Saturday, December 26, 2009

...On The Second Day of Christmas...

What do you do on the second day of Christmas?
Eat Christmas Cake!! And there on the right is a photo of this years cake...before we cut into it.

As I have written before, I made a traditional Irish Christmas Cake weeks ago, have been letting it mellow and basting it with a wee bit of rum (I had no Irish whiskey, the more common substance used for that purpose) and we sliced it last night. It is a dark fruit cake, covered in a layer of marzipan and then covered with royal icing, which, for those not familiar with royal icing, dries very hard.

Here is a basic recipe, which I use with some changes, from Darina Allen, who is sort of the Martha Stewart of Ireland. It seems a bit daunting, but is quite easy once you assemble all the ingredients.

Darina Allen's Christmas Cake

225g (8oz) sultanas
225g (8oz) raisins
110g (4oz) candied peel, chopped
75g (3oz) stoned dates, chopped
75g (3oz) dried apricots, chopped
50g (2oz) currants
4oz (110g) very good quality glace cherries, halved or quartered
the zest and juice of an orange
the zest and juice of a lemon
a grated granny smith apple
25g (1oz) crystallized ginger, finely chopped
125ml (4fl oz) brandy or Irish whiskey
275g (10oz) butter, softened
275g (10oz) soft light brown sugar
5 eggs
50g (2oz) ground almonds
275g (10oz) plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

You will need:
23cm (9in) diameter cake tin or 20 x 20cm (8 x 8in) square cake tin
(I used a 10" round pan)


1. Place the dried fruit and the crystallized ginger in a bowl. Pour on the brandy or whiskey and allow to soak for at least 2 hours. (I cover the fruit in rum and let it soak, covered, for 2 days)

2. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Line the cake tin with greaseproof paper and wrap a collar of brown paper around the outside, which will help prevent the cake from drying out.

3. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir in the orange zest and ground almonds, then sift in the flour and spices and fold in gently. Fold in the dried fruit and any brandy or whiskey left in the bowl. Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin. Bake in the oven for 2 1/2-3 1/4 hours (a round tin will take longer) until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cover the cake, still in the tin, with foil and allow to cool. Once the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin and cover again in foil until you are ready to cover it with almond paste.

I buy tubes of marzipan, instead of making my own as she does. I used 2 this year, but will at least double it next year, as there were cries for a thicker marzipan layer. Then you make some royal icing...
Now if you are not too concerned with raw egg safety you can use egg whites. Beat four egg whites until foamy, and then slowly beat in a lb. of confectioner sugar and a little lemon juice for flavor. If you don't want to use eggs, you can make it with meringue powder, available where they sell cake decorating supplies.

Now, a final word about the fruit. I add up the total weight of the fruit in her recipe and then just make up my own mix of the best quality dried fruits you can find. DO NOT use that nasty "fruitcake" stuff in the supermarket, in the little plastic tubs. I think raisins and currents are needed but for the rest you can use what you like...dried cherries, cranberries, dates, figs, pears...whatever. Just chop them quite small, raisin size, and aim for about the same total weight as she uses.

After it is cut, the cake will stay fresh for a long tine in an airtight container or you can cut it into slices and freeze them.

Lovely with a nice cuppa tea on a cold winter day.

Hope you enjoyed my contribution to the Christmas edition of Weekend Cooking, and be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. That cake looks delicious. Every year I say I'm going to make a fruitcake, and every year I remember that I don't have any brandy. It's a hallowed tradition, I don't know what I'd do if I actually made the fruitcake.

  2. thank you kaye...I must agree it is

    Ali, my aunt in Ireland uses Jameson's whiskey...I used dark rum....any alcohol will do!

  3. First -- your cake is absolutely beautiful! Wow. I'm not sure I could do that good of a job with the decoration.

    Yum, yum, yum -- the cake sounds absolutely wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing it, and I love the tip to stay away from that fruitcake mix!

  4. Oh my gosh, your cake is just gorgeous! It would never look like that if I made it.

  5. That is so beautiful! I agree with Kathy - mine would never look like that! I make a rum cake every year for New Year's, but it generally looks like someone sat on it before serving!

  6. Beth, I must admit this year I used a mixed fruit that I bought from King Arthur Flour Company..
    I also bought the candied cherries from them and was VERY happy with the quality of both. But I added more raisins..and a few other secret fruits.
    Kathy...rhapsodyinbooks, I think you, but it really is not that hard. But then I have done some cake decorating in the past. in comparison, this was very easy.

  7. Have you considered hanging out a shingle and selling these beauties? That is one serious cake!

  8. but people make faces when you say "fruitcake"!

    ...and between the fruit and the rum, it is an expensive cake.

    Btw, in my previous comment that shpuld have said "I thank you, but it really is...".

  9. Caite, this is so beautiful that it would be hard to cut into it. Actually I've never heard of this cake before so I found it very interesting. I'd like to try this. I agree with you on the fruitcake mixes. I'm attracted to this recipes because of all the other dried fruits.

  10. Part of me does hate to cut it, except that I want to taste it! lol

    I am convinced that much of fruitcake's bad rep is due to cheap cakes made with cheap, rubber like, 'candied' fruit with nasty fake flavoring. As I said, correctly made, this can be a rather expensive cake. But it is BIG, and you eat small slices and it be eaten for weeks or sliced and frozen.
    And there is such a variety of very nice dried fruits available now, begging to be used.
    For a good dish, you need the best ingredients!

  11. We got several of those HUge selections of dried fruit this year (I guess people think we can't get fruit in Maine?). I'm thinking maybe this would be good for St Paddy's Day...we've got cranberries, blueberries, cherries, pears, plums, apricots, figs, apples, pineapple, mangos, you name it! And I DO have Irish Whiskey.....thanks for sharing.

  12. This cake is gorgeous! Really, it looks like something you'd see in a magazine.

  13. I agree this cake would be great for St. Patrick's Day...maybe not traditional, but still great. All those fruits would be good...just be sure they are diced small, raisin size. and as I said, I think raisins and/or currants are required . If you don't add them, the ghost of an Irish grandmother will appear to you in the middle of the night.
    Actually, I could have used whiskey and I have in the past. I just wanted to try the rum.
    ...and put it in the cake

    Dawn, thank you.... ;-Q

  14. Oh my, that cake (there must be a better word for it!) looks absolutely AMAZING! I wouldn't have dared cutting it. But I wouldn't have dared going through the whole process of making it either, so that shows how brave you are :)

    I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  15. That is the loveliest cake I've ever seen!

  16. The cake looks so tempting. In Kerala, an Indian state where Christmas is celebrated on a grand scale, plum cakes are a rage and they are made using wine and sometimes rum.


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