In fact, to my mind, I am actually late! For what, you ask. Christmas, I say. More specifically Christmas Cake, the traditional fruit, soaked in alcohol, version.
In years past I have made my cake at the end of September and then spent the next few months feeding it before marzipanning and icing it in mid-December. A rich fruit cake can be made 2 to 3 months in advance and kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Feeding a cake means that once every few weeks you make holes in the cake using a skewer and then pour an amount of alcohol over it, before re-wrapping.
The recipe I always use comes from a cake decoration cook book that I purchased way back when! But the recipe works every time, albeit I always need to cook it for longer than suggested. I even used the same recipe to make my friends wedding cake!
You need a little time for this recipe as you should ideally start it the day before you want to actually make the cake mixture to allow the fruit to soak in the alcohol overnight. Once the mixture is in the tin, the surface can be covered with clingfilm and stored in a cool place overnight if cooking is not possible on the day (there are no leavening agents to worry about). However, do remember to allow for a longer cooking time as the temperature of the mixture will be colder.
I know that a lot of people don’t like fruit cake, but this recipe offers a moist cake with the delicious spices and and flavours of Christmas and is a must in my house. The instructions below are for an 8″ round or 7″ square tin, but if you want the recipe for another size tin let me know as I can provide details for a 6″ round, all the way up to a 13″ round tin!
- 325g raisins
- 250g sultanas
- 175g currants
- 150g glacé cherries (the bright red cocktail ones)
- 50g cut mixed peel (I omit this in favour of more cherries!)
- 50g flaked (sliced) almonds
- 2 tsps lemon rind
- 2 tbsps lemon juice
- 3 tbsps Brandy or Sherry
- 275g plain flour
- 2.5 tsps ground mixed spice
- 65g ground almonds
- 200g dark brown soft sugar
- 200g butter or margerine, softened
- 1.5 tbsp black treacle or molasses
- 4 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 275F degrees and prepare the cake tin by double lining the inside of the tin with greaseproof paper, and the outside with a double thickness of brown paper. This will prevent the outside of the cake from bing overcooked.
- In a large mixing bowl place the raisins, sultanas, currants, glacé cherries, mixed peel, flaked almonds, lemon rind and lemon juice together with the Brandy or Sherry. Mix all the ingredients together until well blended, then cover the bowl with clingfilm. Leave for several hours or, ideally, overnight.
- Sift the flour and mixed spice into another mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, sugar, butter (or margerine), treacle (or molasses) and eggs. Mix together with a wooden spoon, then beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth and glossy.
- Gradually add the mixed fruit to the creamed mixture and fold it in, using a spatula, until all the fruit has been evenly blended. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread it evenly. Give the tin a few sharp taps to level the mixture and to remove any air pockets. Smooth the surface with the back of a metal spoon, making a slight depression in the centre.
- Bake the cake in the centre of a pre-heated oven. Test the cake to see if it is cooked 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time (total 2.5 to 3 hours for a cake of this size). If it is cooked, the cake should feel firm and a fine skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. If the cake is not cooked, re-test it at 15 minute intervals. Once cooked remove from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin.
- Once cooled, turn the cake out of the tin but do not remove the lining paper as it helps to keep the moisture in. Using half the quantity of alcohol as used in the recipe, spoon over the top of the cake and then wrap it in a double thickness of foil.
- Store the cake in a cool, dry place on its base with the top uppermost for a week. Unwrap the cake and spoon over another half quantity of the Brandy or Sherry. Re-wrap the cake well and store it upside down, so that the Brandy or Sherry moistens the top and helps to keep it flat. The cake will store well for up to 3 months; if it going to stored for this length of time, add the Brandy or Sherry just a little bit at a time at monthly intervals.
I have a cake decorating “bake off” with one of my friends in the UK so I will provide an update once decorated so you can see the finished result too!
Merry early Christmas! 😉