Monday, 23 November 2015

Christmas Cake mmmm...mmmm!

I'm one of those people who believe no Christmas decorations should go up before the 1st of December.  It's crazy how Shopping malls now try to preempt each other, even decorating in early October.    I realise they have commercial interests to feed but, come on, there is nothing worse than seeing tired decorations and dying Christmas trees before Christmas even arrives. In Victorian England Christmas trees were not decorated until Christmas Eve but I think that's holding off the joy just a bit too long..

Also, nowadays, there is a move afoot to "get rid" of Christmas lest non-Christians are upset.  How silly is that?  I greatly enjoy the festivities of other cultures.  They add colour and joy to life and it is not necessary to believe in what they stand for to get great pleasure from them.  For a lot of people Christmas has nothing to do with religion anyway.  Historically it was a pagan festival  later adopted by Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ, whose actual birth date is unknown.  It would be a very sour grinch who didn't enjoy taking part in the giving of gifts, the feeling of goodwill and the joy of children at Christmas time, not to mention the office parties, gifts from bosses etc, etc.

Enough of the moaning, though, I love Christmas.  I love the spirit of goodwill, the family gatherings,  the decorations and the carols.  The whole nine yards.  And I love Christmas cake.  That is one thing that IS best done early.  A rich fruit cake, especially one doused in brandy, improves with age.

Last weekend I  made my Christmas cake,   I was in my happy place, enjoying the delectable aroma filling the house as it baked.  I made this cake for the first time last year and it was popular with everyone who tried it.  Even my daughter-in-law, a professed hater of fruit cakes, asked me for a slab to take home. It is not my original recipe, I got it off the internet, (Channel4-4food) but it is worth repeating here. It is quick, easy and contains apple cider and brandy.  

(It's not mine but that's what the family call it)

900gms dried fruit - I use fruit cake mix
300mls dry apple cider
225gms soft brown sugar
225gms butter
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2tbs black treacle
170gms nuts - almonds, hazelnuts, pecans
4 large eggs, beaten
225gms plain flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 (half) teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons brandy


1. Chop fruit if necessary so it's all about the size of a raisin.  If you use fruit mix this step is unnecessary.  Put the fruit in a pan with the cider and bring to the boil.  Cook for 2 - 3 minutes and leave to cool.  Fruit should absorb all the cider, if not drain it.

2. Cream the butter and sugar with the finely grated zest.  Add the treacle.  Add the beaten eggs and mix well.

3. Sieve the flour with the spices and fold into the mixture with the fruit, the chopped nuts and some juice from the orange to get a dropping consistency.  You may not need to add the juice.

4. Line an 8"/20cm cake tin with two layers of baking paper.  Wrap a thick layer of newspaper around the tin and secure with string.  Place the tin on a baking sheet with a few layers of newspaper between the tin and the sheet.

5. Spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth it down keeping a hollow in the centre so the cake will rise evenly with a flat top.  You can decorate the top with almonds at this stage if you wish.

6. Put it in the oven and bake for 3 to 4 hours at 150c or gas mark 2 checking now and then.  If the top starts to brown too much, cover with a couple of sheets of baking paper.

7. When the cake is cooked prick it all over with a fine skewer and pour over the brandy.  Leave in the tin until cold. Mmmmm-mmmmm!  You can then decorate however you wish - my family prefer the cake unadorned.  If not iced you can "feed" it more brandy once or twice before Christmas.

Step 8 - Clean up - oops, I seem to have used a lot of bowls!