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A Festive Fruit Cake Recipe: A Connolly Family Favourite

Dec 7, 2023  ·  2 min read

Often associated with the holiday season, fruit cake has become a symbol of celebration and gift-giving in many cultures around the world. Despite being a dessert staple throughout history, the fruit cake continues to evolve as baker’s experiment with ingredients, techniques (and booze) to create variations that appeal to more contemporary tastes.

Here we’re keeping things traditional. Well, traditional in the Connolly sense. Chef Sean Connolly shares his grandmother, Esther’s fruit cake recipe, the lady who inspired the name for Esther Restaurant at QT Auckland, and from whose kitchen Sean’s love for food and illustrious culinary career was sparked.

Making a regular appearance at the Connolly Christmas feast, this recipe is also Esther’s original wedding cake recipe, and one that holds fond memories for Sean. When he was a ripe 10 years old, Esther asked Sean to re-create her wedding cake for her wedding anniversary. He shares tales of decorating the cake in true 10 year old style (aka. terribly), but thoroughly enjoyed by Esther none the less. We think he quite enjoyed spreading glossy meringue all over the cake during our recent photoshoot too.

To Sean, this cake is nostalgic both in memories like these and family Christmas meals past.

375 g sultanas (14oz) 

250g raisins (10 oz) 

250g currants (10oz) 

½ cup mixed peel 

¾ cup cherries 

½ cup dried apricots 

1 cup brown sugar 

½ cup self raising flour 

½ tsp bicarb soda 

250g butter 

½ cup brandy 

1.2 cup water 

5 eggs lightly beaten 

1Tsp black treacle 

2 tsp orange rind 

1tsp lemon rind 

1 ¾ cup plain flour


Combine fruit, butter, sugar, brandy and water into a pan. Stir on low heat, without boiling, while the sugar dissolves. Then bring to boil and simmer with lid on for 10 minutes. Let the pan cool before transferring to a mixing bowl. Add eggs, treacle and rind, stir. Sift in dry ingredients. Divide between two loaf pans and put almonds and cherries on top. Place in oven on fan bake at 130 degrees celsius for 2 ½ hours.

While fruit cake remains a traditional holiday treat, its popularity has fluctuated over the years, but this year we think it’s making a righteous return.   

From Christmas cake to wedding cake, you can now get a slice of Sean’s grandmother’s fruit cake at Esther. Try this new addition to the festive menu, served with Luxardo cherries and Italian meringue.


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