‘Tis the Season…
Okay okay, so its not quite the Christmas season yet; but it is certainly time to get your Christmas cake and pudding made and stored away for the festivites – so they have enough time to mature and develop a real fullness of flavour. For many families living the busiest of lives, its the only time in a year they will get the mixing bowls out and bake a cake – and often its a family “hand-me-down” recipe that is pulled out time and again. Tradition – you gotta love it.
Normally our Christmas cake would have been baked some time back, but given how busy I’ve been this year – and the lateness of our “summer holiday”, this weekend was the first opportunity I’ve had to get the cake made. Currently, as I write, its in the oven with another 4 hours to go!
So, whilst I’m “in the spirit” I thought I’d jot down our family Christmas cake recipe (albeit somewhat adapted by me) – in the hope that it may inspire you to get roll up your sleeves and get Christmas baking!
For an 11″ / 28cm tin/pan
450g Sultanas, 450g Raisins, 250g Currants, 100g Dried Apricots, 100g Dried Cranberries, 225g Chopped Peel, 4 tbsp Whisky, 450g Plain Flour, 100g Ground Almonds, 2tsp Mixed Spice, 450g unsalted butter, 450g dark soft brown sugar, 8 large eggs, 2tbsp black treacle, 2 tsps Vanilla Extract, 225g Glace cherries, 100g chopped walnuts, juice of 2 lemons.
The day before your big bake…. put all the dried fruit in a large bowl and pour over the whisky. Cover with cling film and leave overnight.
Next day: Warm oven on Gas 2/150 deg C. Cream together the sugar and the butter. Sift together the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice in a bowl. Beat the eggs in a bowl on their own. Mix together ALL the dried fruit in a bowl, quarter the glace cherries and wash JUST them in warm water to remove the syrup. Chop the nuts.
Once butter and sugar combined add the egg mixture slowly with a spoonful of the flour mixture each time. Once all incorporated, add the treacle and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly but don’t overmix (I use a free-standing mixer for this). Decant this mixture into a LARGE bowl. Fold in the rest of the flour/ground almond mixture. Dry the glace cherries, add these and the chopped nuts to the bowl of dried fruit…. now add in the lemon juice.
Gradually fold in the fruit mixture to the butter/sugar mix. Fold carefully…. it will get heavy as there is a LOT of fruit!
Once thoroughly combined spoon the mix into the tin/pan (which you should have previously lined with a double lining of greaseproof or baking paper). Level off the mixture and the make a bit of a dip in the middle – which allows for the rise during baking.
Finally, wrap a lining of folded newspaper round the outside of the tin/pan and secure with string. Because you’re going to cook the cake for a LONG time this newspaper wrap will prevent the cake from burning on the top.
Place into the oven. Bake for 2 and a quarter hours on Gas Mark 2…. THEN reduce the heat to Gas Mark HALF (0.5)/ 120 deg C and bake for a further 4 and 3/4 hours or until the cake is a rich dark brown colour and firm to the touch.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin. Once cold, take out of the tin and remove the greaseproof. Now, pierce the cake all the way through with a skewer and pour in a tablespoon of whisky. Wrap the cake in greaseproof, put in a cake tin and store. During the weeks between baking day and decoration day you should regularly “feed” the cake with more of the alcohol…. this will help to keep the cake, and encourage the maturity of the flavour.
So – how did our cake turn out? And what about decoration ideas? Well keep watching the blog….they’ll be coming soon.
So I urge you to avoid the supermarket cake if you can and “enjoy your festive baking”! Get the whole family involved! I always ensure that hubby and mother come to have a “lucky mix” of our Christmas cake mixture….