Traditional Irish Christmas Cake Recipe

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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We love a good and moist Irish Christmas Cake, and this recipe is one of the first we’ve learned once we landed in Ireland from Italy. It’s a unique dessert Irish people make for Christmas, and we simply love it! If you’re looking to try one of the best cake recipes (almost better than a chocolate cake. Almost), keep reading and take notes!

Every year we spend one full day baking this treat, and this is now part of our holiday tradition: we bring it with us when we go back to Italy to celebrate Christmas with our families and friends, and it’s always a pleasure to cut it and eat it.

This festive dessert is genuine and full of booze, and if you’re good at decorating with icing, the result is even more incredible!

What is the tradition of Christmas cake?

According to Irish traditions, it should be prepared at least one month before Christmas, left to rest in a wet cloth, and fed with more alcohol: the goal is to ensure it will completely soak in alcohol. It is supposed to be decorated with icing on the evening of December 24th and then brought to the table on Christmas day.

It’s a real feast when you cut it and give it to the people you love: the ones who have never tasted it will be surprised, and the ones who have already tasted it will be extremely happy.

Today this traditional festive cake is relatively “easy” to prepare because the ingredients are available and a bit more affordable; years ago, it was considered a sort of reward after months and months of work and effort.

We can only imagine how hard it was to find candied fruits and how expensive they were!

Getting a slice meant that Christmas had arrived, and it was time to eat something different from vegetable soup, bacon, and potatoes. When frugal living was not a thing but a necessity, this dessert represented something to wait for!

Traditional Irish Christmas Cake Recipe Step by Step

Ingredients for a 18cm/8″ round cake tin

    For the Cake

    • 225 grams all-purpose flour
    • 175 grams butter
    • 175 grams Muscovado sugar
    • 4 eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    For the fruit Mix

    • The peel of a lemon
    • The peel of an orange
    • 1 teaspoon powder cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon powder cloves
    • 100 grams almond flour
    • 1 teaspoon powder ginger
    • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 6 tablespoons Irish whiskey
    • 200 grams sultanas
    • 150 grams raisins
    • 100 grams currants
    • 100 grams candied orange and lemon
    • 100 grams chopped almonds


    1. Put the raisins, the sultanas and the currants in a large bowl, add 4 tablespoons of brandy and mix well then cover and let the brandy absorb for 12 hours.
    2. Turn on the oven at 130°C/266°F and line an 18cm/8″ round tin with a double layer of parchment paper.
    3. Pour the flour, the butter at room temperature, the sugar, the eggs, the peel of the lemon and the orange, the mixed spices, the nutmeg and beat until a smooth and creamy mixture is obtained.
    4. Pour the raisins and candied fruits plus almonds and almond flour in the mix and mix well using a wooden spoon until the ingredients are well combined. Your mixture will be extremely sticky at this point.
    5. Transfer the mixture into the pan, leveling the surface and then bake for about 5 hours always at a low temperature (130°C/266°F). The cooking can be checked by using the toothpick test (Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. Pull it out and if it's fully baked, there won’t be any wet batter on it).
    6. Let it cool completely, wet it slightly with whiskey and wrap it well in three sheets of parchment paper. Store the cake in an airtight container, letting it soak in the whiskey and wetting it every 3-4 days with more whiskey so that it stays longer.
    7. If you want to decorate the cake, take some honey and spread it on the surface, then put a marzipan layer first, followed by a layer of white royal icing. Add other Christmas-themed sugar decorations and consume after at least 24 hours after it was decorated by cutting it into slices of the desired size.


    Preparation time: 16 minutes

    Cooking time: 5 minutes

    Total time: 21 minutes

    Christmas Cake

    The most important thing when baking a fruit cake

    There’s something you need to pay attention to when baking your fruit cake for the holiday: the temperature of your oven.

    The temperature of the oven is the thing that most influences this recipe and varies depending on your oven.

    Our oven works perfectly at a temperature of 130°C/266°F, but this variable cannot be easily predicted, so it’s best to check on the instructions attached to your appliance and take advantage of past experiences in cooking.

    Feeding the Irish Christmas Cake

    Feeding your “baby” is one of the funniest things to do: it looks easy but it requires quite a lot of concentration. You don’t want to spill the whiskey or break the loaf!

    Every time you’ve to feed the cake, repeat the following steps:

    • Turn the loaf upside down and pierce it with a thick skewer;
    • Pour about half a teaspoon of whiskey into each hole;
    • Leave it to rest for a few minutes, then turn it up.

    This process has to be repeated once a week up to Christmas.

    Will the dough be soggy or too strong? No, the whiskey will blend with the rest of the ingredients, the fruit will absorb it, and the result will be a delicious dessert to be served during the holiday season.

    More advice for your perfect Irish fruit cake

    • The candied peel is hard to get in the USA. You have two choices: leave it out if you like or make your own by following this method (omitting the chocolate cover);
    • If you want a stickier cake with a browner color, you can add a tablespoon of Golden Syrup to the mix;
    • In fairness, you should use Irish Butter for your Irish Cake. Irish butter is richer and less watery, and this makes a difference in baking this holiday treat;
    • The tin you use for the sweet treat has to be of high quality; otherwise, the cake won’t cook properly;
    • This cake lasts for months if wrapped and stored correctly. Wrap it with greaseproof paper, then wrap this in tinfoil or put it into an airtight tin. The only thing to do to make sure the cake will last is constantly feed it with whiskey.
    Traditional Christmas fruit cake

    Irish Christmas Cake: Commonly Asked Questions

    When Should I Start Baking my Fruit Cake?

    Ideally, and since this Christmas sweet treat improves in flavor as it sits, we recommend starting as soon as possible. If you’re not the early baker type, give yourself a week to get a moist and pleasant fruit cake.

    Can I avoid icing?

    You sure can! The festive feeling would be missed, but it will still be good. At the end of the day, it’s not about the look of the food we prepare but the taste and the love.

    Can I bake this fruitcake in a smaller round pan?

    We’ve tested this cake using a round pan with the dimensions suggested in the article, but cooking means experimenting, so: go for it! Please note that baking times and results will vary if you change the tin size.

    Can I add baking soda?

    The traditional batter doesn’t require baking soda: it’s not a leavened product, and it doesn’t have to rise higher. The goal is to blend all the ingredients and then put the batter into a tin capable of holding the shape and giving the dough the desired height. You will never get a sunken cake if you don’t add a leavening: by simply putting all the ingredients together, they will start getting compact, and in the oven, they will never shrink. You can, of course, add baking soda to your recipe: there’s no harm in doing it by not exaggerating. For our doses, you can go for 1/2 teaspoon, no more.

    How can I use the leftovers?

    This dessert lasts for up to 3 months if well stored. To avoid getting bored, use it to create delicious and unexpected recipes: a perfect bread and butter pudding or a “tiramisù style” cake can be the solution, but you can opt for something simpler. Why not break the cake, put it into glasses, and cover it with whipped cream and/or gelato? Such a simple idea!

    We hope this Christmas recipe becomes a family staple! We cannot wait to cut our festive cake with our family again this year!

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