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Kitchen Kind #5
Ann Houlihan

Joanie's Christmas Cake

The Director of Great Ocean Road Gin shares the story of the ritual, routine and heady scents of her mum, Joanie’s, Christmas Cake, with memories so lush and comforting she’s made a gin to honour it. . 

Ann Houlihan
What meal or ingredient speaks of love to you and why?

For me, in answer to this question, it is my mum Joanie’s Christmas cake. It’s not quite a meal, but it does speak to me of love.

Joanie loved to prepare a rich, moist delicious cake full of dried fruits, with loads of butter, mixed spice, and sugar. She never liked dried citrus peel, so you would never find lemon or orange rind in her cakes!

The preparation of the cakes would take days as she would make 21 in total. She would start preparing them in the months leading up to Christmas and the smell of her kitchen would be like a warm rich embrace, with the buttery caramel essence filling the space. At the end of her cake production line, she would wrap the cakes tightly in alfoil and pop them in the kitchen cupboard, up high so they wouldn’t be tampered with. My siblings and I would each receive two cakes to take home and enjoy over the summer. No cuppa was complete without a slice of that cake!

My love of this cake and the memories it brings back to me of mum and our old family home, prompted me to make my Christmas Gin Liqueur last year. The gin with its orange and coastal botanicals was aged under ex-bourbon barrels. I pulled out mum’s recipe and made for the first time my own Christmas cake. Those smells in my kitchen bought me back to a time and place. The cake was added to the gin and macerated over time to extract the spice notes and buttery goodness. To complete the gin a sugar syrup was added for a touch of sweetness.

Great Ocean Road Gin - Christmas Gin

This year I have doubled the batch given its popularity.  It’s a delicious accompaniment to serve neat or on ice with pudding, pav, or trifle.

Click here for the full recipe.



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