remind me again why i wanted to make christmas cakes this year?! i don’t know what possessed me. i have spent the whole day wrestling with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of christmas cake batter. ok, so i decided to double the recipe so i could give some to friends, but the sheer volume of the resulting mix is verging on the ridiculous. i’ve made 3 (smallish) cakes, 24 cupcakes and there is STILL more to go. arrrgh! the remaining batter is now sitting in its bowl out on the balcony, which acts as a handy refrigerator (sometimes freezer) this time of year, while i decide what to do with the stuff. most likely i will make one more cake. but then that’s it! i don’t want to see any more fruit cake, let alone eat any. so, guess what all my friends and rellies are getting for christmas this year……
i made this cake last year, using the rich christmas cake recipe from my beloved edmonds cookbook. the only bad thing was that i didn’t make enough – by the time i had divvied it up amongst our nearest and dearest there was abut a tiny sliver left for us. hence my decision to make double the amount this year, to avoid such disappointment. the cake itself is a typically fruity christmas cake. i’ve only ever made this one, so i’m not sure how it measures up against other recipes, but it tastes really good to me. i love fruitcake, especially with home-made custard.
i had to fiddle with the recipe a bit because some of the ingredients aren’t available here, like currants, or are tricky to track down, like crystallised ginger. so i ended up taking the total weight of fruit and making up that amount with whatever i could get my sticky hands on, for example, substituting figs for dates, cranberries and apricots for some of the measure of currants etc etc. i had to use the biggest bowl in my kitchen, the big red enamelled bowl i use for making zopf. it’s an especially enormous one, because making zopf involves large amounts of dough. bruno’s parents found this one at a market and gave it to me. it is specifically for making zopf (it has zopf-esque pictures all over the outside) but today it came in very useful for wrangling with a few kilos of dried fruit, peel, butter, flour, sugar and eggs. when i finally came to mix all the components together i needed two hands to steer the wooden spoon through the goopy mix. man, was it tough going! i broke out in a sweat. crazy.
actually, the other thing that drove me crazy with this cake-baking was the lining of the cake tins. because the cake is so heavy, it takes ages to cook, 3 or 4 hours. so you need to line the tin well so the cake doesn’t scorch. this means two layers of brown paper and then one of baking paper. silly me cut them all out individually, then tried to put it all together. the tin lining took one whole night! i meant to bake the cakes on monday night but all i ended up doing was lining the tins. after i finished baking tonight i cut out the papers for the last (phew) cake to be baked tomorrow. i laid them all out on top of one another and cut the shapes out like that, aided by a few handy blobs of blu-tack to keep it all straight. voila! i have made a large note to myself just in case i am foolish enough to try this again next year. although, i have made bruno promise not to let me make christmas cake again. it has taken me the better part of a week to get this far. and i still haven’t finished!!!!!
note to self: take some photos of darned cake, for posterity.
if anyone should care to attempt this cake, this is how it goes:
rich christmas cake (double this recipe if you dare: i did, and only just lived to tell the tale)
1 3/4 cups of orange juice
3/4 cup dark rum or brandy
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 cups sultanas*
2 cups chopped dates*
150g crystallised ginger*
150g mixed peel*
150g glace cherries, halved*
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp almond essence
2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup blanched almonds
2 1/2 cups strong flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (i had to use my last packet of brown sugar that michael so kindly brought over from london for me last year, cos non-granulated brown sugar ain’t available here)
2 tablespoons treacle
extra blanched almonds for decoration
*like i mentioned before, i couldn’t find any currants, so filled in the measure with figs, apricots and cranberries. at least it made it more colourful! also, i used far less peel, mostly because i don’t like it too much. again, i just made up the weight with more fruit.
– place dried fruit and peel in a huge bowl.
– bring orange juice, brandy/rum and orange zest to the boil in a saucepand and htne pour over dried fruit. mix and leave to marinate for a night, or two or three (as in my case). stir the plumped up fruit and juicey mix every so often – doesn’t it smell great???!
– when you are ready to proceed with the rest of the cake making, prepare your tin/s. this recipe is supposedly enough for a deep, square 23 cm tin, but as i said before, i doubled this recipe and it made enough fruitcake to feed a small army. the 3 small cakes i made were my usual 18cm ones, so perhaps you could manage those from this recipe, or maybe only two. anyway, decide what tins you will use and then line them with two layers of brown paper and one of baking paper (the mix goes onto the baking paper, NOT the brown paper)- i suggest laying out the papers on top of each other and then cutting. the reason i made so many cupcakes was because it was so incredibly easy to line the tins – shove a foil-lined patty case in there and yr done. i spent a long night cursing at curly brown paper and unruly baking paper.
– mix essences, lemon zest and almonds into fruit mix.
– cream butter, sugar and treacle until light and fluffy. add eggs one at a time, beating well after each (note: i was one egg short when i made the cake today, but it still seemed to be fine)
– sift flour, soda and spices and fold into butter mixture.
– fold butter/flour mix into fruit mix. use those muscles!
– spoon cake batter into tin/s. arrange extra almonds on top in nifty patterns.
– bake at 150°c for 4 hours (less for smaller tins) or until it can be cleanly skewered.
– wrap immediately in tinfoil and leave until completely cold.
– when cool, remove from tin, spoon over a couple of tablespoons of brandy/rum, then wrap in foil once again. store in a cool place for a couple of weeks for all the fruit, spices, alcohol, and zest to mature. then, eat with a good home-made custard, or icecream, or whatever.
-alternatively, you could keep the cake until next year, which is what i may end up doing if i can’t offload all of the fruitcake that is taking over the house. just spoon over some brandy every once in a while to keep it all succulent. ooh, actually, that sounds like a rather good idea….
hopefully by tomorrow i will have rediscovered my love of fruitcake. then i shall have a christmas cupcake with a cup of tea and write a note to myself warning me not to attempt such foolhardiness again. festive biscuits are so much easier!!!!