Making my own Christmas cake has been a tradition in my family going back many years which began with my mother using a recipe that her sister gave her. It uses the method of oil/sugar then eggs followed by the dry ingredients and that’s the method of baking that’s popular in Cyprus where my parents are from. But when I started high school and my Home Economics classes as they were known back then (Food Tech and Nutrition is what they are known as now) I insisted on taking over the job! So I’ve been happilly baking not just the Christmas cake but Christmas pudding and my own mincemeat for years now. I thouroughly enjoy Christmas baking day which usually starts in November, it fills the house with Christmas scents or as my children say “It smells like Christmas” and that’s because of the spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, oranges, lemons and lots of rum or brandy. Over the years, I have tried many recipes in particular recipes from my cooking hero Delia Smith or Queen Delia as I affectionately refer to her as because she is just that, a culinary Queen. I still love her 1990 Christmas cookery programmes, yes they’re a bit dated now but so what.
As I’ve left it a bit late this year to bake my cake, I’m sharing with you a Christmas Cake recipe which can be made last minute and even if you don’t manage to feed the cake, it’s ok because the addition of ground almonds will keep the cake moist. Next Christmas, I will share a few more Christmas cake recipes that you can make well in advance, even as early as October. You can use all manner of nuts but I am sticking to almonds because my daughter has an allergy to other tree nuts. You can use ground almonds as in the recipe or grind your own nuts such as 100g of hazelnuts instead, it’s an adaptable recipe, however I find pecans and walnuts too oily. Instead of flaked almonds, you can substitute with chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts. You can even use dried blueberries in the mixed fruit, you don’t have to necessarily buy a ready mix of dried fruit as long as it’s a total of 1kg. I know it’s tiresome to double line your tin but this part is so important to protect the cake from burning and overbaking, you must also use brown paper to layer the outside of the tin to protect the cake. Follow these simple rules and you’ll have a fabulous cake to eat on Christmas day and beyond.
The alochols that I use in this cake, apricots come ready chopped from Waitrose making the prep a little bit easier.
The fruits will look like this after simmering for 5 minutes, leave overnight. Below, all the ingredients ready for mixing.
The tins will look like this after lining.
The cake after baking above and below, wrap the cake in baking parchment and foil and don’t forget to feed once a week.
- 500g ready mixed dried fruit Any type
- 100g dried cranberries
- 100g dried blueberries
- 100g chopped dried apricots
- 100g medjool dates, chopped
- 50g glace cherries, chopped rinse first
- 50g dried mixed peel
- 1 large orange, zest and juice
- 1 large lemon, zest and juice
- 100ml brandy
- 100ml dark rum
- 250g 1 pack butter
- 175g plain flour
- 200g dark brown sugar
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g flaked almonds or other nuts such as walnut, pecans or hazelnuts which come pre-chopped if you don't fancy chopping!
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg or allspice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
Put the dried fruit, zests and juice, alcohol and sugar in a large pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer the mix to a large bowl, cover and leave overnight to macerate.
2.) The next day, heat the oven to gas 2 or 150 C, lower to 130 if your oven is fan assisted. Line a deep 20cm round or square tin with a double later of baking parchment/greaseproof paper and wrap a layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin, tie with string to secure - you may need to borrow someone's finger to help you do this!
3.) Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add to the fruit mix followed by the dried ingredients (all the spices, vanilla, baking poweder & flour) stir really well so everything is incorporated and there are no pockets of flour. Tip into prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and place in centre of oven. Bake for 3 hours but check after 2 hours and 45 minutes as some ovens bake quicker. If skewer comes out clean from centre of the cake and it has come away from sides of tin, cake is done.
4.) Remove cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over some brandy and rum. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
5.) To store, peel away the baking parchment then wrap well in more parchment then foil and remember to feed cake with alcohol every week.
Things to remember about making a Christmas cake is it's long slow cooking, some recipes are as long as 4 or 5 hours therefore lining the tin twice with baking parchment and layering the the outside of the tin is so important. A variety of fruit, nuts and alcohol can be used, experiment! Even if you make the cake 2 weeks before Christmas, don't forget to feed it with more alcohol and if you don't don't worry, the addition of ground almonds keeps the cake moist.
Marzipan a week before Christmas remember first to use seived warm apricot jam so the marzipan has something to stick to. Ice two days before Christmas as this allows the marzipan to dry out a bit. Go wild with the icing, use your imagination. You can make royal icing or use ready rolled fontant.
Just some of the ways you can ice your cake, below are two of my creations from previous years. I’m likely to use the holly design this year with red berries this time because I think it will look particulary effective on a square cake which is what I’ve made this year.
DeliaSmiths two Christmas books below are my treasured possestions in cookery book terms. They’ve inspired me to cook some wonderful dishes, cakes and desserts over Christmas especially the green book which was her first Christmas book from 1990. I’ve made so many dishes from this book especially goose. I hope you try the cake, it’s so easy to make, happy baking.