How to make the perfect traditional Irish Christmas cake
Life & Style

How to make the perfect traditional Irish Christmas cake

OUR traditional Christmas cake recipe is taken from the book All in the Cooking, which was first published in 1946 as the official text book of Coláiste Mhuire Cookery School in Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin.

It remained in use in schools and colleges throughout Ireland until the late 1970s, and has now been updated and reprinted.

Co-author Anne A Browne, 97, said: "The endurance and widespread popularity of All in the Cooking books were always of enormous joy to me and my fellow authors.

"The Irish Diaspora has ensured that they can be found all over the world. I am so pleased to know that traditional Irish preparation and cooking of good food are enjoying renewed admiration and I hope this book will also be appreciated by a new generation."

Rich Irish Christmas Cake


9 ozs raisins

9 ozs sultanas

12 ozs currants (wash in warm water, drain well and leave to dry)

6 ozs mixed peel

3 ozs prunes (washed and steamed until soft for about 10 minutes, cut into small pieces removing the stones)

3 ozs dates (stones removed and cut into small pieces)

3 ozs cherries

1/2 apple (grated or chopped)

3 ozs chopped almonds, blanched

3 ozs ground almonds

1/4 teaspoonful mixed spice

Grated rind of half a lemon

9 ozs butter

9 ozs caster sugar

6 eggs

11 ozs flour

1 glass whiskey

1/4 teaspoonful baking powder


1. Prepare the fruit and almonds (if they need to be blanched put into cold water, bring to the boil, pour off the water and cover with cold water and leave for a few minutes before skining). Chop and mix the well with the fruit in a bowl, add spice, ground almonds, lemon rind and chopped peel. Mix all thoroughly.

2. Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat until white and creamy, using a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Beat eggs and add gradually to the creamed butter and sugar. Beat well. Mix in a little flour between each addition of egg if liked.

3. Fold in the remainder of the sieved flour and baking powder, using a metal spoon.

4. Mix in the prepared fruit and half of the whiskey.

5. Turn into a prepareed 8 or 9-inch tin, spread with a knife, leaving a slight hollow in the centre.

6. Bake in a slow oven, approx 150'C, 300'F for about 4 hours. Test with a warm skewer. Lift out of the oven and pour the remainder of the whiskey over.

7. Leave the cake in the cake tin until cold. Turn out, remove paper and wrap in cooking foil and store until required.

How to line a round tin...

For rich cakes like this, which will be in the oven for some time, one layer of brown paper and one of grease proof is generally used.

1. Mark the circumference of the tin on the paper. Cut a round of paper inside the marking.

2. Next cut a strip of paper 1 inch deeper than the depth of tin and 2-3 inches longer than the circumference.

3. Fold one edge of the strip over 1 inch, cut folded-in edge on the slant, having 1 inch between the cuts.

4. Grease the tin. Put in the paper, having the cut edge lying flatly on the bottom of the tin and the ends overlapping.

5. Place the round of the paper into the bottom of the tin and grease all over.

How to make the almond icing 


1 lb ground almonds

1lb caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon almond essence

2 tablespoons whiskey

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon ratafia essence (almond extract)


1. Crush all the lumps out of the almonds and sieve the caster sugar, mix both well together.

2. Beat the eggs, keeping back a little of the egg white, add flavourings and whiskey to them. Pour into the almonds and sugar and mix to a fairly stiff paste.

3. Turn on to a sugared board, kneed and roll out. Brush the cake with the white of the egg and put on the almond paste.

How to make the royal icing

1 lb icing sugar

Juice half a lemon

2 whites of eggs

1/2 teaspoonful glycerine


1. Sieve the icing sugar. Beat the whites of the eggs a little, add half the sugar and beat for about 10 minutes.

2. Cover a wet cloth and leave to rest. Mix the remainder of the sugar, strained lemon juice and glycerine.

3. A few drops of water coloured with blue colouring may be added to the icing to improve the colour. Use to coat and decorate your cake.

All in the Cooking is out now, jointly published by The Educational Company of Ireland (Edco) and The O'Brien Press.