Christmas in July

Dromoland Castle.

Ireland Hopping | By Margaret M. Johnson

Let me be the first to remind you that (depending on when you read this) there are fewer than 170 days until Christmas! With that in mind, you can get a head start on shopping for your tea-loving friends by taking advantage of my “Christmas in July” BOGO special offer: buy one signed copy of Teatime in Ireland and get one free. No codes required…just order one cookbook at irishcook.com and you’ll get a second one free. But if you think it’s too early to start thinking about fruitcake, the quintessential holiday treat, take comfort in this delicious recipe for a fruity-but-light loaf that’s as perfect for teatime in July as it is in December.

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Makes 1 loaf

One of Ireland's finest hotels, Dromoland Castle in County Clare is among the few castles that can trace its ownership back through history to Irish families of royal heritage. Mrs. White’s Afternoon Tea, named for a long-standing staff member, is an integral part of the castle experience and the perfect way to unwind after golfing, fishing, or riding on the castle’s vast estate. This signature fruit cake will be a delicious addition to your own tea time but be sure to start it at least two days before you want to serve it to let the fruits soak and the flavors meld.

1 cup water

1 cup raisins

1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

2 ounces candied red cherries

1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum

1 1/2 tablespoons sherry

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup self-rising flour

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Softened butter, for serving (optional)

1. On the day before baking, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring water to boil. Stir in raisins, golden raisins, and cherries; cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain fruit and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in rum, sherry, and vanilla extract; cover and let stand overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and dust with flour; tap out excess.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a wooden spoon, fold in flour and pumpkin pie spice; stir in fruit mixture.

4. Transfer to prepared pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Invert cake onto rack, return to upright, and wrap cake in aluminum foil; leave overnight before cutting into slices. Serve spread with butter, if desired.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work or to order a signed cookbook, visit www.irishcook.com.