The mixing, making and eating of traditional Christmas bakes is one that transports you to a calmer world, a world that revolved around the culture of making. There was something special about only tasting something you loved, just once a year. Those days have in many ways been eroded away, my husband saw hot cross buns in the supermarket last week! With the modern way of doing things, time pressures and in some households the old fashioned know how, is disappearing. Some years we have bought the traditional bakes but most I like to get the children involved and we bake: Kourambethes – Greek Shortbread.
Christmas cake is one of those traditional bakes, in my recipes the fruit is cooked and seeped overnight, which plumps up the fruit to glistening baubles of sweetness. But Christmas cake can be a little like marmite, you either love it or hate it. With age I have mellowed whereas in my youth I couldn’t eat a morsel. This recipe is so good that I can now eat a slice with custard, cream or ice cream. I add quite a few nuts which adds a wonderful luxurious richness and a crunch to the moist cake.
Over the years I have used a Christmas cake as a gift for elderly neighbours (checking first that they enjoy it). I make different sized round tins or some years I have even made it as a tray bake and given different sized pieces to different sized households. I am very impatient, so baking in this way negates the hours a huge tall cake takes to bake.
- 1kg dried cake mix
- 200g glace cherries (I used 100g chopped dates and 100g soft prunes chopped as I don’t like glace cherries)
- 250ml (1 cup) port or dry sherry
- 150ml apple juice
- 45ml black treacle
- 250ml (1 cup) brandy (125ml for the cake, 125ml for feeding the cake when it is cooked)
- 250g butter
- 250g soft brown sugar
- 5 extra large eggs
- 360g (3 cups) plain flour
- 7.5ml (11/2) teaspoons baking powder
- 10ml (2 teaspoons) mixed spice
- 5ml (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
- 5ml (1 teaspoon) ground ginger
- 2.5ml (½ teaspoon) ground cloves
- 100g chopped pecans
- 100g whole peeled almonds chopped
- Extra brandy for feeding your cake (if you have the time and you like a boozy cake)
- Extra brandy for feeding your cake
- Combine the cake fruit and the cherries or dates and prunes which ever you prefer to use in a large pot with the port, apple juice treacle and half the brandy.
- Bring to boil and then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid the mixture burning.
- Remove from the heat and cover with a tea towel and leave the fruit to infuse overnight.
- The next day preheat your oven to 140°C, 120°C for Fan Ovens and Gas Mark 1.
- Line the base and the sides of a 23 cm cake tin with parchment paper.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition, the mixture may look like it has curdled don't worry.
- Stir in the dry ingredients, add the nuts and then add the cooled fruit.
- Spoon the mixture into the cake tins and bake for 4 hours or until a cake skewer inserted come out clean.
- See note if you are baking smaller cakes, bake the cakes for 35 minutes to an hour and when a skewer is inserted it should comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes in the tins.
- While the cake is cooling add the brandy to a pan or microwave it till it is warmed through and pour the brandy over the cake or cakes.
- Allow the cake to cool completely and wrap in baking parchment and foil and store in airtight containers until needed.
- Feed your cake with a few tablespoons of brandy every week, if desired it is not essential.
- Decorate as desired.
I lined a small and a medium cake and a loaf tin.
The up side of cooking the different sizes is that the cakes cook within 35 minutes to 1 hour, which is a great time saver.
Merry Christmas and happy baking.