Christmas cake

How many different recipes are there?

I’ve been through my collection of cookery books and have found no less than six different recipes – all similar in some way – all different in others. One recipe bakes for nearly five hours, one for just two and a half.

Yes, I’m baking Christmas cakes. Today I’ve prepared and baked one for my boyfriend. Tonight I’ll put the fruit in brandy to bake another for A & I as a little gift for Christmas. Normally, I bake little baskets of mince pies, angel cakes etc. for my “nice” neighbours – but I think the “nice” ones will get Christmas cakes this year. Whether I actually get around to marzipan and icing is another thing!!

I’m also baking cookies for the office regularly…last week I did “Blooming marvellous brownies” and oat cookies… The oat cookies went down a storm – the brownies disappeared quickly (as usual) – but with only three/four of us in the office on a regular basis – I’ll have to halve the recipe – otherwise our team will all be lardy very quickly.

Good oat-based cookie recipes are most welcome! (i.e. wheat free please).

Recipe for Christmas Cake:

Source: Adapted from Delia Smith’s Rich Fruit Cake recipe

400g currants
250g raisins
200g sultanas
115g glace cherries, rinsed and quartered
75g candied mixed peel, chopped
5 tablespoons brandy
225g plain flour
quarter teaspoon salt
quarter teaspon fresh nutmeg, grated
half teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g unsalted butter
225g soft brown sugar
4 large organic eggs
50g almonds, flaked or chopped (your choice)
1 tablespoon black treacle
grated rind two oranges

My version differs slightly from Delia’s – as over the years I have played with it somewhat.

Still here goes: soak the fruits together in the brandy overnight to infuse that Christmas flavour. Then, when you’re ready to get going, line your cake tin with greaseproof paper. I do this cake in a 9-inch round cake tin, Delia says an 8-inch (20cm), but I’ve always found that too high up! 7-inch (18cm)square cake tin as an alternative.

Next cream together the butter and sugar. I do this in an electrical mixer – it’s much more efficient. Don’t skimp on this at all – this stage it’s important to get as much air into the mixture as possible.

In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and spices).

And in another bowl beat the eggs together. Start adding the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar mixture – just a little at a time, beating it as you going to ensure it’s thoroughly combined. if the mixture starts to curdle (it will, especially if your house is warm!), add a little bit of flour as prevention.

Next, fold in your dry sifted ingredients – a little at a time. Be sure not to beat this time. When well combined, add in your brandy-infused fruit, nuts, treacle and orange rind. Stir until you’re happy it’s combined, but don’t beat.

Transfer the mixture to your lined cake tin and spread evenly.

I always place a circle of paper over the cake with a cut-out for steam – to stop the top drying out too much. It depends whether or not you wish to ice the cake!

Bake in a low oven (gas mark 1, 140 centigrade, or 275F) for at least 4 hours. I nearly always give them 5 hours – but I tend to test the cake at 4 and a half (with a skewer).

Cool in the tin and when ready, unwrap from the greaseproof, wrap in foil and store until you’re ready to ice. You can feed the cake with more brandy – but I don’t find this necessary. I tend to bake these as gifts for people, and usually I make them a month in advance…with 5 tablespoons of brandy to start, you don’t usually need any more!

Good luck…

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