Well, it’s that time of year folks. I’m sorry to mention the C word so soon but if you want a deliciously tasty fruit cake adorning your table this Christmas, we’d better get baking.
It may seem early but baking your cake now means it will have plenty of time to mature, resulting in the tastiest cake you’ve ever made. Just make sure you wrap it up tightly in greaseproof paper and foil, storing it in a cool, dark place.
The recipe I like to use is by Delia Smith. I have adapted it to suit my tastes as I don’t like candied peel or chopped almonds in my cake.
You will need;
A 20cm round or an 18inch square tin, greased and lined with a double thickness of baking parchment. Tie a band of brown paper round the outside of the tin for extra protection.
50g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
3 tablespoons brandy
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g unsalted butter
225g soft brown sugar
1 dessertspoon black treacle
the grated zest of 1 lemon
the grated zest of 1 orange
The night before you want to bake the cake, weigh out the dried fruit and place it in a mixing bowl. Add the brandy, as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and the fruit to absorb the brandy for at least 12 hours.
Next day preheat the oven to 140C/gas mark 1 and measure out the rest of the ingredients.
Now begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up to give the flour a good airing. Next, in a seperate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it’s light, pale and fluffy.
Now beat the eggs in a seperate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture, a tablespoon at a time; keep the whisk running until all of the egg is incorporated. If you do it this way the eggs shouldn’t curdle but don’t worry if it does, it won’t affect the taste. When all of the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices using gentle, folding movements and not beating at all( this will keep the air in). Now fold in the fruit and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.
Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon.
Finally, cover the top of the cake with a double square of baking parchment with a 50p -size hole in the centre. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 41/2-43/4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched.
Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
When it’s cold, ‘feed’ it by inserting tiny holes all over the cake with a skewer. Then gently drizzle the brandy over the top. Wrap it in double baking parchment secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight tin. You can now feed it every few weeks until you need to ice it.
The smell of all of the ingredients combined in the bowl is amazing. The combination of the mixed spice, nutmeg, brandy and orange just oozes Christmas to me. I can’t wait to share more festive recipes with you all but for now, remember to feed your cake and I will show you how I decorate this nearer to Christmas.
Keep your eyes peeled, as my home made Christmas mincemeat recipe will follow in a couple of weeks.