As it is time to start thinking about what you have in your store cupboards in preparation for making a Christmas cake, here by popular demand, here is my traditional British Christmas cake recipe reposted from last year for those of you who missed it and the many of you who have contacted me asking me to post it again…..
There are no hard and fast rules when making a ‘traditional’ British Christmas cake, some use treacle, others syrup, some dark soft brown sugar and others light, some add ground almonds or walnuts and some use glacé cherries and candied peel.
I prefer a lighter fruitier, less sweet cake, so I do not include syrup or treacle, or glacé cherries or candy peel, and as my daughter is allergic to almonds I leave them out also, and only put marzipan on the top of the cake, so it is easier for her to avoid.
I do however, play about with the fruit varieties, and over time have arrived at what is the perfect cake for me and my family, with the inclusion of ‘blond’ raisons, dates and cranberries to give it a lighter, festive flavour.
But as long as you keep to the amounts, you can use whatever dried fruits you like and reduce the butter a little (25g) if adding treacle or syrup.
If you are thinking of making a Christmas cake this year – then make it no later than three weeks before to allow it to ‘mature’ and maybe save it for New Year!
Don’t be put off by the size of this post, all is done in different stages and the end result and sense of satisfaction is well worth the effort………….
Ingredients For the cake
750g of mixed dried fruit (raisins, ‘blond’ raisons, sultanas, currents as you prefer)
150 g of additional dried fruit (glacé cherries, cranberries, dates, candied peel – again as you prefer)
100g of chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds – again as you prefer)
The zest and juice of one orange and one lemon
2 tablespoons of brandy (plus extra for ‘feeding’ – port, sherry, rum or whiskey can also be used)
250g softened butter
250g soft brown sugar (or ‘dark’ soft brown sugar)
4 large free range eggs (beaten)
150g sieved plain flour
75g ground almonds (or 225g sieved plain flour)
2 teaspoons of ground mixed spice (allspice)
1 tablespoon of treacle (optional)
Baking paper/greaseproof paper, brown paper and string
For the icing
1 tablespoon of warm apricot jam
1 pack of ‘Royal’ icing
1 pack of marzipan/almond paste
Cake decorations or food colouring to make your own
Method Preparing the fruit.
Mix all the dried fruit, nuts and orange and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl with the orange and lemon juice and the brandy, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 24 hours
Preparing the tin It is really important to prepare the cake tin properly to avoid the cake drying out to much while cooking.
Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a loose bottom cake tin with butter, and line with baking or greaseproof paper
Lightly grease the paper and line with a second layer, then lightly grease again before adding the cake mixture.
Wrap a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin, reaching 2inches/5 cm higher than the tin, and secure tightly with string.
The mixture and putting it all together
Sieve the flour with the allspice and add the ground almonds if using, mixing well
Cream the softened butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy (an electric whisk will make this job much easier)
Add the eggs a tablespoon as a time, followed by a dessertspoon of flour after to prevent the eggs from curdling
Stir in the soaked fruits along with any liquid, then add the remaining flour and ground almonds
Spoon the mixture in to the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon, making a slight ‘dip’ in the centre and patting the mixture with dampened fingertips to prevent it from drying out too much during cooking.
Cook in a preheated oven at 160 degrees/ gas mark 3 for 2hrs
If the top begins to brown too much at this stage, cover the top with tin foil
Reduce heat to 140 degrees/ gas mark 1 for a further 1hr 45mns
Insert a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean then it is done
Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack then wrap in aluminium foil and then in a clean tea towel and store in an airtight container until ready to ice
Feeding the cake
After a week, unwrap the cake and make some small holes with a fine skewer and ‘feed’ it with a teaspoon of brandy, allow to soak in then recover and return to the container Do this every week, turning the cake upside down each time before ‘feeding’ it (as mentioned, brandy can be replaced by sherry or port, or Rum or whiskey if you prefer!)
The final touches – the ‘fun’ part Icing and decorating the cake
At the last moment (preferably Christmas Eve) is the time to let your imagination and creativity run wild. Your cake can be a simple or extravagant, classic or quirky as you want. You can make your own decorations or buy them ready made. You can ice just the top as I, or the sides also. The important thing is to cover the cake with a half inch/1cm layer of marzipan/almond paste before the icing
Roll out the marzipan to ½ 1cm thickness and cut just larger than the top (and sides) of the cake
Warm the apricot jam and spread over the top (and sides) of the cake before covering it with the marzipan
Press the marzipan into position using a rolling pin, then cover with the icing, also pressing into place with a rolling pin, giving you a smooth flat surface which to decorate………
Finish by wrapping a ribbon around the cake and fixing it with a little icing sugar paste.