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Posts Tagged ‘traditional Christmas cake’

Every year I use the same recipe for my Christmas cake.  This is a well tried and tested recipe perfected over many years.  One year I tried five different recipes.  After much debating and tasting we whittled it down to one and then improved on it.  The family like it and that’s good enough for me.

When I was a little girl my mother had high hopes for her Christmas cake.  Cake icing was not a skill she possessed but each year she approached the task of icing the Christmas cake with new hope and vigor, thinking that this year she would create the perfect iced cake.  Each year the cake would be presented with an iced snow scene adorned with small fir trees, an overfed robin, and several patchy reindeer, topped off with the piece de resistance – the shop bought frayed red ribbon.

Achieving the snow scene was a torturous journey for both my mother and me.  It would start with the mixing of the royal icing. I would sit silently at the kitchen table watching.   This phase usually passed in a fairly upbeat mood, then the palette knife would make an appearance and my mother would attempt her foray into cake icing nirvana, kidding herself that the icing would just glide on and be perfect.   As each layer went on, the more uneven the cake became.  My initial encouragement of how good it was looking would soon dry up and a murderous tension could be felt in the air, at this stage I readied myself to flee.

In a last ditch attempt of redeeming things my mother would then move onto the icing syringe which was filled to the brim with royal icing, again she would struggle and labour over trying to squeeze out perfect shapes as demonstrated on the cover of the box but to no avail.  When eventually my mother realised she had been beaten, the palate knife re-appeared and with a few swift hand movements we were back to plan B; the snow scene.    Having stuck by my mother during her icing ordeal I would be rewarded with the task of pushing the aged but much loved cake ornaments into the deep waves of royal icing before it was finished off with a red ruff and, put on a raised dish and placed in the dining room, ready for Christmas.

My mother’s Christmas snow scene may not have been perfect but it has become a fond memory I hold with great affection along with those worn Christmas cake ornaments.

I have said it before and I will say it again recipes evolve because people change them.  If I don’t like currants, I leave them out and add the same weight in raisins.  If I don’t like cinnamon I don’t add it.  I am a big fan of cherries but I sometimes swap them for more apricots.  There are no hard and fast rules.

Christmas Cake

or

Rich Fruit Cake Recipe

Ingredients

Stage One

Ingredients

225g/8 oz currants

225g/8 0z raisins

225g/8 oz sultanas

50g/2 oz dried apricots chopped small

175g/6 oz glace cherries cut into quarters or halves depending on how I am feeling.

100ml/4 floz brandy

Method

Pick over the fruit for any stalks this might not seem important at this stage but I hate eating a piece of cake and getting a bit of stalk stuck in my teeth. 

Put all the fruit into an airtight dish and add the brandy.  Stir well to blend, seal and leave. 

I tend to leave mine in a dark cupboard for two weeks or more, stirring the fruit every week or so.  The smell is fantastic and after two weeks the fruit has plumped up beautifully.

Ingredients

Stage Two

50g/2 oz blanched almonds chopped roughly but small

50g/2 oz brazil nuts chopped roughly but small

225g/8 oz butter

225g/8 oz soft dark brown sugar

4 eggs

225g/8 oz white plain flour

5ml/1 level tsp ground mixed spice

 ½ level tsp ground cinnamon

Greaseproof paper

string

brown paper or an old large envelope

Method

Draw around the bottom of your 8″ cake tin on top of a double layer of greaseproof paper, cut out the circles and line the bottom of the cake tin with these.

Cut a length of greaseproof paper this is going to line the inside of the tin, this needs to be folded in half and placed inside the tin it should be raised above the height of the tin.  Then cut a length of brown paper folded over to go around the outside of the tin again raised above the height of the tin.  This is to help the cake from burning.  A little like a sun shield.

The oven needs to be set at 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Soften the butter and beat until soft and pale, now add the sugar and beat well until it is all blended.

In a measuring jug beat the four eggs and begin to pour them into the mixture a little at a time, beating constantly.  If the mixture begins to curdle add a tablespoon of flour and keep beating until it goes back to a smooth consistency.

Add the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon, and using a metal spoon gently fold into the mixture.  Add the fruit and the chopped nuts.  Using the metal spoon continue to fold in gently.  If the mixture for some reason seems dry or heavy, add 2 tbsp milk.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top with the back of the spoon making a slight dome in the centre.  This will help the cake to bake level.

Bake in the centre of the oven 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2 for 3 ½  hours.  I either write down the time I put the cake in or use the timer.  It’s important to get the timing right.  After 3 1/2 hours check the cake with a skewer.  If it comes out clean then it’s done, there is a lot of brandy-laden fruit in the cake so I look closely that it’s not fruit sticking to the skewer.

When the cake is done do not remove from the tin but allow it to sit until it is completely cold and then unwrap.  The cake will keep for three months but it needs to be wrapped in greaseproof paper and then foil and tightly sealed.  I then place the cake in a plastic bag, which is tied, and then into an airtight container.

I prefer to bake my cake in the middle of November to give it some time to mature.  I do not feed the cake with brandy after I have baked it.  I prefer to use the brandy to pump up the fruit.   I then cover the cake with marzipan and fondant icing.

I have also made this without marzipan and icing and instead have decorated the top with whole almonds and cherries, which I put on just before putting the cake in the oven.

If covered in the marzipan and icing it will stand being left on display which I do once it has had it final decoration but once its been cut I store it in an airtight container.  It will keep for ages like this.

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