmas-themed designs like holly leaves, berries, or stars.
    3) Be sure to check out my Simple And Beautiful Christmas Cake Decorating for Pro Tips.

  16. Q: How is an Irish Christmas Cake traditionally served?

    A: It’s sliced into thin pieces and enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.

  17. Q: Can I make a Christmas Cake in the microwave?

    A: I do not recommend making it in a microwave.
    1) You can easily overcook it in the microwave and dry it out.
    2) Microwave cooking typically doesn’t allow for the long, slow cooking time that a Christmas cake needs to develop its complex flavors.

  18. Q: How can I make an Irish Christmas Cake in a fan-assisted oven or a convection oven?

    A: You can reduce the baking temperature by 30°F /10°C. Bake your cake in the middle rack with the bottom heating only. Baking time should be more or less the same.

  19. Q: What’s the gas mark if I make it in a gas oven?

    A: Refer to my Guide to Knowing Your Oven for the gas mark you should use for baking your Christmas cake in a gas oven.

  20. Q: How can I bake this Irish Christmas Cake Recipe in a smaller size pan?

    A: 1) For baking the Christmas cake batter in 6-inch (18cm) pans with each up to ¾ way full, it will bake as follows: Bake for 45 mins at 280°F (140°C) then turn the oven down to 240°F (120°C) and cook for 1 hr more or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
    2) For baking the Christmas cake batter in standard-size cupcake pans, bake them at 300°F(150°) for roughly 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean.

  21. Q: Would this recipe work with any dried fruits but raisins?

    A: Dried apricots, cranberries, dates, figs,prunes,pineapple,cherries,mangos will work well in Christmas Cake.

  22. Q: Why isn’t there raising agent baking powder or baking soda in this cake?

    A: This cake is very traditional and its nature is to be heavy and dense. As kids we hated it but as an adult I love it.

  23. Q: How can I avoid the soaked fruits from sinking to the bottom?

    A: 1) Before adding the soaked fruits to the cake batter, make sure they are well-coated with flour. This helps to create a barrier that can slow down the sinking process.
    2) Cut the soaked fruits into smaller pieces which are less likely to sink as quickly as larger ones.
    3) Gently folding the fruits into the cake batter helps distribute the fruits more evenly, reducing the chances of them sinking.
    4) Alternatively, layer your cake batter and soaked fruits until all the ingredients are used. This can also help distribute the fruits more evenly.

  24. Q: What is the best way to store an Irish Christmas Cake to prevent it from drying out?

    A: 1) Cool the cake completely after baking which might take a few hours.
    2) Wrap in parchment paper and followed by aluminum foil. The parchment paper helps prevent the aluminum foil from directly contacting and reacting to the cake.
    3) Place in an airtight container.
    4) Store in a cool, dry place such as a pantry or cupboard away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and moisture.
    5) Feed the Christmas Cake every one or two weeks with a small amount of alcohol (e.g., whiskey or brandy) before resealing the container. This helps preserve the cake and keep it moist.
    6) Keep for several weeks: Properly stored, an Irish Christmas Cake can last for several weeks to up to a year.

  25. Q: Is Irish Christmas Cake the same as Christmas pudding?

A: No, Irish Christmas Cake and Christmas pudding are not the same.
Irish Christmas Cake:
1) Irish Christmas Cake, also known as Christmas fruitcake or plum cake, is a baked cake filled with dried fruits, nuts, spices, and often soaked in alcohol (typically whiskey) for weeks before baking.
2) The cake is typically round, like a regular cake, and is often covered with a layer of marzipan and royal icing. It can be decorated with festive designs. It is usually served in thin slices, similar to a traditional cake, and is enjoyed with a cup of tea or a glass of Irish whiskey.
Christmas pudding:
1) Christmas pudding also known as plum pudding, is a steamed or boiled dessert that is dense and moist, filled with dried fruits, suet, spices, and breadcrumbs.
2) It is traditionally prepared in a spherical shape.
3) Christmas pudding is typically served hot. It is commonly accompanied by Traditional Irish Brandy Buttercustardwhipped cream, or ice cream.

Decorating Christmas Cakes!

If you want to successfully decorate a Christmas Cake, here are a few things you might need:

Then, follow my simple Christmas Cake Decoration tips!

IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was updated and improved on 10/19/2023, to include a new step-by-step tutorial video and 25 most frequently asked questions and answers.

Watch The Recipe Video!

