Christmas special - Cake

Did you know its only 38 days before Christmas? Its definitely beginning to feel colder and wintery and we might even get snow this Christmas! To be fair, I am hoping for snow every year, and so far I have only seen a white Christmas once in all my years of living in London. 

I love Christmas, I really do, and I love all the traditions and foods that come with it, and no Christmas is complete in our house without a Christmas cake. Now, this is a rather new tradition in our house, I’ve only been making a Christmas cake for the last five years or so. I am not a big fan Christmas cakes (or any fruit cake to be honest) that you buy in the shops. They are too sweet, too sticky, too artificial for my taste, I can taste the sugar grains and preservatives on my teeth. Which is why I decided to try making Christmas cakes at the first place – to see if the real deal is going to be any better, or maybe I am just not a Christmas cake person. 

Well, turns out I am a Christmas cake person, I am a “home-make, rich and deep and just-sweet-enough and super boozy Christmas cake” kind of person :) 

I always looked to Delia as THE master of Christmas cakes, and always based my recipe on her version. Every year I take Delia’s recipe and try something different, something new, something that will take it to a new level. Some years are more successful that others, and maybe in another 5-10 years I will come up with a recipe I stick with.

Christmas Cake 2017 
Boozy fruit 
400g currants 
170g sultanas 
170g raising 
60g mixed candied peel, chopped 
100g glace cherries, whole 
1 orange, zest only 
1 lemon, zest only 
 ½ cup brandy 

225g white flour, sifted 
1 tsp baking powder 
½ tsp salt 
¼ tsp grated nutmeg 
2 tsp mixed spice 
¼ tsp ground ginger 
225g unsalted butter, softened 
225g soft brown sugar
4 eggs 
1 Tbsp smoked treacle 
100g mixed nuts, roughly chopped 

You are looking to get 900g of dried fruit for this recipe – feel free to choose any combination you like – golden Turkish raising or dark French ones, cranberries or chopped date or figs or all of the above. Experiment as much as you want here, throw all your favourite fruit in until you find a mix you like. 
Same for the alcohol – original recipe calls for brandy, but feel free to use cognac or whiskey or bourbon or even rum – any strong dark spirit. 
Mix the fruit, orange & lemon zest* and alcohol, cover with cling wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 to three days, giving it a bit of a shake once-twice a day. 

* Use fruit juice from orange and lemon in Christmas mincemeat recipe or just drink it.

When you are getting ready to bake the cake, make sure you start in the afternoon – mixing won’t take long, but baking will – make sure that you have enough time. 
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl – flour, salt, baking powder and spices. 
In a separate bowl (large bowl) beat butter and sugar together until its light, pale and fluffy – use a mixer, it will take ages to do it by hand. Add eggs one by one, beating/whisking the mixture well between each addition to prevent the mixture from “splitting”. 
Fold in the flour mix, carefully mixing it with a spoon to avoid knocking out any of that air and fluffiness. 
Add the fruit, nuts and treacle and mix again until everything is thoroughly mixed through. The mixture will be quite thick, this is exactly what it supposed to look like. 

Preheat the oven to 140C and prepare a cake tin (I used an 8 inch round tin). Line the tin – bottom and sides – with parchment paper to make sure that the cake doesn’t stick. 

Transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out with a large spoon to achieve a flat and even surface. Make a slight dent in the centre of the cake, this will guarantee that the cake remains flat when it comes out of the oven, as cakes tend to rise and dome in the centre when they bake. 

Bake the cake on the second lowest shelf of the oven for 3 to 3½ hours. You will know that its ready when the cake is an even and deep golden colour and comes away from the sides of the tin. Leave the cake in the tin to cool down overnight. Next morning remove cake from the tin, discard the parchment paper and prepare a large, air-tight container to store the cake in. 
Wrap the cake in a large piece of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, and then in a layer of foil, leaving the top covered but easy accessible. 
Place the wrapped cake in the container and leave for 12-24 hours before giving it its first “feed”. Use a toothpick or a skewer to make lots of holes in the top of the cake – don’t be shy, make quite a few, it will help the “feeds” to absorbs into the cake. 
Carry on “feeding” the cake once a week until Christmas – pouring round 3 Tablespoons of brandy gently and evenly all over the surface of the cake. 
Again, use any kind of dark spirit you prefer – bourbon or whisky or cognac would work just as well. 

A week before Christmas decorate the cake either with Royal Icing or Nut Glaze – a decoration post to follow


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