Christmas baking leaves me torn between tradition and trends. While I yearn for the nostalgic smells of ginger, nutmeg and allspice, the family, especially my children don’t seem to be as interested as I am. Rich fruit cake and heady marzipan do not seem to appeal, with the endless boxes of sweets and chocolate taking centre stage!
However, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas for us without at least a cake, and some mice pies. The main event- the Christmas dinner- would feel lacking without a pudding to set alight, creating that after dinner drama, before we retire to the couch to either fall asleep or dust off the board games.
My version of Christmas cake is a lighter one than the traditional one I remember. There’s no marzipan- I add a little almond essence to a light coating of icing, but it still delivers a fruity boozy punch. Every few days in the run up to the big day before I ice it, a few tablespoons of whiskey over the top helps to keep it moist and flavoursome.
The pudding too is lighter but warming, with spiced rum aromas and plenty of fruit and glacé cherries.
Frangipane topped mince pies with crispy flaked almonds are a great alternative to the traditional mince pie, served warm with brandy custard or cream – the perfect accompaniment to mulled wine on Christmas Eve.
Spiced cookies or biscuits, make a great Christmas gift and once Santa has had his fill, they are great for Stephens’ day, with Irish coffees. I love the German style gingerbread biscuit, Lebkuchen, giving you all the Christmas market feels. They are softer than the biscuit form used to make gingerbread men, but laden with all the Christmas spice and sweet with honey. Happy Christmas baking!
- 180 g butter
- 180 g muscovado sugar
- 3 eggs
- 230 g plain flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp salt
- 40 g ground almond
- 170 g raisins
- 140 g currants
- 120 g sultanas
- 60 g glacé cherries
- 40 g mixed peel
- 3 tbs milk
- 50 ml whiskey (plus more for feeding after)
- Pre heat the oven to 150 degrees.
- Grease and double line with parchment paper an 8-inch (20 cm) round tin.
- Cream room temperature butter and the sugar together.
- Add eggs one by one, then the dry ingredients, sifted flour, baking powder, the spices, salt, and ground almond.
- Add the milk and whiskey.
- Fold in the fruit and transfer to the prepared tin.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hours, if the cake is browning too much, place a tin foil lid over it for the remainder of the cooking time.
- While the cake is still warm, make some holes in the top and add 2 tbsp of whiskey. (Repeat this process every couple of weeks until Christmas, leaving the last week for it to dry out a little if you intend to ice the cake).
- Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before removing to a wire tray to cool. Keep the cake wrapped in baking parchment in a cool dry area until it is time to decorate.
- 70 g raisins
- 70 g sultanas
- 20 g glacé cherries
- ½ a green apple, grated
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon and ½ orange
- 30 g grated carrot
- 50 ml spiced rum
- 50 ml Guinness
- (Soak all the above in a large bowl overnight)
- 130 g breadcrumbs
- 40 g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 100 g butter
- 100 g brown sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp mix spice
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Grease a 1.5 litre pudding bowl.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, add the egg, and mix thoroughly.
- Add the flour, spices, fruit and breadcrumbs.
- Combine well and transfer to the pudding bowl.
- Secure the lid, and completely wrap the whole bowl with greaseproof paper, and a layer of tin foil over this.
- Boil or oven steam for 5 hours, making sure to keep the water topped up.
Mince Pies with Frangipane Topping
- 250 g flour
- 50 g icing sugar
- 150 g softened butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 60 g ground almond
- 60 g softened butter
- 60 g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 drop almond essence
- Flaked almonds
- 1 jar of good quality mincemeat
To make the sweet pastry;
- In a mixer cream the butter with the icing sugar.
- Add the flour and mix until the consistency of breadcrumbs.
- Add as much of the egg yolk as you need to bring the pastry together, it will be slightly sticky, lightly flour and wrap it, leaving it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To make the Frangipane:
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer, add the egg, then add the ground almond and a scant amount of almond essence.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
- Once the pastry is chilled, roll it out to roughly a half cm thick.
- Using a 9cm scone cutter, cut out discs and place in a lightly greased muffin tray.
- Fill the pastry case halfway up with mincemeat and top with frangipane.
- Sprinkle some flaked almonds on top and bake for 25 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tray for about 10 minutes and then remove the pies to a cooling rack.
- Serve warm with brandy custard.
- 90 g butter
- 170 ml honey
- 40 g muscovado sugar
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 240 g plain flour
- 70g ground almond
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 egg yolk
- 150 g icing sugar
- 2 tsp water
- 100 g melted chocolate
- Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees.
- In a saucepan, over a medium heat, melt the butter and honey.
- Add the sugar, orange and lemon zest and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.
- Add the dry ingredients, and using the egg yolk to bind the mixture, turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently to a soft dough.
- Chill the dough for about 30 minutes.
- Roll out to a half a cm thick and using a cutter of choice, cut out the cookies.
- This should make 20-25 cookies depending on the size.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes on a lined baking tray, they will still feel soft after baking, leave to cool on a wire tray.
- Mix the icing sugar with water, if you are piping designs, leave this icing quite thick, to fully glaze the cookie, add more water.
- I usually dip some of the cookies in melted chocolate and pipe the rest with white icing.
Kate O Hora – Bio
With over 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, Kate O Hora has worked both front and back of house in many of Dublin’s top restaurants including La Stampa, The Unicorn and Aqua. She set up The Cake Table during the first lockdown, after years of baking for friends and family. She left her full-time cheffing position in 2021 to concentrate on her cake business which has gone from strength to strength.
Having a huge passion for food she commenced a masters in Gastronomy and Food Studies in 2019 at TU Dublin, graduated in 2021 and has since been working in other areas of the food industry, including food styling, recipe development and restaurant consultation.