Sunday, 16 October 2011

Baking a Christmas Cake

Here is my very simple and very wonderful Christmas Cake.

This recipe is one I have baked every year since I married.  Before I even owned a recipe book, I had it written on a piece of paper, now it is, of course, in a file, on the computer.  This is  the recipe that my mother used when I was a child and I think it probably comes from her old Good Housekeeping Recipe Book.  It really is the most  perfect fruit cake, and ideal for weddings and birthdays as well as Christmas!

I use an 8 inch square tin, which I double line with parchment paper.

Around the outside I tie double brown paper and put the tin on a brown paper lined baking tray.  (This helps the cake not to burn around the outside, as it spends 4 hours in the oven!)


I have listed the ingredients, and divided them into three 'sets'.

One tip I have found very useful,  when watching Delia Smith's Christmas on television, was her suggestion to write a list of all your ingredients and tick them off as you add them, therefore ensuring that you neither miss an ingredient or add one twice!  Both of which could be spell disaster  for your lovely cake!

I do this for all my Christmas baking, and it is useful, particularly as so many of the same ingredients go into the mincemeat and the pudding as well.


Classic Fruit Cake

8oz Raisins                  
8oz Sultanas                
1lb 6oz Currants          
6oz Glace Cherries      
4oz Candied Peel          
4oz Flaked Almonds      

14 oz Plain Flour          
1 tsp Cinnamon          
1 tsp Mixed Spice        

12oz Butter            
12oz Sugar (Caster)    
1/4 Lemon rind (very finely grated)        
6 Eggs                      
 

Weigh out all the dried fruit including the  cherries (which I roughly chop in half) , the peel and nuts.  These need to be mixed  together in a large basin.  (If you wish you can do this the night before you bake, and soak the fruit in 2 tablespoons of brandy - I don't do this as I prefer to 'feed' the cake once it is baked.)

Sift the flour with the spices into a second large bowl.

Mix the butter  (room temperature) with the sugar and lemon rind.

Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. *


* I now break my eggs into a cup before adding them to the butter/sugar mix, as I recently had a disaster.
The fourth egg I added was completely off, and I had to throw out the complete mixture. It was very unpleasant and I wasted all that butter, sugar and the other three eggs!  



Now fold the sieved flour into the cake mixture, and finally add the dried fruit.

I use a tablespoon for this and switch to a wooden spoon to ensure that the cake is fully mixed.  You want to ensure that the cherries are spread throughout the cake. (Not all floating at the top or bottom.)

Put the complete mixture in your prepared tin.  Smooth over the top, making sure that there is a very slight dip in the centre, this will ensure an even cake for icing.

Bake in a low oven (150 degrees C) for 4 hours.

You may need to place some parchment paper on top of the cake, after an hour or so, to prevent the top burning.

Keep an eye on it towards the end of the baking time, your oven may cook it slightly quicker or a little slower.

The cake is ready when a thin skewer comes out clean.  (I have used a cocktail stick, as I can never find my skewer when I need it)

The cake really needs to cool when it comes out of the oven.

I tend to leave the cake in the tin for a while, and then put it on a wire rack.  Depending on the time of day I have baked it I may leave it out overnight, and wrap it in the morning.

I keep my fruit cake in a large plastic cake box, once I have  wrapped the cake in parchment paper and tin foil.

I feed it them once a week. (I usually make three Christmas cakes, one to eat straight away, unadorned, one for Christmas Day itself, and one for those miserable days in January and February when fruit cake is really required.)  I am making an extra one this year for the raffle at my little girl's school, so I better start thinking about decoration!

Making a Christmas cake is time consuming, but you can do it over two days.  I find the most difficult part is preparing the tin, but it is worth doing well, as the ingredients for the cake are not inexpensive and after all your hard work you do want something perfectly delicious.

You can decorate your cake.  It will need marzipan and then royal icing.  Or you can leave it  plain.  It will  look just as  lovely with a huge ribbon tied around it, and maybe a few flakes of (edible) gold leaf on top.

The cake, just out of the oven

Gather the ingredients

Preparing the tin

Kitchen string, where would we be without it?

Double lined, inside and out!


Mixing the fruit and nuts

Flour and spices

Creaming the butter, sugar and lemon

Mix thoroughly

Fold in the flour

Now mix in the fruit

Add the mixture to the tin

Wonderful

I do hope this is useful.   If you haven't made a fruit cake before, try and bake one this winter.  The great thing about Christmas Cake (and the pudding and mincemeat) is that you can do most of the hard work now, and not worry about it in December (all these wonderful things improve with age!)  Once you have made your own cake, you'll wonder how you could have ever bought one, yours will be so superior and so much more delicious.

Both Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson have some super recipes for Christmas Cakes.  So if you are not ready to bake a large cake or this cake doesn't appeal to you, I recommend having a looking in both their Christmas recipe books.

8 comments:

  1. lovely recipe I have never made it but maybe I should try crave British recipes more since living in the US :-) great blog Rebecca

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  2. How long can you keep a Christmas cake for? I made one last year and forgot about it, it is well soaked in Brandy! I love the smell of them baking. Maybe I should feed mine to the chickens!!

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  3. You've made this sound so easy that I will have to make yours this year. Thank you.

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  4. Rebecca, I hope you'll bake a Christmas cake this year. It will give your celebrations a wonderful touch of childhood.
    Lucy, I'm not sure, but ages I think. I know people use mincemeat that has been kept for over a year. Maybe try a bit in the chickens andcif they seem happy, keep it as a cake for walks etc. (we often take some when we go on a long walk, it's a great energy boost!)
    Jennifer, thank you. I hope you enjoy it.

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  5. Fantastic photos that have made me all Christmassy. Good advice of Delia about ticking of the ingredients when added as the list is quite long. Love seeing all the ingredients in the bowl, such a rich mixture. A sensory delight.

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  6. You are well ahead of the game!! Looks a lovely cake.

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  7. Fantastic post and I want to make my cake now......you make yours almost exactly like I make mine Jude, and my recipe is my mum's and her mum's before that! LOVELY post,I can almost hear jingle bells!
    Karen

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  8. Kentish Keg-Meg, thank you, Delia really does know her stuff! Thanks for your kind comments.
    Chele, the cake we have already eaten was delicious!
    Karen, it really is a very simple and traditional cake, mothers and grand-mothers are even more reliable then Delia and Nigella!

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