Christmas Cake

Sparkly Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

Every family has their own recipe for Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding.  Our recipe evolved following a very boisterous party on Boxing Day which required a hefty cake, smothered with plenty of Christmas spirit.  There are particular additions to our cake that in my opinion sets it aside from the ordinary; there is fresh, grated green apple, glace pineapple, lots of nuts and plenty of Brandy.  I also tend to add a larger volume of prunes and other very soft dried fruits to make the cake especially moist.  We have also tended to add less traditional dried fruits such as dried cranberries and candied figs – which used to be hard to find however are now available everywhere.
Traditionally, we bake our cakes in a domed mountain (up turned stainless steel mixing bowl), again, slightly eccentric, but in keeping with that great Victorian-era fashion for Christmas spectacle and indulgence.  Additionally, I tend to leave my cakes to cook extremely slowly just as I am going to bed, so that I can pop them out in the morning and douse them in Brandy while they are still warm.  I also tend to make a Christmas Spirit mix to pour over my cakes, which I have provided below, though it is not strictly essential.

The recipe below is a little labour intensive and there are oodles of ingredients, however the flavour and moist texture is second to none.... if I do say so myself... for me this recipe is filled with all the elements of Christmas joy, if you have the time to make it, I promise you won't be disappointed.
This recipe will make two generous cakes, or one whopper. Alternatively, divide the mixture into smaller cake tins or even large muffin trays to give as Christmas gifts – the cakes last incredibly well..Christmas Cake

1 cup each of raisins, currants, halved glacé cherries, mixed peel, chopped dates
1 ½ cups sultanas
1 ½ cups maraschino cherries (or one large jar – reserve the liquid)
1 ½ cups prunes, pitted and halved
½ cup dried apple, finely chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup candied figs, finely chopped
¼ cup candied ginger, finely chopped
2 green apples, grated
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle, seeds intact
2 tablespoons golden syrup or black treacle for a richer cake
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
2 teaspoons each of cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves, nutmeg
2 star anise and 4 cloves – to avoid losing them in the mix, add them to a tea-ball
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
4 cups self raising flour
1 cup ground almonds
200 grams butter
½ cup of milk
1 cup blanched almonds, toasted
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
1 ½  cups Brandy or Bourbon
1 cup of Sherry or Kirsch
½ cup Cointreau

Firstly prepare the boiled fruit :
In a very large heavy bottomed saucepan or stock pot, add all the spices, the vanilla pod and the fresh zest.  Add the salt, bi-carb soda, water, juices and Brandy.
Bring the heat up until the spices start to release their oils and perfume.  Add the dried fruits and coat them well in the spice mix and bring to the boil.  Allow to boil for at least five minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking and to distribute the spices evenly.
Add the grated apple and reduce to a simmer.  Turn off the heat add the sherry and Cointreau and stir through, leave the fruit to cool at room temperature for at least an hour, if possible overnight . 
Once cool, remove the star anise and cloves before proceeding with the cake.

Pre-heat oven to 175°C

For the cake batter:
Cream the butter with the sugar until very fluffy and the sugar is dissolved.  Add the golden syrup or treacle.  Treacle gives a deep slightly bitter flavour to your cake and has a very full bodied sweetness.  I used treacle this year and my cakes have an almost coffee/toffee flavour which I highly recommend. (I always bake a little test cake or pudding before proceeding to the big fellow to see how the flavours are working, this allows me to make last minute adjustments without having a nervous breakdown and re-baking kilos of cake on Christmas Eve)

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition then add the milk.  Fold through the almond meal and add the flour, combing it well.   The batter should be fairly thick and robust, if it is too runny additional flour may be required. Stir through the nuts and ensure they are evenly distributed.  
Stir the boiled fruit through the batter, ensuring an even consistency and distribution of fruit.

Christmas Cake

Line your baking tins with 2 layers of baking paper or the traditional buttered brown paper.
Pour your cake mixture into the prepared tins, covering the top with 2 layers of baking paper.
For a large cake, bake for around 3 hours, or until a skewer can be removed cleanly.  As these cakes do not rise a great deal, it is safe to check them fairly regularly once they are close to being cooked.
Once cooked through, remove from the oven, however leave the cakes in their tin.  Pour over half a cup of Christmas Spirit (or Brandy, Sherry, Amaretto or similar).
If possible, leave the cakes in their tins until the day you are going to eat them, regularly topping up the spirit.  Alternatively, remove from the tin and place in an air-tight container.  Occasionally sprinkle over a little extra Brandy to keep the cake extra moist.

I'll let you in on a secret.... if you steam this mixture in a traditional pudding mould it makes a fantastic pudding, so really you get double value from this recipe!