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Traditional Irish Christmas Cake

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Traditional Irish Christmas Cake


400g/14oz currants

200g/7oz sultanas

200g/7oz raisins

50g/2oz glacé cherries, rinsed and finely chopped

50g/2oz mixed peel, finely chopped

200ml/7fl oz brandy

1 tsp rum flavouring

225g/8oz plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp ground mixed spice

½ tsp cinnamon

225g/8oz unsalted butter

225g/8oz soft brown sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tsp black treacle

grated rind of 1 lemon

grated rind of 1 orange

6 tbsp apricot jam or honey

450g/1lb almond paste

450g/1lb ready-to-roll royal icing

icing sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1.

Grease a 9cm/3 ½ in deep, 18-20cm/7-8in round cake tin and line the base and sides with a double thickness of greaseproof paper, allowing the paper on the sides to stand about 2cm/3/4in above the top of the tin.

Place all the dried fruit and peel in a bowl and mix in the brandy and rum flavouring the night before you make the cake. Cover the bowl and leave to soak in a cool place for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.

Sift the flour, salt and spices into a mixing bowl. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add them to the creamed mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.

Gently fold in the sieved flour and spices in two batches. Stir in the fruit and peel, the treacle and the grated rinds.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.

Cut out two round pieces of greaseproof paper that will fit on the top. Rub one of them with butter or oil and make a hole in the middle of both about the size of a 2 euro coin. Lay the circles on top of the cake, putting the buttered one greased-side down first. Place the tin on a baking sheet and bake on the lower shelf for 4 ½ hours. Check that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. It should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

When the cake is cold, remove from the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper and foil. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks. If you like, you can prick the top of the cake and spoon over 1 tbsp brandy every week up until the final fortnight, when you should leave it dry.

Icing The Cake

Icing the cake is optional, some people like it with marzipan, others with just a plain white icing. It is up to you to get it looking the way you prefer, either way Christmas Cake on its own with a bit of mistletoe or holly as decoration is just as good!

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