Traditional Christmas Cake

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.

Ingredients

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Let them eat cake and biscuits!

So this was a busy week for baking. After the Halloween cake, next up was hubbies birthday cake. As his request I made Guinness cake but minus 33 candles as that would be a fire hazard.

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Following this Carrot cake and Empire biscuits were made for a 30th Birthday party we were going to. I had to skip the Brownies as I just didn’t have enough time. These were both part of the dessert table. Much needed after a few Ceilidh dances and adult musical chairs!

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Empire Biscuits ( formerly known as German biscuits apparently renamed during World War 1) or in my house known as Vampire biscuits  ( hubbies childhood name for them!) are something I’ve only made once before, not too sure why as they are actually really simple. They are a really popular Scottish sweet biscuit.

I use a recipe that I’m not sure where it came from but it appeared in my recipe drawer written on a old scrap piece of paper. I presumably was given or wrote the recipe down and filed it away. Its a good and easy recipe to follow with few ingredients most of which are store cupboard staples and the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

One of my friends loves Empire biscuits, he is somewhat of an Empire biscuit connoisseur, it was his wife’s party we were attending and I couldn’t not make these. He also requested them when I asked what I could bring! He considers them an appropriate breakfast item too and I won’t say that he is wrong.

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Ingredients

250g of softened butter, 100g of caster sugar, 250g of sifted plain flour, glace cherries, raspberry jam and icing sugar.

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180° C and line baking trays with greaseproof/baking paper.

Cream the softened butter and sugar together. Add the sifted flour slowly until well blended.

Roll the dough onto a floured surface, roll out to about 4-5mm thickness or thereabouts. Using a 7cm diameter round fluted cutter ( or whatever size you want really but this will obviously effect how many biscuits you get out of the dough) to cut biscuit out of the dough. (No photos of this as my hands and me were covered in flour. I don’t do clean baking!!)

Then place them onto the lined baking trays evenly spaced apart. Pop in the oven for about 10 minutes. Some of them, the trays on the bottom of the shelf needed to go in for an extra couple of minutes. Keep an eye on them as they should only be very lightly coloured.( see photo below)

Remove from oven and leave in trays for 5 mins, then remove to a cooling rack.sam_7780

You want them completely cool before you start assembling them together.

Take one biscuit, place about a teaspoon of Raspberry Jam in the middle, take another biscuit and place on top ( I usually place the flatter of the sides facing upwards).

Make up your icing as per packet instructions and so the icing is not runny but can be spread easily.

Spread some icing on top of the biscuit sandwich and whilst still wet add half a glace cherry on top.  Repeat with remaining biscuits then leave them until icing has set.

Results of cake week……….

 

Halloween cake

This is gonna be a busy week for cakes, starting with this Halloween cake then hubbies birthday cake, then a carrot cake, brownies and empire biscuits for a 30th birthday we are going to on Saturday. Phew, I could be all caked out by the end of this week. However next week I’ll need to get started on making my Christmas cake! It requires to be fed a lot in the run up to Christmas hence getting started early!

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Slightly scarily messy cake… but hey its Halloween!

For the Halloween cake I used Nigella Lawson’s Ghoul Graveyard cake recipe, a suitably scary name! This recipe gives a lovely moist chocolate cake. This was the only nod to Halloween this year and due to living in the country we were not expecting any guisers (otherwise known as Trick or Treaters!)

Some interesting or not so interesting facts about Halloween……..Guising is what the Scottish call Trick or Treating. Traditionally a Turnip ( or neep) was carved and inside scooped out with a candle placed inside. These days though pumpkins seem to be more popular, could be because they are way easier to carve than Turnips!

Ingredients for the cake

250mls Milk, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, 225 grams plain flour, 50 grams Cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda, 200 grams caster sugar, 110 grams softened butter, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Ingredients for icing

300 grams of sifted icing sugar, 60 grams of butter, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of golden syrup, 60mls milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract,1 teaspoon of black food colouring gel, sugar sprinkles, Halloween sweets or any decoration you feel.

Cake Method

Preheat Oven to 170° C and prepare a springform tin ( 23cm).

Whisk the milk and white wine vinegar together and leave to one side.

Then add all the remaining ingredients for the cake into a mixer. It will come together like a dough, then add the milk/ vinegar mix and it will combine to form a batter. It was slightly lumpy so I placed the  mixer in high and gave the mix a blast which seemed to sort out the lumps. Place into the prepared tin and placed in oven. Recipe stated for 40 mins, however my cake took near on 55 mins. I used a skewer to test and when it came away clean it was ready. Leave to cool, then remove from cake tin.

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Icing Method

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then when starts to bubble add the cocoa powder and whisk. Add syrup, milk, vanilla extract and black food colouring gel and whisk together. Let it bubble for a few mins then take off heat and add the icing sugar. Then put back on the heat and whisk to help dissolve sugar the take back of the heat. Leave to thicken for a bit, but not too long as you want it to be able to pour it over the cake and for it to run over the sides.  Once you’ve done this, add whatever decorations you want. I used Halloween Haribo ,as I struggled to get suitable scary sweets, and I also used sugar sprinkles. Although my icing was not as black as what the recipe suggested it should be!

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