I don’t actually like fruit cake!! I spend a huge amount of time preparing, baking and decorating a cake that I will not eat!
My Mum always baked our Christmas Cake and the smell makes me feel like a child again: dark evenings, crispy leaves on the way home frm school and that warm sense that Christmas was coming. I can’t imagine Bethany growing up without experiencing those smells!
So my Christmas cake is made largely for the purposes of nostalgia, so that I might pass on skill and tradition to my daughter and as an offering of love to visitors over the festive period.
I can never truly give you my Christmas Cake recipe as it changes every year! Every time I make it I change the ratios of the fruit or add/take away fruit; I also ‘feed’ the cake with a different tipple every year. I do this partly due to my belief that one day I will find a combination of ingredients that produces a cake that I enjoy!
It would appear that although I don’t like fruit cake, I am very good at making it: everyone else loves my Christmas cake!
So here it is; a combination of old family recipe, the influence of Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver and my own intuition. Brace yourself – it’s quite a list!!
You will need:
625g of dried fruit. (These could include; raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, dates etc )
200g cherries (glacé or cocktail or both)
4 medium eggs
225g soft brown or dark brown sugar ( depending on how dark/rich you would like your cake)
225g plain white flour
125g ground almonds
3 teaspoons mixed spice (if you love ginger or cinnamon then substitute some of the mixed spice and have more of what you like!)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg (or ground if it’s easier for you)
zest and juice of 2 citrus fruit (oranges and lemons work better than lime unless you’re feeding with rum)
2 large bay leaves
ALCOHOL! All spirits work (except vodka – never tried vodka)
- Weigh out your fruit and put into a large bowl
- Add bay leaves
- Add grated nutmeg
- Add the zest, juice and 1 teaspoon of spice
- Pour approx 100ml of alcohol over the fruit and stir
- Cover with a clean tea towel
- The fruit should be left to soak up the alcohol
- The next day add another tablespoon of alcohol and stir.
- Repeat the last step for 5 days – the fruit will begin to swell and the liquid that remains will begin to look ‘syrupy’.
- Preheat your oven to 150 or Gas mark 2
- Line your tin. This mix is best baked in a 20cm diameter round tin or an 18cm square tin
- To line your tin first smear (it’s an ‘icky’ word I know) your yin with a very thin layer of margarine, then cover with greaseproof paper. Cover the paper with another thin layer of margarine.
- Put the ground almonds in the bowl of soaked, dried fruit and mix until the fruit is coated.
- In another bowl cream together the margarine, vanilla essence and sugar.
- Add this creamed mixture to the fruit and combine.
- Whisk your eggs in a jug.
- Into a large bowl, sift your flour and the remaining 2 teaspoons of spice
- Slowly add spoonfuls of fruit mix and spoonful of whisked egg, stirring well after each addition.
- Spoon into tin.
- Create a newspaper collar for your cake as in the below picture, this will stop the top from burning whilst the centre cooks.
- Baking times vary from 2 hours to as long as 4! The best way to know when your cake is cooked is to listen to it – when the fruit stops ‘singing’ and hissing it is ready.
- Allow your cake to cool in the tin – I leave mine over night!
- Once removed from the tin, poke holes in the cake with a fork and spoon over a little of your alcohol.
- Wrap in Greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container.
- Once a week, remove your cake and ‘feed’ it by poking holes and adding more alcohol. I turn my cake as I do this to prevent a soggy bottom!!