About a year ago, I took a bit of a break from blogging about my various different baking and cooking exploits, mainly as I got busy in both life and work. However, now feels like a good time to resume the Batch from scratch story, especially as today marks the day that my inspiration for cooking, Winnie my Nan, left this World. What better way to celebrate the day with the thing I remember most – her Christmas cake.
WARNING: The smells of this Christmas cake, when cooking and while resting ahead of the first feed, are captivating. Any children are likely to lose their minds when you tell them they have to wait 3 months until Christmas to eat! Angus certainly did when he returned from school when I was cooking this year’s batch.
So, as is normal the post is split into the ingredients and method that I followed. It has to be said that in true Winnie tradition, I am one who likes to share. As Winnie is no longer with us and able share the Christmas cakes with the family, I have taken on the mantel and as such I tripled the ingredients and made 4 cakes – 2 large and 2 medium. This should mean that we’re able to enjoy the cakes, while also sending them to family.
Some people like to leave the Christmas cake without icing and just eat it as is, that isn’t me. Therefore, for some helpful hints on how to get the best finish, take a look here for the icing.
- 1kg mixed dried fruit (use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, cranberries, prunes or figs). You can also use bags of mixed fruit to get to the same result, which takes a fraction of the time
- Zest and juice 1 orange
- 150ml brandy / sherry / whiskey / rum. Put extra aside for feeding!
- 250g pack butter (softened)
- 200g light soft brown sugar
- 175g plain flour
- 100g ground almond
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 100g flaked almond
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Equipment: One 22cm cake tin
Put 1kg mixed dried fruit, the zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 150ml brandy or other alcohol, 250g softened butter and 200g light, soft brown sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat. If you’ve decided to cook more than one cake, you’ll want to break the cooking of the fruit into two large pans, otherwise it’s too much to cook at once.
Bring the mix to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 mins. Tip the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 mins. It is important to have the mixture cool, otherwise you’ll scramble the egg when you combine the wet mixture with the dry.
While you’re waiting for the mixture to cool down, heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment. You can also make smaller sizes if you like, but the cooking time drops a little, so be careful if you do this and test if the mixture has cooked fairly regularly after an hour. In other recipes, it talks about wrapping a double layer of newspaper around the outside and tying with string to secure. However, I’ve never done this, as it wasn’t something that I learnt growing up.
Add 175g plain flour, 100g ground almonds, ½ tsp baking powder, 2 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground cloves, 100g flaked almonds, 4 large eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract together…
…and then combine with the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour.
Tip into your prepared tin and level the top with a spatula and bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hrs (check regularly from about 1hr 30mins to make sure you don’t dry your cake out).
Once the cake is nicely cooked (think nice and moist and golden brown, not dry and dark brown!) remove the cake from the oven. Poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp of your chosen alcohol. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
To store, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap well in cling film – we normally use clips to make it easy to feed the cakes. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every fortnight, until you ice it .
Don’t feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.