The secret to this Melbourne pastry chef’s sought-after Christmas cake

Melbourne pastry chef, Jean Cleary-Coyne, has an incredible passion for Christmas cake, which is why this particular festive dessert is in high demand every year.

The sought-after Christmas cake by Jean Cleary

Jean Cleary-Coyne’s sought-after Christmas cake

Want to know how Jean does it? The secret ingredient has something to do with her hometown – Tullamore, Ireland.


Music: ‘Hard Won’ by Podington Bear

How did you find a passion for Christmas cakes?

I grew up in Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland and Christmas has always been a special time of year for my family and me. My mother, my three sisters and I would gather in the kitchen on a cold September evening and start baking the Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings. I have been making Christmas cakes since I was about 5 years of age–that’s going on 34 years!

What’s the secret?

When I started making my own cakes professionally, I felt the more time I gave the fruit to soak, the better they would taste. I generally start soaking my dried fruit in May. I use Tullamore Irish Whiskey, Irish Breakfast Tea and orange zest to infuse the dried fruit. I bake the cakes in September and decorate them in the last week of November. The recipe is the same one my mother handed down to me and I will probably never change the recipe. If it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it!

What does Melbourne have that Tullamore doesn’t?

Melbourne has a lot more cake decorating shops than my hometown, so anyone can create the perfect finish for their cake. There is ready made icing, a great selection of cutters, fabulous cake boxes to present your cake in and beautiful ribbon to tie around it.

jean cleary-coyneWhere can people find the Christmas cakes?

The cakes are now available through Alice Nivens Cafe. I made an extra 20 this year to keep up with the demand! We also sell individual slices for those who don’t think they can fit in an entire cake.

On 1 December, I will post my Christmas cake recipe on my website for anyone who would like to bake it for themselves. You can also find me at @bakesbyjean on Instagram.

What’s next for you?

After three years, this will be my last working at Alice Nivens Cafe, but I am not leaving Melbourne! I started my own business, Bakes by Jean, earlier this year and will also be based in Glasshouse, located near Royal Botanic Gardens.

See what’s happening in the city this Christmas.

Jean Cleary-Coyne