Advent Calendar 4: Christmas Cake

If you are anything like me, then the year has gotten away from you, and half a moment ago it was halloween, and you were overdue for making your Christmas cake, and now, BAM! It’s December 4th, and you still haven’t done it. Do not despair, dear ones. It is not too late.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t *need* to make a Christmas cake months and months in advance. Sure, you get more time to feed it to boozy godliness if you do, but it is not essential. So long as you make your cake 3-4 weeks before the big day, you will have plenty of time to get in plenty of feedings to have a delicious, brandy spiked delight to serve on Christmas Day.

The recipe below is adapted from Delia Smith’s age old and much loved Christmas cake recipe. I’ve really only removed the nuts (I prefer the texture nut free, personally), tweaked the spices to my preference, and altered the fruit a little (cranberries > currants).

Christmas Cake

  • 750g dried fruit (you can pretty use whichever dried fruits you like in this mixture. I used approximately 100g glacé cherries, 200g sultanas, 200g raisins and 250g dried cranberries)
  • 50g candied peel
  • 3tsbp brandy
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1tsbp treacle
  • Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

9-12 hours before you want to make the cake, or the evening before, weigh out the fruit into a mixing bowl (If you like, you can chop your cherries, but I prefer them as whole gleaming jewels in the finished cake). Drizzle the brandy over the fruit and stir to ensure all the fruit is coated. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to steep. If you are able, the odd stir during this process will only help the absorption.

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Preheat the oven to 130-140c and double line an 8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper. Prepare a double layer of greaseproof to sit on top of the cake in the oven too. This will help protect the cake from over-browing during its long and slow baking.

Weigh out your flour and measure out your spices. Sieve or whisk together to remove lumps.

In another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat the eggs, and mix into the butter mixture in 2-4 parts until completely incorporated.

Add the flour mix into the wet ingredients and fold to combine.

Finally add the zest, treacle and fruit, and fold into the mixture until it is uniform.

Pour the cake batter in the prepared tin, cover with the paper ‘lid’, and pop it in the oven for 4 and 1/2 hours. If your oven is particularly fierce, check at 4.

Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing the cake to an airtight container. Poke the cake full of holes with a toothpick, and drizzle in a healthy plug of brandy. Repeat this process at least once a week until you are ready to ice the cake, flipping the cake over each time to ensure an even feeding.

 

Like a lot a festive recipes, this cake is super easy, it’s just time consuming, and contains a lot of ingredients. Making your own Christmas cake is a labour of love, and will rapidly become a tradition in your household, if for no other reason than the phenomenal scent of it baking for hours on end. With so many steps before the cake is baked, and after, theres plenty to get the whole family involved in. If you are tee-total, use strong tea instead of brandy in the first step, and simply don’t feed the cake. It will keep well enough if it is kept airtight.

Enjoy!

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Golden Christmas Cake : Advent Calendar 23rd

My mother requested something a little different when it came to Christmas Cake this year. The traditional black, rich cake is yummy, but I agree that it divides people into lovers, tolerators and haters. Haters won’t touch it, tolerators will have a sliver begrudgingly, and lovers will eat half the cake themselves, before leaving it to moulder on the side til easter.I get the feeling that my mother is in the middle category at best.

So, to honour her wishes, and because I like a challenge, and because I kept forgetting to make my Nanny’s Christmas Cake, I gave a blonde fruitcake a go. I based my recipe on Nigella’s Golden Fruit Cake very closely. The only changes I have made are because I wanted a flour based cake, and due to fruit and spice preferences.

Please note that though I have used dried pears in my recipe, you can substitute dried apples, which are MUCH easier to get hold of. Of course, you can dry your own, as I did.

Golden Christmas Cake

  • 850g dried fruit (apricots, pears and sultanas. I used about 250g sultanas, 150g pears and the rest apricots)
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 175gsoft butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125ml Malibu
  • A glug of brandy
  • 200 grams ginger jam
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, or 3 pods worth
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • approx. 75g whole blanched almonds
  • 2-3 generous tablespoons apricot jam
  • Gold sugar balls and confectioners glitter to garnish

First, prep the fruit. Roughly chop the pears and apricots. Cut the cherries in half.

Put all the fruit, the butter, the rum, jam and sugar in a pan and bring up to a simmer, mixing until all the butter is melted. Simmer for 10 minutes, the add the brandy. Stir through, then turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool.

Double line a 9 inch pan and preheat the oven to 160 c.

In a bowl measure out your dry ingredients and mix them together. Mix them into the fruit mix, then beat in the eggs.

Spoon the gloriously bejewelled mix into your lined tin and even out. Decorate the top with the almonds as you please.

Bake for 1 hour 40 minutes at 150 c. Check at 1hr 20 minutes. To finish the cake off, turn up the heat to 170 c for 20 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden and an inserted blade or skewer comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin- this will take some time as the cake is so dense and large. However, you can glaze it when it is halfway cool. Melt the jam in a milk pan and spread evenly over the top of the cake to give it a jewel like shine. If you like, you can now sprinkle over golden sugar sprinkles and confectioners glitter, for an extra touch of seasonal sparkle.

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Moist, richly fruity without the smoke of traditional cake; this is an excellent last minute wonder. It also avoids me having to marzipan and ice anything, and then being ‘made’ to eat everyone else’s icing and marzipan, as my family lack my sweet tooth to a degree.

Enjoy!

 

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Snowcapped Gingercake : Recipe Advent Calendar 17th

I love gingerbread in all its forms, but I’ve never posted a recipe for the treacly, cakey variety. That is all about to change.

I have been making this cake since I was a student, and it is sticky and filling and satisfying and, just, yum. Topped with white chocolate ganache flavoured with lemon, and it’s a truly special treat. If you aren’t a fan of fruitcakes, you could even use this recipe as your ‘christmas cake’- dust the finished product with icing sugar to imitate fresh fallen snow, and decorate as for a snow scene!

To be honest, the topping is really, pun intended, the icing on the cake, as this burnished brown beauty is sumptuously tasty all on its own. I mean, just look at it…

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Snowcapped Gingercake

  • 1-2 quantities of white chocolate ganache as per the recipe here
  • OPTIONAL: Zest of a lemon and/or 1/2 tsp Lemon extract
  • 150g Butter
  • 175g Soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Treacle
  • 2 cups Plain flour
  • 1tsp Baking powder
  • 2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 Free range egg
  • White chocolate curls or icing sugar to garnish

The first step is to make your ganache. If you just want to cover the top of the cake, then you need 1 quantity. If you want to cover the whole cake, then make two. Instead of adding liquor, you can either leave the ganache as it is, or flavour it with lemon zest and/or lemon extract. Don’t use lemon juice, as the acid will affect the consistency of the finished product.

Now, for the cake: Melt the butter, sugar and treacle together in a milk pan over a low heat. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes or so.

Preheat your oven to 170 c and grease a 9×9 cake tin ready for the baking.

Mix together your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. I use a whisk, as that what there is no need to sieve.

Stir in the milk, then the egg, then the butter-sugar-treacle mixture and mix everything together gently, and pour out into the tin.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 170 c. Check at 30 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely, then ice with the ganache and decorate as desired. Store in an airtight container or in the fridge.

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If you do want a fruitier twist than just the lemons, peel, core and cube a couple of eating apples and treat them with lemon juice, or acidulated water. These can be mixed in to the batter with everything else. I personally like my gingerbread unadulterated, but ginger and fruit are a match made in food heaven.

Enjoy!

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