The wedding cake
When American city girl Imen McDonnell met the Irish man of her dreams, she moved to live with Richard on his dairy farm in Limerick. Busy with her blog and raising their son, Geoffrey, this month Imen launched her first book, The Farmette Cookbook, a joyful celebration of life on the Irish farm
Irish wedding cake
During the planning of our wedding in Ireland, we met with our cake designer to discuss flavours and to do a bit of taste testing. Before serving us, she read down her list aloud: "Chocolate and raspberry, white sponge with mango filling, Bailey's chocolate cake..." My mouth was watering. Finally, she said, "Irish cake for the top tier." I stopped her and curiously inquired, "Oooh, what is Irish cake?" She replied, matter-of-factly, "The top tier is always prepared as an Irish fruitcake." My eyes grew wide with disbelief, while she and Richard just sat smiling and nodding their heads. Everyone gets a slice of the sweet cake and then a dense sliver of the top-tier fruitcake. Whatever is left of that tier is then meant to go in the freezer to eat on the christening of your first child. Who knew?
This recipe is for the top-tier fruitcake only. Traditionally, it would be iced with almond marzipan and covered with fondant (which I consider the best part). Since fondant requires a host of other kitchen skills, I recommend seeking out a store-bought version if you'd like to go the whole hog. If not, you could also ice the cake with a luxurious buttercream. This stunning cake recipe is from my great friend and cake decorator extraordinaire, Claire Shields, and the design is inspired by our very own Irish wedding cake.
You will need
1¼ cups (160g) all-purpose flour
2½ tsp baking powder
1¾ tsp salt
1 cup (145g) raisins
1 cup (145g) golden raisins
1 cup (145g) currants
½ cup (75g) candied cherries
½ cup (75g) candied peel
½ cup (75g) slivered or chopped almonds
1 cup (200g) dark brown sugar
1 cup (113g) butter, softened but not melted
¼ cup (85g) molasses
Juice of 1 small lemon
Juice of 1 small orange
3 extra-large eggs
1½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp allspice
¼ cup (50ml) Irish whiskey, plus extra for drizzling
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line an 8-inch (20cm) round cake pan with a double layer of parchment paper on the sides and bottom; sandwich a layer of cooking spray in between to hold them in place. The paper at the sides must be taller than the pan to allow for the cake to rise.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together a cup of the flour, the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, mix together the fruits, candied peel, almonds, and a ¼ cup of the flour mixture to coat everything.
3. In a separate bowl, cream together the dark brown sugar and the softened butter. Whip in the molasses and the lemon and orange juices. In another bowl, beat together the eggs and almond extract, and blend into the butter mixture.
4. Sift the remaining flour, salt and spices together, and add to the floured fruit and nut mixture. Add the butter and egg mixture, and mix in the ¼ cup of whiskey. Stir well until all the ingredients are well mixed.
5. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula, leaving a shallow well in the centre, as this will take longer to bake. Bake in the centre of the oven at 325°F (165°C) for 50 minutes. Turn the heat down to 300°F (150°C) and continue to bake, checking frequently, for 3 to 4 hours. The cake is done when a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven, and let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan. Trim off the top so the cake is level for assembly. Wrap the cooled cake in a sheet of waxed paper, christening it with a splash of Irish whiskey, which will be absorbed quickly, before closing the paper. Wrap the entire package in aluminium foil. Refrigerate for at least two weeks before icing. Sprinkle with small amounts of whiskey every few days to moisten and mellow.
Tip: You can buy marzipan and fondant icing in cake decorating and specialty baking stores. The longer the cake sits, the better the flavour on the wedding day. It can rest for up to a month before serving.