The Mammy’s Christmas Cake

 Posted by on December 8, 2012  Add comments
Dec 082012

I bumped into a friend of mine the other day.

What are you up to? I asked casually.

Can’t stay, he said.  I’m rushing.  Gotta go.

What’s the hurry?

I have a cake in the oven.  I don’t want it to burn.


A cake.  I’m baking a Christmas cake.  And he was gone like a flash in the night, but he got me thinking.  I could do that.

Do you remember when you were a kid, all the mixing of stuff?  All that spoon-licking?  Ritual incantations and delicious obscure spices from the Orient.  Candied peel, and sultanas, glacé cherries, mixed fruit, lemon zest  and of course, the sending out for brandy.  In the sort of house where I grew up, there was never any drink: people just didn’t do it, so the sending out was a major event and to this day, the smell of brandy transports me back to childhood and Christmas cake making.

I could do that, I repeated, like Yosser Hughes, as I headed home.  I could do that.

And so I stopped into a supermarket and collected all the ingredients I thought I might need, though of course I’d never made a cake in my life.  As I stood at the shelves, selecting my bits and pieces, a nice friendly woman stepped in beside me.

You look like someone who knows how to make a cake, I said.

I certainly do, said the woman.  What do you need to find out?

Little enough, I replied.  Just examine this shopping bag and tell me if I have everything I need to make a delicious Christmas cake.

That’s it, confirmed the nice friendly woman, after a pause and a brief rummage through the assorted items in my bag.

Thank you so much, I said and headed for the checkout.

Here’s what I got.

Some flour.

Some eggs.


Mixed fruit.

Ground almonds.

Flaked almonds.

Mixed spice.

I already had cinnamon, butter and brandy.

Here’s what I did.

I gathered my sultanas, mixed fruit and brandy.


I put all the fruit into a jar with the brandy and soaked them over night.


Next day, I took six eggs.


I whipped them up.


Then I took about half a pound of butter and crumbled it up.


I added demerara sugar and beat it in until the mixture was smooth.  This is the bit where we used to lick the spoon when we were kids.


That’s when I got tired of doing things by hand and brought out the stick blender.

I gradually added the beaten eggs, the flour and the spices until the mixture was smooth.


Then I mixed in the soaked fruit, the ground almonds and the flaked almonds.



I put the whole lot into a baking tin and stuck it in a preheated oven at 140 C.

Then I went to town and looked around until I found someone I knew.

What are you up to? he asked casually.

Can’t stay, I said.  I’m rushing.  Gotta go.

What’s the hurry?

I have a cake in the oven.  I don’t want it to burn.


A cake.  I’m baking a Christmas cake.  And I was gone like a flash in the night, leaving him to wonder if perhaps he might be able to make a Christmas cake too.

When I got home, I danced from toe to toe until eventually I could take no more.  It had been two and a half hours.  Surely the cake would be ready by now?  And so it was.

Look at this!


Time to cut it in half and see what it looks like, but I can’t do that yet.  It has to cool for hours and hours and hours.

Torture.  Walk around.  Kick the dog.  Go for pints.  Come back eventually and grab that knife.

Yes!  A feckin Mammy-cake!!


Here.  Have a slice, why don’t you, with a nice cup of tea.

Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on.


  11 Responses to “The Mammy’s Christmas Cake”

Comments (11)

    Cheers Bock. You’ve brought back some happy childhood memories for me of an Aunt who passed away recently. Every year around this time she visited our home along with my Uncle and cousins bearing happy gifts in the form of a Christmas cake and pudding she made with her own fair hands.
    I remember then the mammoth task that my parents had trying to hide those seasonal delicacies from myself and my five siblings, not wanting to run the risk of us gradually picking away at them like vultures in the desert.
    As soon as my relatives began their journey back to Dublin, I remember looking at my siblings and as if by telepathy, all of us simultaneously thinking; “let the hunt begin”


    You pledge buster, the fruit should be soaked in cold tea.


    ohh, nice post. little bit of reminiscence mixed in with some pictures of a lovely cake. doesn’t look half bad, how does it taste?
    i’m living in oman, on the edge of the desert in a place called Salalah so you can imagine how lacking in seasonal cheer and atmosphere the place is. I’m having mine made for me this year and paying for it. haven’t had a cup of tea in months. one of the lads i cooking up a big feast, but no ham :,(
    jebus, i can’t tell you how much i’m looking forward to it and this post has just triggered some savage salivation.


    I am doing it. Looks easy enough.


    Ted — Good. Give it a shot and let us know how it works out.


    Good on you but I thought you were a proficient cook anyway – did you not post recipes in the past from time to time?
    You didn’t go into any detail about lining the tin with greaseproof/parchment paper.. I follow a way I read about many years ago – no need to surround the cake tin with a layer of brown paper. Get a suitably sized cardboard box into which you put the tin – you may need to make one up – put in the oven and cover with a sheet of cardboard; 4 hours in a fan oven @ 130 deg C – perfection!


    Haymoon — I cook a fair amount, but I never baked anything before. Maybe I was just intimidated by the mystique, but now that I’ve started I’ll probably become a complete Mrs Doyle.


    Fair play to ye!
    Oh and season’s greetings to you and yours.


    Done! Pictures posted and cake tasted! Thanks. xox


    How did it turn out?


    Very well, I think. One is being fed and will given to our neighbor on the 24th. the other cake was cut in half, with one half fed to be saved for the husband’s return, and the other half being shared and eaten now. thanks again for the inspiration. xox

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