Christmas cakes are made in many different ways, but generally they are variations on the classic fruitcake.
They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy etc. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, royal icing, a dusting of icing sugar or plain.
The spices and dried fruits in the cake are supposed to represent the exotic eastern spices brought by the three Wise Men to the newborn King!
The fruit is all soaked overnight in the brandy, in a covered bowl, before use.
(This makes 1 x 9" Christmas Cake - so you can double the recipe if you wish)
150g (1 Cup) raisins
125g (3/4 Cup) stoned dates
125g (3/4 Cup) sultanas
100g (1/2 Cup) glace cherries
100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) Irish whiskey
(all the above are mixed and soaked together the night before you start making the cake)
225g (1 Cup) real butter
extra butter for greasing
200g (1 Cup) caster sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon & 1 orange
2tbls black treacle
225g (2 Cups) plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
50g ( 1/2 Cup) ground almonds
60ml (2 fl oz) Irish whiskey, extra
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), Gas mark 2. Grease a 23cm ( 9") cake tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Wrap some Newspaper around the outside of the tin and tie it with string, which will help the outside of the cake from browning too much during the cooking and prevent it from drying out.
2. Beat together, in a bowl, the sugar & butter until creamy. Gradually add the eggs, dusting a little of the flour in with each egg added. Add the black treacle & grated fruit rinds and mix.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, spices and the almonds into the bowl of pre-soaked fruit. Stir all of this together, mixing well.
4. Fold the fruit mix into the egg mix, stirring evenly. Spoon the completed mix into the cake tin.
5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 3 hours. If it is browning a little too much cover it loosely with tinfoil. Cook for another ½ hour. The cake is cooked when a fine skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean.
Make holes all over the warm cake with a skewer and spoon the extra 60ml (2 fl oz) alcohol over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. When it’s cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap first in clean greaseproof paper and then in foil.
A small amount of brandy, sherry or whiskey (depending on your favourite tipple) should be poured onto the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding the cake” and you have to make sure that you turn the cake over each week, when you pour another little bit of your favourite tipple over it.
This ensures that all that lovely alcohol penetrates to the very middle of the Christmas cake and definitely creates that extra "Yum!" factor on Christmas Day.
For more from Zack see www.IrishFoodGuide.ie