Can you eat Christmas cake when pregnant? (5 Health Tips)

In this brief guide we will answer the question, can you eat Christmas cake when pregnant? We will discuss if you can eat Christmas cake when pregnant and a few other things to take care of. We will also discuss how you can prepare a Christmas cake that you can eat when pregnant. 

Can you eat Christmas cake when pregnant?

You cannot eat Christmas cake when pregnant. Christmas cake has alcohol that is fed about 4 times before it is served at Christmas. Whisky, brandy, or any other concentrated alcoholic beverage is an important ingredient of the Christmas cake. 

Throughout your pregnancy, you must avoid any form of alcohol, to keep you and your baby safe. Alcohol in your diet can make its way to the baby through the placenta and cause harm. 

The 2002-2009 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data set showed that in that sample, 49.4% of women reported drinking alcohol before pregnancy and that among these women, ~87% quit during pregnancy, 6.6% of women reduced their intake, and 6.4% did not change their intake (1).

Even though alcohol makes a Christmas cake complete, you could use a different dressing or side dessert to serve alongside. 

Hence, if you are pregnant you can eat Christmas cake if you do not have it with liquor. Otherwise, you will need to avoid this Christmas dessert. 

You must not eat Christmas cake if you are pregnant as the alcohol-based liquid can make its way to the baby. 

When you feed the cake with liquor, there is a high concentration of booze that you must avoid consuming. Even if you add it before baking the cake, it does not evaporate and much of it is retained even after.

A study showed that the concentration of ethanol in common commercial Christmas puddings ranged from 0.260 to 1.685 g per 125 mg slice. The concentration of ethanol per pudding was not greater than the stipulated specifications on the packaging, where shown. After pudding ingestion, the theoretical BAC of a typical 70 kg male and 60 kg female health care professional ranged from 0.001 to 0.004 g/dL and from 0.001 to 0.006 g/dL, respectively (2).

 Therefore, you need to avoid Christmas cake, if there was brandy, whisky, or a liquor-based sauce added to the Christmas cake, before or after baking.

Why is alcohol added to Christmas cake?

Brandy, Whisky, or rum provides a nice touch to make the Christmas cake by making it even more strong, sweet, and fruity. Other than these liquor, people also use Cherry brandy and amaretti instead and even orange liquor for a richer flavor and a citrus burst. 

Christmas cake is traditionally soaked in ethanol for flavour maturation and to retard the rate and chance of spoilage. Despite previous research in this field, it is a common misconception that all the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process (2).

Adding brandy or rum to your Christmas cake gives it an unparalleled taste and texture while acting as a preservative. Feeding your Christmas cake with alcohol keeps it moist and crumbly. The taste and kick of alcohol booze are not obvious but it provides a hint of booze and greatly improves the taste profile of Christmas cake.

Why must you avoid alcohol if you are pregnant?

Alcohol can poison and harm your baby by making its way from your bloodstream to the baby. 

Your fetus or baby can not process alcohol and it would hinder your child’s development. 

You must not consume alcohol, no matter how far you are into your pregnancy. Alcohol can be detrimental to your baby’s health.

 Food and Drug authorities, such as the Center for Disease Control and preventions discourage consuming any amount of alcohol throughout your pregnancy.

 Ingesting alcohol during pregnancy causes an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and disabilities. Mothers who drink during pregnancy have been known to have babies with abnormal facial features, lower body weight and size, and problems with either heart, kidneys, or bones. 

Alcohol use during pregnancy is a leading, preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the United States, with fetal alcohol syndrome being one of the most severe outcomes. Other adverse health effects associated with alcohol use in pregnancy include miscarriage, preterm labor, intrauterine growth restriction, and stillbirth, which all add morbidity to any potential underlying disability (1).

The alcohol that you consume is toxic to the baby. It affects the mental health of the child, causing it to have a poor attention span, a bad memory, learning disabilities, low IQ, poor reasoning and judgemental skills, and speech and language delays.

The negative effects for alcohol drinking women include long-term health problems such as liver disease, including cirrhosis, memory loss, decreased brain volume, cardiomyopathy, and cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast. Women who engage in heavy drinking or chronic alcohol abuse have also been shown to have reduced fertility and a higher rate of menstrual disorders (1).

What can you eat with your Christmas cake?

Add a generous layer of icing to your Christmas cake or a cup of tea or coffee to drink alongside the Christmas cake. Fruit such as strawberries, plums, blueberries, apples, or figs go well with Christmas cake and make it healthy. 

A heaping of dried fruits such as raisins, almonds, and dried apricots can also be eaten with Christmas cake. Some luxurious options to eat with your Christmas cake are ice cream, custard, or sauce.

Cheese is a vital ingredient to be served with Christmas cake including blue cheese, mature cheddar, or any other crumbly cheese. 

What other things must you avoid at the Christmas table?

Other drinks or foods that have alcohol in them such as pudding, sauces, and cocktails, you must not eat. Semi-cooked and cured meat such as ham, pate, steaks, sushi, and deli meat is also a health threat for you and your baby. Meat carries Salmonella and listeria and causes food poisoning to you and impacts the baby’s development. Choose only pasteurized (heat-treated) milk, cheese and yogurt. Unpasteurized or “raw” products may contain harmful bacteria. The food label will tell you if a product is pasteurized. Check eggs before purchase. Avoid buying cracked or damaged eggs (3).

Also avoid refrigerated smoked seafood such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel.

However, you can eat meat spreads, pate, and smoked meats that are shelf-stable. 

Other FAQs about Cake that you may be interested in.

How to store a Christmas cake before icing?

Can you freeze christmas cake with marzipan and royal icing?

Can you freeze iced Christmas cake?

Conclusion

In this brief guide we answered the question, can you eat Christmas cake when pregnant? We discussed if you can eat Christmas cake when pregnant and a few other things to take care of. We also discussed how you can prepare a Christmas cake that you can eat when pregnant. 

Citations

  1. Dejong K, Olyaei A, Lo JO. Alcohol Use in Pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2019, 62, 142-155.
  2. Brieger, Daniel G., et al. What proof is in your Christmas pudding? Is caring under the influence possible?. Med J Aust, 2014, 201, 702-704.
  3. Garden-Robinson, Julie. Safe and Healthy Eating During Pregnancy. 2004. North Dakota State University