17 November 2012

Christmas Cake Time!

Last weekend I decided it was time to get the Christmas cake made. The high moisture content from the boozy fruits stops the cake from going stale, and consequently it benefits from a month or two worth of maturing, fed with regular doses of brandy.

We tend to make two small cakes, or one cut in half, as our family is divided by who likes icing or not (me: love almond paste and icing; my parents, not so much). Below, I have used the photos from my un-iced, fruit glazed cake, using half the quantities listed, with a slightly shorter cooking time.

I used Delia Smith's classic recipe; it is virtually fool-proof (proved by my first attempt at this recipe, where I misread the recipe, mixed everything together at once and consequently curdled the eggs. I've written the correct recipe below, of course).

This recipe is such a classic; it doesn't need altering, although I switched the mixed peel for fresh lemon and orange zest, purely because I am not a massive fan of bought peel. To bring the overall weight back up, I added extra glace cherries, which I love.

Tip: Read through before starting -this recipe takes up a lot of time!

Delia's Classic Christmas Cake
  • 450g currants
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g raisins
  • 50g glace cherries, rinsed and finely chopped.
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 3 tbsp brandy

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/4 grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 mixed spice (includes cloves and cinnamon)
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50g almonds
  • 1 dessertspoon black treacle
  • grated zest of one orange and one lemon
  • If glazing: Around 110g of fruit and nuts, such as glace cherries, chopped almonds and walnuts.
Mix all the dried fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, cherries, peel/zest) together and stir in the brandy. Cover with a tea-towel, and  leave for 12 hours.
The next day, preheat the oven to just gas mark 1/140 C. Sift the flour, salt and spices together at least once, lifting the sieve high to aerate the flour. This is a cake that can become pretty heavy, so getting as much air into the mix as possible will bring a lighter texture to the cake.
In a separate clean, large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in a smaller bowl or jug, and add slowly to the butter and sugar a spoonful at a time. If added too fast, the eggs may curdle, creating a heavier, but no less delicious, cake.
When the egg has been beaten in, gently fold in the flour, using a spatula or pallet knife NOT a wooden spoon, which is too thick and will crush out any trapped air.
Now fold in the dried fruit, which should have absorbed all the brandy, chopped almonds, treacle and zest. Carefully spoon out the mix into a greased and lined square or round tin, smoothing over with the back of a spoon or spatula.
If decorating with fruit and nuts, decorating in any pattern you like. Cover the cake in a double-layer of grease proof paper, with a small slit in the middle to let steam out. This protects the top of the cake from the long cooking period.
Bake on the lowest shelf, checking after 4 1/2 hours, although it may take up to an hour longer. The cake should feel firm, and an inserted skewer should come out clean. Leave to cool fon a rack or 30 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely. Finish by poking with a skewer and 'feeding' with a tablespoon of brandy.
Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store in a cool place, feeding occasionally.

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