Rather late this year, but at the weekend I finally got around to baking my Christmas Cake. I love making Christmas Cake – mixing up the fruit and alcohol every day for a week as the fruit soaks up the liquid and becomes plump and juicy; the smell of the cake wafting through the house as it cooks; deciding how to decorate it this year …
This is a recipe adapted from one I found highly recommended on a forum – I used it last year and the cake was delicious! This is my version though – I add lots of different dried fruit rather than just the mixed fruit and add spices and zest to the fruit while soaking. I’m afraid that my measurements for soaking the fruit aren’t very precise – I tend to just chuck in a bit of whatever I find in the cupboard! This year, I mixed in sloe gin, cherry brandy, brandy and amaretto, plus a good slosh of orange juice! I soak the fruit for a week – stirring at least once in the morning and once at night – and adding more alcohol if it looks at all dry. This year, I miscalculated and did three times the quantity of fruit in the recipe, rather than the double quantity that I need for my 9” square tin – so at the moment I have lots of leftover juicy fruit – although I have plans for it (if I can stop eating it!).
I doubled the quantity of cake mix (and actually had to use 200g of light brown sugar rather than all dark brown sugar) and this made plenty to fill my 9” square tin and the leftover made 8 fairy cakes. When making the cake mix, make sure that you beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, and again beat it lots after the addition of each egg. Don’t worry if it splits slightly after adding the eggs – it will be fine again when you have stirred in the flour.
This year, I bought Magi Cake Strips and used them to wrap the baking tin rather than corrugated card. They worked brilliantly – the edges of the cake were not over-cooked at all (even after 6 hours of cooking!) and the cake was perfectly level – can’t wait to try them on a normal sponge cake.
So the cake is now cooked and wrapped – I’ll be unwrapping it and feeding it once or twice a week until the week before Christmas. I'm then planning to cut this large cake into 4 small square cakes before marzipanning and icing them. I'll do another post at that point!
To soak the fruit:
- 650g mixed dried fruit
- 50g dried cranberries
- 50g dried sour cherries
- 50g dried blueberries
- 100g chopped mixed peel
- 150 g glace cherries halved
- (100 g blanched almonds – chopped – optional)
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ginger
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- Grated zest of an orange
- Significant quantities of alcohol – eg sloe gin, cherry brandy, brandy, amaretto
- Orange juice
For the cake mixture:
- 225g plain flour
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- ½ tsp salt
- 200g butter
- 200g dark brown sugar
- 2 tblsp spoons black treacle
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
- 4 standard eggs lightly beaten
(2 x ingredients will make a 9” square cake; 3 x these ingredients will make one 12” square cake)
In advance of making the cake (I do this a week in advance but a couple of days would be fine):
- Place all dried fruit in a large bowl and scatter over the spices and the orange zest.
- Pour over alcohol and orange juice so that it covers about a quarter of the fruit.
- Stir to ensure that all the fruit is covered.
- Stir a couple of times a day and add extra alcohol/orange juice to ensure that fruit plumps up.
- Grease 20cm 8” round or an 18cm 7” square cake tine and line the base and sides with double layer of greaseproof paper.
a band of corrugated card around the outside of the tin.
Pre-heat oven to 150C, 300F, Gas Mark 2
Sieve together the flour, salt and mixed spice.
- Cream the butter, sugar, treacle and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour with the last amount.
- Fold in the remaining flour, then all the fruit and almonds.
- Turn into the prepared cake tin and make a slight hollow in the centre.
- Bake in a cool oven for 3-4 hours (6 hours for a 9” square cake), testing after 3 hours by inserting a skewer into the centre; when it comes out clean the cake is cooked. You may need to put foil across the top of the cake after a few hours of baking – to stop it singeing on top before the centre cooks.
- Remove from oven and leave in tin until cold.
- Use a skewer to make a few holes in the top of the cake and pour alcohol of choice over the cake while it is still warm.
- Wrap cake in baking parchment and then foil and store.
Once a week, take cake out of wrappings, and “feed” the cake with more alcohol, before wrapping and storing again.