As the Holiday season is upon us we have to get cracking on our Christmas cake. This has to be made at least 3 weeks prior to Christmas. Why, you ask? Well all Christmas cakes are made in advance that’s why. Many make them in November, keeping the cake upside down in an airtight container. A small amount of brandy, sherry or whisky is poured into holes in the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding” the cake.
I would like to be a Christmas cake too, wouldn’t you children?
Christmas cake is an English tradition that began as plum porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Soon dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture, and eventually it turned into Christmas pudding.
In the 16th century, oatmeal was removed from the original recipe, and butter, wheat flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together and in what resulted in a boiled plum cake. Richer families that had ovens began making fruit cakes with marzipan, an almond sugar paste, for Easter. For Christmas, they made a similar cake using seasonal dried fruit and spices. The spices represented the exotic eastern spices brought by the Wise Men. This cake became known as "Christmas cake."
Christmas cakes are made many different ways, but generally they are variations on classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy, leavened, unleavened, etc. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner's sugar or plain.
The traditional Scottish Christmas cake, also known as the Whisky Dundee, is very popular. It is a light crumbly cake with currants, raisins, cherries and Scotch whisky. Other types of Christmas cakes include an apple crème cake and a mincemeat cake. The apple crème cake is made with apples, other fruit, raisins, eggs, cream cheese and whipping cream. The mincemeat cake is made with traditional mincemeat or vegetarian mincemeat, flour, eggs, etc. It can also be steamed as a Christmas pudding.
This is the MOTHER of ALL FRUITCAKES!
All other fruitcakes are modified versions of this one. It comes right from the old sod merry old England.
I actually like my cake made in early December as it adds to that Xmas feeling of bustle. I also only ever bake it when the family is around the house, as the smell of it baking gives everyone a thrill of, ' ooooh what is that wonderful Christmassy smell?' You all know those smells of orange, spices, cinnamon and alcohol that recall times past.
Bonus plus point is if you’re baking in the kitchen you don’t have to actually talk to the family and you can have a crafty gargle on the side.
8oz plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
7oz dark brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp marmalade
¼ tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¾ lb mixed dried fruits
3 ½ oz chopped mixed peel
5oz glace cherries, halved
3 ½ oz blanched almonds, chopped
Brandy, some for the cake the rest for the Chef
To Decorate the Cake:
1-2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
3 egg whites
1lb 5oz icing sugar, sieved
1 ½ tsp liquid glycerin - optional
1 tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oven to 300F. Grease a 20cm/8inch round or an 18cm/7inch square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
Sieve the flour, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon into a bowl.
Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the sugar, treacle, marmalade and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.
Mix the eggs a little at a time into the mixture adding a tablespoon of flour mixture with the last amount.
Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well mixed and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries and the almonds.
Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and make a slight hollow in the centre.
Bake in the oven for 3 hours and then test with a skewer. If not ready bake for up to another hour testing every 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Once cool, make a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over 3-4 tbspof brandy. Let the brandy soak into the cake.
Store the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, holes side up.
OPTIONAL: For a rich and moist cake, spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy every week until you are ready to ice and decorate your cake.
To Decorate the Cake:
Place the cake on a foil board or cake plate.
Dust your hands and the work surface with a little icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.