It just wouldn’t be Christmas unless there was a boozy Christmas cake for afters. Although, disappointingly the tradition of making homemade Christmas cake seems to be going by the wayside with many people preferring to buy store bought ( and why not when Marks and Spencers do such delicious cakes for reasonable prices and no preparation required) or forgoing Christmas cake all together.
I’ve came across many people who dislike fruit cake or dislike eating it after the huge Christmas dinner preferring lighter desserts. Thankfully my hubbie loves fruit cake so he makes sure it doesn’t go to waste, but to be honest fruit cake lasts a long time ( I still have the top tier of my wedding cake in the cupboard awaiting my first child’s christening…. I was married over 5 years ago!) so don’t worry if it doesn’t get eaten all at once, this can be kept and devoured long after Christmas has ended.
There is something quintessentially christmassy about baking a Christmas cake, the waft of brandy coming from the fruit as its soaks overnight, the house filling with the aroma of the wonderful festive spices as the cake bakes, the unwrapping of the cake every week to feed with more brandy ( a bit like a Christmas present) and then wrapping it back up in the brown greaseproof paper. The preparation and steps are like my very own advent countdown to Christmas.
Making a home made Christmas cake does requires forethought, organisation and preparation ( oh and many many mixing bowls) but its actually not that difficult and the results are well worth the effort.
The actual baking should take place in early November although this year I was later making it on the 23rd November!! Gasp….. the horror! However, I did read somewhere that November 20th was the last day to bake your Christmas cake so if this is true then I wasn’t too far off! But really my preference is to bake the cake in the first week in November.
You really need to pinpoint a day you have completely free as the baking time can take between 4 – 4 3/4 hours, with the preparation time on the day taking about 30 minutes. and then of course the cooling period before you can start to soak with brandy.
The fruit itself needs to soak for 12 hours, so it really needs done the night before.
The recipe below is my mother in laws, she is the queen of baking cakes. I’m not sure where the recipe originally came from, it could be from Readers Digest back in the day or the Dairy cookbook or word of mouth or experimenting through the years but wherever it came from it’s really good and I’m chuffed to be carrying on her tradition.
450 grams currants, 175 grams sultanas, 175 grams raisins, 50 grams glace cherries ( rinsed, dried, chopped), 50 grams mixed peel, 3 tablespoons brandy, 225 grams flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice, 225 grams of unsalted softened butter, 225 grams soft brown sugar, 4 large eggs, 50 grams chopped almonds, 1 dessertspoon black treacle, zest of 1 lemon, zest of 1 orange.
The Night before Christmas Cake bake day……..( try saying that three times fast!)
Mix together the currants, sultanas, raisins, cherries and mixed peel in the 3 tablespoons of brandy. ( Bowl one). Cover the bowl with a tea towel and soak overnight or for 12 hours.
Christmas Cake Bake Day….
Prepare a 8 inch round cake tin, butter and line with greaseproof paper. Also measure out a double layer of greaseproof paper that would fit on the top of the cake, set this aside as this will be used later.
Preheat oven to 140°C.
Sift the flour, salt and spices into a medium bowl. ( bowl two).
In a large ( and I mean large) mixing bowl ( bowl three) whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
In a small bowl ( bowl four) or if you’ve run out of bowls a measuring jug would do, beat the eggs and then add them to the butter/sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time whisking the mixture continuously until the eggs are all combined. This is to stop the mix from curdling, but in my experience it can still curdle but don’t worry if this happens, the cake will still be delish!
Gently fold the flour/ spice mix to the butter/ sugar/ egg mix. Then fold in the brandy soaked fruit, nuts, treacle and the lemon and orange zest to the mix. I always find this a great workout for my arms! Beats the gym any day.
** To make the treacle more manageable I usually place the tin into a pan or bowl ( if you have any left) of boiling water**
Transfer the lovely mixture into the prepared tin. I tend to do this using a serving spoon and transfer over a spoonful at a time. Make sure to spread the mix out evenly and smooth out the top.
Take the double layer of greaseproof paper and cut a hole in the middle, about the size of a 50 pence piece, then place on top of the cake mix. This will help to protect the cake during its long baking time in the oven.
Place the cake on the lowest shelf in your oven. My cake was very very ready after 4 hours ( as you can see from my photos), but my oven is very wonky. The cake can take anything between 4 hours and 4 3/4 hours, but definitely check about the 4 hour mark.
Take the cake out the oven, leave in the tin for about 30 mins then remove completely and place on a cooling rack. Once the Christmas cake completely cools, use a skewer to make holes in the top and bottom of the cake, then pour 6- 8 teaspoons of brandy over the cake. Then wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and tinfoil and place in a box or tin.
Remove the cake every week and pour another 6-8 teaspoons of brandy over the cake, then re-wrap. Do this until you are ready to cover with marzipan and icing.
Once I have done the icing stage I will post pictures of the finished and decorated cake.