CHRISTMAS CAKE:

I can’t believe that this is the first year I’ve made my own Christmas cake. Partly because my mum makes the best cake ever and she always gives me some, and partly because my local WI also make delicious cakes you can buy un-iced and I love decorating them.

But this year at last I took the plunge and got my mother’s tried and tested recipe.

As with most things in life ‘practice makes perfect’ - and this is most certainly true with baking.

While the recipe is most definitly tried & tested the baker  was not! My first attempt was a disaster - I used too large a baking tray expecting the cake to rise at least a little, which it didn’t, so it was too thin. Then it got a little crispy on the edges, as I hadn't understood the importance of the brown paper, so didn’t use it.

Brown paper? Yes normal brown parcel paper is used to wrap round the edge of the tin and over the top of the cake to stop the edges getting too hot and over cooked. I left this bit out completely thinking mum was referring to the grease proof paper that lines the inside of the tin.

Then on my second attempt I couldn’t find any, but luckily newspaper does the job just as well.

It took me a whole week  after my first attempt to want to try again - so after more tips from my mother, I now have the perfect Christmas cake - sssshh - don’t tell but I know for sure that's true as I sliced off an edge  - for testing purposes of course.

 

Needed:

This recipe makes a fruit cake that is very rich in fruit compared to ‘cake’, basically its 3/5s fruit and 2/5s cake.  Quite a few other recipes I’ve looked at use much less fruit to sponge ratio, making quite a different type of cake. The total size of the cake is approximately 2,500ml - which is bigger than a standard 8” tin. Remember this cake hardly rises.

 Large tin - shape is a personal choice, but I love rectangle ones so more space for decorations. A roasting tin or dish is good, make sure it is nice and deep.   Line it with grease proof paper - easiest is to line the bottom and grease the sides with butter.

V Big Mixing bowl - to combine the 2 sets of ingredients at the end in.

Brown parcel paper & pins - or newspaper.

Cooking time - long & low is the cardinal rule. For this size cake 4 to 5 hours  at only 110c or gas mark 1. This can vary on oven type and dish used - the cake is done when the top of the cake is firm to touch, but still gives a little, or when a skewer comes out clean.

PART 1 - the fruit bit - this can be done the night before you bake it.

 In the large bowl mix together the following:

12 oz (340 g) currants

12 oz (340 g) sultanas

6 oz (170 g) raisins

6 oz (170 g) glace cherries

3 oz (85 g) candied peel

  or similar total weight (39oz) of these fruit sold as a combined lot, but half the fun is mixing all these together, especially if making with children.

3 oz (85 g) chopped almonds

2 oz (55 g) crystallised  ginger, cut in to small pieces about 1cm.

Or you can add your own combo of fruit & nuts - apricots, dates, walnuts etc

150ml brandy or rum

1 tsp Mixed Spice  (this is not Allspice!)

1 1/2 Tablespns Treacle (Black)

 ALL the above can now be left to absorb the alcohol while you make the 'cake bit'  in another bowl.

fruit ingreds here is the 'fruit & nut ' mix 

 

 PART 2: - the cake bit

9 oz (255g) Butter

9 oz (255g) Brown Sugar (NOT demarara!)

6 eggs - just mixed in not whipped

12 oz (340g) Plain flour

1 teaspn Baking powder

1 pinch of salt

 

Mix all the above together - this can be done in a mixer.

Then tip this into the large bowl full of your fruit mix and fold  in well.

 mixing

Once well mixed spoon out into your lined dish - filling all the corners well. 

Now here’s the tricky bit - wrap the tin and cake in paper and fasten together with pins - the top must be covered, but not touching the cake. And cook slowly. 

After its cooked, leave it 10 minutes to cool in its tin, then tip out onto a rack to air.

If you don’t want to ice it now wrap it in tinfoil or leave in an airtight tin till you are ready.

 

Decorating:

Spread the top with apricot jam (this avoids crumbs in the marzipan & icing) though it is optional if your marzipan is very thick.

Cover with a layer of golden marzipan - I like this to be quite thick.

Icing  - you can cheat and use a pack of icing to roll out, or the following:

Half Royal Icing sugar and half ordinary icing sugar mixed with a little warm water to get a firm consistency then spread on with a warm palette knife.

In my opinion butter icing does not go with fruit cake - ever!

Storage 

Fruit cake can keep for years in a tin - We ate our wedding cake’s top layer 6 years later when at last we got round to christening our daughter. We just put on new icing.

If you’ve not got a tin large enough for your cake, just wrap it in tin foil, till you’ve eaten enough of it so it can fit in your tin.

 

By the way if you are wondering what I’m going to do with my first attempt which is not burnt, but just too thin and a little crispy on the top, I’m cutting it into squares and icing so its more like a fruit biscuit than a cake! Waste not want not....