Monday, December 5, 2011

Nana Ryan's Christmas Cake

Mary Elizabeth Ryan is my Dad's Mum, this is her recipe. She gave it to my Mum when she was an inexperienced newly-wed (she also told my Mum that my Dad was used to having his undies ironed! it was years before my poor Mum learnt that this was a fib!) Please don't let her little nasty streak stop you from trying this cake though. It is absolutely delicious. Very moist and easy. Your whole house will smell like Christmas while it's baking. That's a promise.

Here she is with my Pop at my Mum and Dad's wedding reception in 1961

Nana Ryan's Christmas cake has been part of my Christmasses since I was a baby, but this year is the first time I've made my own. I was strangely a little bit nervous about the end result (I didn't want to let the team down) but to my relief (and delight!) it turned out perfectly. This may have had something to do with the fact that I baked it in the very same Eve Ware cake tin my Nan used (and my Mum after her) Incredibly this tin has been used by women in my family for more than one hundered years! Pretty special eh?

My first Christmas - I was 3 months old
(Father Christmas looks like he was made for the job!
I don't look to keen on him either!)

Anyway, although Lucy Violet has never been a cooking blog I really wanted to share Nana Ryan's recipe with you just in case you'd like to try it...

This post is also a tribute to Nana and to my lovely, lovely Dad who died when he was only forty six. I thought of him alot while I was cooking it. He was a great Dad and I miss him.

Here's what you need:

p.s. feel free to scroll down if you're not interested.
p.p.s I'm sure my Mum has tweeked this over the years...

1kg dried mixed fruit
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup of brandy or whiskey

I used brandy in memory of a brief but full-on flirtation with Brandy Alexanders when I was younger.
Please note, you will, and should use waaaay more alcohol than this. Half-a-cup is merely your starting point!)

1 green apple, peeled and grated
50g slithered almonds
1/2 cup glace cherries
250g unsalted softened butter
1t of finely grated orange rind
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1t baking soda
1/2t ground nutmeg
1t cinnamon
1/4 cup of extra brandy or whiskey
but remember my earlier note on this!
Extra glace cherries and blanched almonds to decorate the top of your cake if you want to

And here's what you need to do:

1. Place dried fruit in a non-metal bowl. Douse liberally
   with brandy. Stir and cover tightly with cling film.
   Stand for several days, each day add a good glug of
   brandy, stir and cover tightly again.
   I do this for a week, I think you should too.

2. A week has passed. Stir in grated apple and slithered

3. Beat butter, orange rind and sugar until thick and 
   creamy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until just 

4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and 
   spices. Fold into creamed butter mixture alternatively 
   with your lovely brandy soaked fruit, until well 
   My Mum's tip is to use clean hands for this, but I 
   managed with a spatula.

5. Spoon into a deep 22cm cake tin which has been lined 
   with three sheets of baking paper. Base and sides. This
   is very important. The baking paper should sit 3cm 
   above the rim of the cake tin.

6. Make the top of your cake pretty with blanched almonds
   and glace cherries, this is what I did...

7. Cover the top of your cake with a piece of baking
   paper, it won't actually touch the cake, it should
   sit on top of the paper you have lined the sides of the
   tin with.
   Bake in a preheated 140 degrees celcius oven for 3 -
   3 1/2 hours. Check with a skewer. It should come out 
   as clean as a whistle.
   Breathe in those delicious smells that are about to
   fill your kitchen.
   My Mum never cooks hers for longer than 3 hours and I
   found mine was ready then too. I suppose it depends
   on your oven...
   And here it is, just out of the oven

8. Remove cake from oven. Sprinkle with brandy while 
   it's hot and wrap tightly in a clean tea towel. 
   Leave in tin to cool.
   When cake has cooled down, remove it from tin but don't
   remove baking paper, especially from base - this helps
   to keep it moist (and a moist Christmas cake is a 
   must!) Wrap in foil and store in an airtight container.
   From now until Christmas, feel free to "paint" your 
   cake with brandy or just dribble it on top like me...
   it will get better and better as time goes by (and as
   brandy gets added!)

Serve in small slices, it's very rich

Hope this post wasn't too boring...
let me know if you give it a go x


  1. Thanks for sharing your family recipe, it sounds delicious and looks beautiful!

  2. I've always been a bit hesitant about making my own Christmas cake - its one of those things that I always think is just that bit beyond me! Yours looks really scrummy though and maybe if I follow your instructions I might get it to work out as well. Love the photo with Father C. xx

  3. what a great post! Your christmas baby photo is so funny and I love that your still using the same pan and recipe that your mum and gran used. although I dont eat anything with dried fruit in it, my hubby's crazy about this kind of cake so i might have a go next week (and I might copy the cute almond flower arrangement too!)

  4. i'm not a fruit cake fan so have never made's so cool you have a recipe handed down though!

  5. What a gorgeous post, and a super gorgeous looking cake. My mum and dad make a cake every year and they always decorate it just the same way as you. It is also delicious.

    What a lovely tradition to be passed on and one day maybe your lovely girls will be doing the same.

    Sorry to hear that your dad passed at such an early age.

    p.s. I will hopefully get to the post office tomorrow.

  6. isn't it cool to have such an old recipe handed down?

  7. Well it certainly looks like it turned out DELICOUS! I mean my mouth did start watering looking at that last picture so that counts for something right?


  8. aahhh what gorgeous photo's and wonderful family memories i think its wonderful that you still have the same cake tin and the ingredients sounds lovely. I enjoy seeing other peoples recipes and i didn't find this post boring at all. Enjoy your lovely cake, dee xx

  9. I loved the trip down memory lane Kylie..I wish I had more of my nana's recipe including her Christmas cake, her bakeware wouldn't have gone astray either :)
    I am going to bookmark this for next year, thank you for sharing.


  10. I love the photo of you and Santa. The almonds and cherries on you cake make it. I am sorry your Dad passed so young. Mine passed away young also (48). As I get older I realise how young 48 actually is and think it will be strange when I am older than he was (all things going as planned!). Take care. Sherry :)

  11. My mouth is watering. Seriously! (The fact that I've been on an insane detox for two weeks with no baked goods and many other delicious things could have a lot to do with it.) That's the most lovely christmas cake tradition you have. My Dad makes ours, with a recipe he's perfected for years (annotation all over it, with the date). And now in addition to the big cake, he makes a small one for each of him 4 grand daughters with their initial on the top. So sweet. Kellie xx

  12. Hehe you don't look vey happy with santa at all! I love that the recipe and the tin have been handed down. The cake looks amazing.


  13. Yum! Thanks for sharing this treasure. Love the almond flowers.

  14. I can almost smell the cake baking - my Mum always made ours too, along with a few Christmas puds.

    I'm quite tempted to give it a go now. Oh how I love a good Chrissie cake! :)

  15. Family recipes are so special!! It's lovely of you to share one with us all! I'm wondering whether to give it a whirl - I'm not the world's biggest Christmas cake eating but T loves the stuff, as do my Mum and Dad :-)

    You really do look a bit startled by the man in a big beard!! :-)

    Jem xXx

  16. the look of that cake! that's living!

  17. What a coincidence I found your blog quite by chance and read your post about christmas cakes and thinking of Dad's that are no longer with us. I wrote a post just about an hour ago almost the same - although it was my Dad who used to make the cakes. Going to carry on reading I like what I see. Bye for now. Debs X