A few well-placed hearts have saved my Christmas cake decorations' modesty. Crazy, aren't they? I bought them in Japan last year, and have no idea why they are naked from the waste down. All I know is that they are part of a range of collectible figures called Sonny Angels, and trust me, make amazing-looking cake toppers. Since I didn't take any photos of the making of this cake, I thought I would at least show you what I plan to put on it. Kitsch in the extreme, I think you'll agree.
Several people commented that I should have included the recipe for my Christmas cake in my last post (about how good it smelled as it cooked). It's true that I was not exactly inundated with requests, but still, I was really happy to see that some of you wanted to know. I suppose I thought that most people would have their own recipe to follow anyway, as these things are usually passed down through the generations of different families, so nobody would have wanted mine.
Reading my last post back though, I see I should have included it; writing a paragraph that basically says 'I have just made a cake that smells absolutely incredible and I'm not going to tell you how to make it, so there' is hardly what you would call community spirit, is it?
Anyway, this is not a family recipe. My mum does in fact make the best Christmas cake in the world, even though she would tell you she doesn't. This has to do with the fact that her Christmas cakes always crumble when you cut into them. Personally, I LOVE fruit cakes with a texture like that though, and have a feeling the she only ever says that she doesn't to draw attention to the fact that what she's made is as good as it gets in terms of fruit cake. I really must get a copy of her recipe actually. (And readers - if you have a family recipe, leave a link. I'd love to see.)
I usually make several Christmas cakes, because my mum doesn't always have the time to bake one, and I like to have one at my house, too. And I usually follow a Nigella Lawson recipe which makes enough mixture for two cakes in the tins I have. This year I haven't, because Mum has made one, and I can't scale down Nigella's recipe to fit into just one tin. I've tried once before, and although it was delicious, it didn't cut it in the height department; nobody wants a short, flat Christmas cake. Nobody.
So, not wanting a shed-load of extra cake mixture on my hands I did a spot of light research. Well, research of a sort - I read my cookbooks, and Googled. It seems that actually, most fruit cakes follow a similar proportion of the usual suspects - flour, butter, sugar and eggs - to regular cake. Then you just add lots whatever dried fruit you have to hand. And I mean lots; I think there should be so much fruit that you feel as though your arm will break from stirring the mixture. It's the season of excess after all.
I was in a rush this year, so just went to my local spice merchant (I don't know what else to call him!) and bulk bought whatever I fancied. This included a 1 lb bag of mixed vine fruit, some dried cranberries, ready-to-eat prunes and absolutely no glacé cherries, because they are disgusting. I didn't get any candied peel, although he does sell the good stuff, because I bought some a few months ago (along with a chunk of candied pumpkin - I didn't even know you could buy that, and was suitably ecstatic) from a little place I know of in Rome. I soaked it all overnight in whiskey (no brandy, you see), and used a four-egg cake mixture.
You should know by the way, that even though I am writing this almost a week after baking my cake, it isn't too late to make yours if you haven't yet. Provided you do it two weeks before Christmas you'll be fine. And make one you should - nothing says Christmas better than a home made cake, and even someone who has never baked anything except potatoes before and has no fancy kitchen equipment can do this standing on their head.
The Delicious Delicious Delicious Christmas Cake Recipe
You will need:
450g assorted dried vine fruit (mine included raisins, currants and sultanas)
200g dried cranberries (I used a pack of Ocean Spray 'Craisins' - I can't remember the weight exactly)
150g ready-to-eat prunes, each cut into three or four pieces
150g finely chopped candied peel and/or candied pumpkin
250g butter, softened
250g dark muscovado sugar
250g plain flour
a pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp marmalade
grated zest of an orange and a lemon
- The night before you make the cake (or several days before - it doesn't matter), put all of the dried fruit in a bowl, and pour over the whisky. Mix well, and cover.
- Prepare the cake tin (I used a deep 20cm round one); line with baking parchment, and tie a folded piece of brown paper around the outside with string. Apparently this helps stop the cake from burning at the edges. It won't burn in the oven though, don't worry! Pre-heat the oven to 140°C.
- Make the cake mixture in the usual way; cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time and then fold in the flour. Use a wooden spoon for this cake - Christmas is one of those times when it feels good to be traditional.
- Add the rest of the cake ingredients, stir very well, and then fold in the fruit mixture. Make sure to add every last drop of the whiskey the fruit was soaked in. It will be a very heavy, fruit-filled mixture. Taste it. Is it not delicious?
- Transfer to the prepared tin, and bake for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. It is ready when a skewer or cocktail stick pushed into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin, on a wire rack overnight.
- Next morning, feed the cake (make holes in the top with a skewer and pour over some more whiskey), and then wrap in baking parchment and foil. Keep in a tin until Christmas.
- Ice and decorate as you wish. Check back to see mine!