Aunty Rosaleen's Irish Christmas Cake

4.67 from 168 votes
Join in my family tradition and make an Irish Christmas Cake this holiday season. It's my Aunty Rosaleen's recipe and I'm excited to share it with you!
Author: My Aunty Rosaleen
Servings: 12 people
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Join in my family tradition and make an Irish Christmas Cake this holiday season. It's my Aunty Rosaleen's recipe and I'm excited to share it with you!
Author: My Aunty Rosaleen
Servings: 12 people


  • 3 cups (15 oz/426 g) raisins
  • cup (2 oz/58 g) candied peel
  • 1 medium orange, zested
  • 1 medium lemon, zested
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/225 ml) O'Driscolls Irish Whiskey (or apple juice/orange juice*)
  • 1 ½ cups (8 oz/225 g) glace cherries
  • 2 cups (10 oz/282 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 oz/300 g) butter, room temperature
  • 1 ⅔ cups (13 oz/367 g) muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup (2 ½ oz/71 g) chopped or sliced almonds


The Night Before

  • Steep the raisins, candied peel, orange zest and lemon zest in whiskey (or apple juice/orange juice*). Allow to sit covered overnight at room temperature. This lets the fruit plump up and all the flavors macerate.

 The Next Day

  • Preheat the oven to 280°F (140°C). Butter and line a 10-inches baking pan and set aside. 
  • Rinse the cherries off then pat with a paper towel to absorb any excess liquid.  Quarter the cherries then lightly toss in flour (this will keep the cherries from sinking to the bottom of the cake while baking). Set aside. 
  • In a large bowl combine the flour and spices, set aside. 
  • Cream together the butter and sugar on HIGH speed until pale and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add in the eggs one at a time then fold in the dry ingredients. 
  • Lastly, fold in the boozy fruit mix, chopped almonds, and cherries. At this point traditionally you make a wish while you stir. As kids my Mum always allowed us do this.
  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.
  • Bake on the middle shelf for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 240°F (120°C) and continue to bake for about 2 - 2 ½ hours (Monitor carefully in the last 30 minutes or so, your oven might be a little hotter than mine)
  • When the cake is hot from the oven, poke holes all over the top with a skewer and drizzle over 2 tablespoons of whiskey. Once the cake has cooled completely, wrap it up well in baking paper and foil and store in a cool dry place (up to 24°C/76°F) for up to 3 months.
  • Now you start to 'feed' your Christmas cake every 2 weeks with a little whiskey. Click 'How to Feed a Christmas Cake' for more info.
    This alcohol will help preserve the cake for months on end and also add great flavor. Christmas cakes can last unto a year.

Recipe Notes

* You can use a 9-inch square pan and you need to monitor it at 2 hours.
 *Or bake this amount of batter in two 9-inch by 5- inch loaf pans. The bake time will change: 140°c in a fan-assisted oven for one hour, then 130°c for another 1 hours 15 minutes or until finished. 
*However, without alcohol as a preservative, do not make it more than 1 month ahead of serving. In a very warm climate with high humidity, refrigerate it. 

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4 years ago

Can yo please let me know what all spices required for mixed spice.
Can you please let me know the ingredients, quantity and method to make homemade mixed spice.

I am from India.
And I am biggest fan of all your recipes.
Love from India.

3 years ago

I used Welch’s frozen grape juice [undiluted] instead of Whiskey. Turned out MARVELOUS ! Thank you for the recipe !

4 years ago

Do you use the orange and lemon fruit or just the zests?

Clayton Hutchings
4 years ago

Is the cook time for aunty rosaleen Irish Christmas cake 2/1/2 or 3/1/2 hours

Julia Edwards
Julia Edwards
3 years ago

Hi Gemma great fan of ur recipes. Can u come up with a recipes using chickpeas flour ..flax seed flour oats..jst no wholewheat or white flour..trying to eat healthy

3 years ago

Do I need to feed regularly with whiskey or just use is at the point of cooking?

Asha Pillai
Asha Pillai
3 years ago

Can I make this in the microwave please?

3 years ago

Hi Gemma, I just made this Christmas cake and gave some to my mom and sister. They both stated that it was the best fruitcake they ever had!! 😁 Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! 😀

Lim Meow Khai, Francis
Lim Meow Khai, Francis
3 years ago

Hi Gemma
I am new to bakery. This Irish Christmas cake looks yummy
Would like to try to make it for Christmas 2020.
May i have video as guidance on the process.

Francis Lim @ Kuala Lumpur @ Malaysia

Kathleen Perry
Kathleen Perry
3 months ago

Everyone loved this fruitcake and I will make again. I usually make a cake with more fruits and nuts so except for the Jamesons this is quite economical

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About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

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.


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