Years ago I set my heart on making a decent Irish vegan Christmas cake recipe and I’ve been perfecting it more and more every year.
This is possibly the easiest version you’ll ever find, a lot of experimentation has gone into simplifying the process and the ingredients list without compromising on flavor, but it will still need a long slow bake to keep from drying out or burning, and proper marzipan and icing (if you’re going to use marzipan and icing).
My son is allergic to eggs and dairy so years ago I determined that I would make a vegan Irish Christmas cake so he could enjoy a traditional Irish food I love as well.
My family are big fans of the sweet moist fruity spiced goodness wrapped in a layer of soft marzipan and crunchy royal icing.
The recipe traditionally used by most of my family, and the one I continued to use for years, is Darina Allen’s Christmas Cake Recipe, so the basic beginnings of this cake were inspired by her recipe.
My recipe is a veganized version with some tweaks accounting for taste and ingredient availability. I live in Spain so it can be hard to get what I need, and I definitely like to go lighter on the preserved citrus fruit.
While not a difficult cake to make, there are several steps involved and I’ve made an effort to answer every question you might have so I do recommend reading everything on this page before jumping into make it. A well-made Christmas cake is a beautiful thing and I want you to have every chance of success.
When should I make it?
In an ideal world, try and make this cake at least six weeks before Christmas to allow time to feed it properly, and allow a week before to make sure it’s dry enough and cover it with marzipan and icing.
In a less than ideal world, you can really make it up to a few days before Christmas, but it may not last as long if you don’t have enough time to let the marzipan and icing layers dry properly. I have made it up to a week before Christmas before without any issues.
Can I use cup measurements?
NO. I have given measurements in both metric and imperial, but not cups, because while there is a little leeway sometimes on some ingredients, Christmas cakes are not the quickest easiest cakes to make and it would be awful if you put in a lot of effort only to cut into a disappointing cake on Christmas day.
This is why I only recommend weighing ingredients for this recipe, and not using cups. Trust me, you’ll thank me when you taste your juicy perfectly moist cake, instead of a dry or soggy mess.
How to make it
Get your baking hat on and prepare to make a delicious vegan Christmas cake! Although the different steps can be a little time-consuming, it’s a fairly simple recipe.
Quarter the glacé cherries, roughly chop the skinned almonds, zest the lemon and oranges. I find oranges really hard to zest as they just mush against the zester so often times I find it’s easier to thinly peel the rind off (avoiding the white pith) and then finely chop it. Add them all to a bowl with the ground almonds, sultanas and raisins (image one below).
Add half the whisky and mix well. Cover with a lid or saran wrap and leave to macerate for at least one hour and up to eight (you could just leave it overnight) at room temperature. The fruit will only have plumped up a little bit (image number two below shows the mix after eight hours), don’t worry, super moist fruit is not what we’re going for here or your cake will be soggy.
In a separate bowl cream the plant-based margarine or vegan butter with the brown sugar. If the margarine/butter is a little hard, leave it at room temperature for up to half an hour before attempting to cream it with the sugar. The mix should look like image number three above.
Add in your macerated fruit mix, the grated Granny Smith apples, and mixed spice and mix again (your mix should look like image number four above). If you can’t get Granny Smith apples, any large tart firm green apple will do.
If you can’t find mixed spice you can easily make it with this mixed spice recipe. I can never get mace or allspice here in Spain so I sometimes have to omit them when making up the spice mix and honestly, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir just enough to distribute all the ingredients evenly – over-stirring will toughen your Christmas cake. Measure your apple sauce or aquafaba and mix in, again being careful not to over-mix (see image number five below for consistency).
Using aquafaba will result in a more moist cake, while apple sauce gives a slightly lighter texture.
Double line a 9-inch round or square cake tin with baking paper. You can either basically line it twice on the inside of the tin, or line it once inside the tin and then again outside the tin, tying the outside layer in place with some non-plastic string.
I used to line the outside but have since found that double-lining the inside works just as well for this recipe. Make sure the lining paper comes to at least one inch above the rim of the tin.
Tip your cake mix into the lined tin and smooth over with a slightly damp hand or spoon (image number five above). Top with a circle of baking paper that will sit on the edges of the lining paper, with a coin-sized circle cut in the middle (image number six).
This will stop the top of the cake from getting burnt, while allowing steam to escape through the hole.
Bake in the middle rack of an oven at 320F Fan (160C Fan) for one hour. Then reduce the heat to 285F Fan (140C Fan) and bake two more hours.
Remove the cake from the oven and insert a skewer into the middle to test if the cake is done. If the skewer comes out clean then it’s done but if there is any cake-mix stuck to it, return the cake to the over for 15-minute increments until done.
Do NOT skip testing the cake for doneness. Otherwise you will waste quite a bit of time feeding and icing an underdone cake.
The cake should be very dark (image number eight above), don’t worry, you haven’t burn it! Tip the remaining half of whisky over the tin once the cake is done. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and leave to cool overnight.
Once completely cool, remove from the tin (don’t remove the lining paper), cover with more aluminum foil, and then with a layer of saran wrap (image nine below).
Store in a dark dry place (the back of a kitchen cupboard is fine). Feed once a week until the week before Christmas. When feeding, turn the cake upside down (so alternate sides are fed every week), poke a few holes in it with a skewer, and drizzle two tablespoons of whisky over. Then wrap up tightly until the next week when you’ll turn it upside down again and repeat.
