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In front of the fire at Ard Glas last Christmas

In front of the fire at Ard Glas last Christmas

When my mother made Christmas cake she always used Monica Sheridan’s recipe. Mum had an old cookbook stuffed with pieces of paper, cuttings and recipe cards and out of this jumble came marvellous concoctions to feed her appreciative family. As everyone did in those days she iced the Christmas cake with almond paste and royal icing and decorated the top with winter scenes and figurines.

2012-12-20 14.32.19I have searched in vain on the internet for Monica Sheridan’s famous Christmas Cake recipe and I have noticed that many readers who wander into Roaringwater Journal have googled ‘Monica Sheridan’. I suspect, therefore, that others may be looking for this recipe as well so I have decided to reproduce it below.

Monica’s measurements are all in ounces (that’s the same in Ireland, Britain and North America) but I have added the conversion to grams for modern cooks. I tried doing a conversion to cup measures for our Canadian and American readers, but the exercise defeated me. If anyone out there has the exact equivalents, I’d love to have them.

Last year was my first time ever making Christmas cake. Robert and I each made one using Delia Smith’s recipe. This time I will try Monica’s. After all, In her book she relates that when she first published this recipe (her mother’s) in the Irish Times she “…got thousands of letters from people, all over the world, who had made the cake with great success…” Not sure if I feel encouraged or intimidated by that – perhaps I will feature the results in a future post. Meanwhile, I include some images from last year’s efforts, to get you in the mood to go out and buy glacé cherries and angelica.

Robert's Christmas cake, fresh from the oven

Robert’s Christmas cake, fresh from the oven

Have you got a favourite Christmas cake recipe, dear blog reader? Any tips and hints for the novice baker? Any Christmas cake memories to share?


(from My Irish Cook Book)


6oz/175gm glacé cherries

12oz/350gm seedless raisins

12oz/350gm sultanas

6oz/175gm currants

4oz/110gm mixed candied peel

2oz/50gm finely chopped angelica

6oz/175gm chopped walnuts

12oz/350gm  butter

12oz/350gm sugar

7 eggs

12oz/350gm flour

1tsp salt

1tsp mixed spice (optional)


Prepare the Fruit (some hours before making the cake)

Turn on the oven to 240F/120C.

Halve the cherries. Put all the fruits and the nuts into a casserole dish. Mix them well together with your hands so that all the different species are well distributed. Cover loosely with baking parchment or foil and put into the warm oven. Toss once or twice until the fruit is well heated through. This heating makes the fruit sticky and prevents it from falling to the bottom of the cake. It also plumps the fruit and makes it juicier. Never roll fruit in flour and never wash it.

When the fruit is heated through and is sticky, take it out of the oven and let it get quite cold. Warm fruit added to a cake mixture would melt its way down to the bottom before the mixture had set in the oven.

Prepare the Cake Tin

Use a high-sided 10” cake tin and grease or oil it well. Now line it, sides and bottom with two thicknesses of greaseproof or parchment paper and grease the paper.

Make the Cake

Heat the oven to 300F/150C

Cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a teaspoon of flour for each egg. This prevents the eggs from curdling the mixture. Beat well between each egg.

Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture. Lastly, fold in the fruit and nuts which you have separated by running your fingers through them.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin. It shouldn’t come up to more than 2” from the top of the tin. Trim the lining paper level with the top of the tin. Rest an inverted tin plate, or a lid, over the tin.

Put the cake in the oven. After 1 hour, reduce the heat to 280F/135C and continue to bake for another 5 hours, or 6 hours in all.

If you think the cake is baking too fast, keep gradually reducing the heat. This cake should be golden rather than brown on top. Do not remove from the tin until cold.

The secret of success with this cake is the plumping of the fruit and the slow baking.

18 thoughts

  1. The cake I make every Christmas is Halweyat (Pistachio and sultana cake with orange syrup) – it is a Middle Eastern recipe in my favourite Sarah Brown’s World Vegetarian Cookbook. My sister always looks forward to me taking her some – it has become part of our Christmas tradition.


  2. I also add figs, dates and pineapple to mine, and feed it regularily with Guinness or whisky. I wouldn’t ice it till the last moment ( a Christmas Eve tradition where Joe and my brother do the honours). Think I better get cracking!


    • Thanks for this, Peter. Alas, the link is for fluid ounces, which I think is different that dry measures for dried fruit and flour etc. The other problem is that the equivalents tend to be things like 1 and 1/8th cup, which is a difficult measurement, especially for something as imprecise as raisins. That’s why I gave up. I guess I was hoping some cook out there had already worked out the best equivalents.


  3. It sounds like a wonderful Christmas cake. I used to make a “light” fruit cake – apricots, pecans, etc. But, I never made the real thing
    . I was the only one in the family who liked Christmas cake. I used to purchase one from Murchies and it was very good. My kids thought it was a good thing to play football with. I just found out that Art loves fruit cake – so maybe next year I’ll make it. We leave for South Carolina on Wed. Oct. 23. I’ll be gone for only one month, but that wouldn’t be time to bake it. Good luck on yours.


    • Hi Ingrid – I think the world is divided into those who like and those who don’t like fruitcake. And possibly those who ARE fruitcakes. Yours sounds wonderful!


  4. Is this a dreaded fruitcake — or an actual tasty thing? Glad that you are having time to be so domestic. Ben and I spent the weekend relaying the brick hearth – it was an adventure (in home repair and partnering) I also need to make pillows for the new futon cover…

    But I actually have editing work hanging over my head… Blessings, Carol

    PS, Thomas’ team has advanced to the world series, so I expect good vibes coming from across the Atlanta!


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