Six weeks of feeding is optimal but this cake is moist enough that you can also get away with less. A week before Christmas, unwrap the cake and set on a cake or cookie wire rack on the counter to dry out for two days, turning every day.
Then, apply your vegan marzipan of choice. If you can’t find vegan marzipan, it’s incredibly easy to make. I simply combine 3/4 cup of ground almonds with 1/2 cup icing sugar, one teaspoon of almond extract and enough plant-based milk (usually 1-2 tbsp) until the marzipan will clump together.
Roll out your marzipan on a surface you’ve sprinkled with powdered sugar into a circle about three inches wider than the cake. Brush the cake with about two tablespoons of marmalade (I usually zap it in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds to soften it) and use a rolling pin to gently pick up the marzipan (dust the top surface of the marzipan with icing sugar so it doesn’t stick when you roll it around the pin).
Gently unroll the marzipan over the cake, smooth the sides down and trim any extra marzipan that extends beyond the edges of the cake (image number ten above).
Then leave the marzipanned vegan Christmas cake out to dry for between one-three days until the marzipan no longer feels oily to the touch.
Ice your cake. You can use a vegan royal icing recipe (I recommend this one) or use premade store-bought fondant.
If using royal icing make sure to make it very thick, like the consistency of butter, not like the consistency you would normally use for piping it on cookies. You can smooth it over the cake or spike the top so it looks like little tufts of snow. Finish off by tying a ribbon around the sides of the cake.
Storing your vegan Christmas cake
Your cake will keep loosely covered on your counter for two-three days, no matter whether it’s been covered with fondant or royal icing.
After that, cakes with royal icing can be kept loosely wrapped with aluminum foil or in a biscuit tin for up to six months. Do not refrigerate it as the icing will sweat and degrade.
Cakes with fondant should be moved to the fridge and will last about five months, but must be wrapped tightly or the fondant will absorb moisture from the fridge and become goopy.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating in the recipe box, review, or comment below.
Or take a picture and tag me on Instagram (@the_fiery_vegetarian), I love seeing all your creations!
- 4.25 oz glace cherries, quartered (120g)
- 1.75 oz g roughly chopped skinned almonds (50g)
- 1.75 oz ground almonds (50g)
- 18.5 oz g sultanas (525g)
- 18.5 oz g raisins (525g)
- Zest 1 lemon and 2 oranges
- 2.35 fl oz whisky (70m)
- 7.95oz softened vegan butter or plant-based margarine (225g)
- 4fl oz aquafaba (120ml) or 6.63oz cup apple sauce (188g)
- 9.75 oz all-purpose flour (275g)
- 1.5 tsp mixed spice
- 2 grated granny smith apples
- 8 oz brown sugar (225g)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- In a large mixing bowl add the cherries, almonds, sultanas, raisins, zest, and add half the whisky. Mix well and cover with saran wrap or a lid, and leave for at least one-hour minimum, and up to 8 hours (overnight).
- In a separate mixing bowl, cream the margarine/vegan butter with the sugar. When well combined, add in the grated apple, mixed spice, and mix again. Finally, add in the flour and baking powder and stir - this will be difficult to do as the mixture will be dry.
- Add the dried macerated fruit mix to the flour-margarine mix and stir. Measure your aquafaba or apple sauce and mix it into the fruit and flour mix to distribute the ingredients as evenly as possible but only just - overmixing will toughen your cake.
- Tip the mixture into a 9-inch round or square cake tin, (personally I always use a round tin), which has been double-lined with baking paper which is at least one inch higher than the sides of the baking tin. Smooth the top of the cake as much as possible with the back of a wet spoon, and rest a circle of baking paper on the high edges of the paper lining the sides of the tray, with a coin-sized circle cut out from the middle.
- Bake in an oven (in the middle rack) which has been preheated to 320F Fan (160C Fan), for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to 285F Fan (140C Fan) and bake for another 2 hours. Note that this cake is supposed to be very dark.
- Test the cake is done by inserting a skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean it's done, if not pop it back in the oven for fifteen-minute increments. Take the cake out of the oven and tip the remaining 35ml of whiskey over it, cover the cake loosely with aluminum foil (do not remove from the tin), and leave overnight.
- Remove the cake from the tin, but do not remove the wrapping paper, add extra baking paper to cover the cake, then wrap in tin foil, and finally in saran wrap. If you have an empty biscuit tin to store it in, perfect, if not just keep it in a dark dry place.
- Feed the cake one week later with about two tablespoons of additional whisky after poking several holes in it with a skewer. Feed once each week thereafter, turning the cake upside down each time so a different side is fed alternately, until the week before Christmas.
- Stop feeding the cake one week before Christmas. Unwrap and leave on a cake rack or something similar to let air circulate around it for two days. Cover with marzipan and leave out to dry. This will take 1-3 days depending on the marzipan you use. It is ready to ice when after touching the marzipan, there is no oily feeling. Ice with royal icing or fondant and decorate. Cover loosely and enjoy on Christmas day!
Amount Per Serving Calories 399Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 24mgSodium 119mgCarbohydrates 71gFiber 4gSugar 47gProtein 5g