I’m a little late this year with getting the Christmas Cake in the oven! Christmas Cake in October you ask!?! Well, this Christmas cake requires a few months brewing in brandy to get the full, decadent, rich, Christmassy flavour. In an ideal world, I have this behemoth all baked and wrapped in mid September so that it can enjoy several alcoholic binges before getting consumed. I make a big cake, because A) I ADORE Christmas Cake and B) My friends all adore it too, so this is a fab cake for slicing into mini slabs and gifting.
My absolute favourite Christmas cake ever was made by my Nana. I’ve never had anything quite as fabulous as hers, not even a Michelin Chef’s version. Sadly she died before I discovered my love for baking and the recipe has gone with her. The closest one I’ve found is made by Delia (The ORIGINAL Domestic Goddess I must add!!!) although her recipe has way too many raisins, currents and sultanas for my taste and far too few of the good things. I usually do her scaled up version, and this year I’ve substituted a load of the fruit of grape origin with extra whole cherries, dried cranberries and crystallised ginger. I’ve also substituted in whole Macadamia nuts instead of almonds, because that’s how my Nana made hers. We won’t know how it turns out till the Yuletide season, but here, in the interim, is the recipe to get you started on your own boozy behemoth. Be warned, this will probably trash your Kitchen Aid and is, in any case, too big for the bowl. Do it in batches with the final mixing by hand. This is where husbands are useful.
1.8kg of mixed dried fruit of your choice.
I used 1kg of mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, current and mixed peel), 200g of crystallised ginger, 200g of dried cranberries and 400g of whole glacé cherries.
6 tablespoons of Brandy
450g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon mixed spice
120g whole macadamia nuts
450g soft brown sugar
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of black treacle
grated rind of 2 lemons
grated rind of 2 oranges
The night before, soak all your fruit in the brandy in a large mixing bowl with cling film or a lid to keep in the booze. I strongly recommend thoroughly washing out a clean bucket or washing up bowl because even my massive Mason Cash mixing bowl isn’t big enough to mix this beast. A small trowel might also be useful. Last year we broke four wooden spoons. They were all admittedly flimsy IKEA ones.
The morning of, take out your butter, cut it into chunks in an enormous mixing bowl and leave on the counter, covered, to come to room temperature. Get those eggs out onto the counter too, so that they’re also at room temperature.
Grease and line your 25cm square cake tin. It needs to be a good 8cm deep. Tie a collar of a double layer of brown or greaseproof paper round the outside of your cake.
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C (275F). I only do this once I’ve creamed the butter and sugar to avoid it being at temperature for an hour and empty.
Put the treacle in the warming drawer.
Sieve the flour, salt and spices.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Your stand mixer or hand beater will really help here, but I managed to do this by hand last year. Spouse’s arms were spaghetti afterwards hehehe.
Beat up your eggs and add them incrementally to the creamed butter mixture. Literally, a tablespoon at a time. If you can’t stop the curdling, add a little of the flour, but it won’t cause your cake to be a failure I promise. Mine curdled after the first spoon of egg last year, I couldn’t save it with flour and the cake was still fabulous.
Once the egg is all added, gently fold in the flour and spices. The folding is really important to retain all that airy fluffiness in your creamed butter and eggs, although I still haven’t figured out how to gently fold over 4+ kg of cake mix.
Stir in the soaked fruit, the nuts, the treacle and your grated lemon and orange rind.
Spoon the whole lot into your cake tin and spread it out evenly. I dropped some whole almonds on top of mine. Cover the top with a double layer of paper with a hole cut roughly 2cm in diameter in the middle.
Bake for 5 and 1/2 hours on the bottom rack of your oven. After 4 hours you can have a peek and rotate the tin.
Once its done, cool for roughly an hour in the tin and finish off on a wire rack. Once cooled, wrap it up well in a double layer of grease proof paper, a layer or two of foil and store in a nice airtight Tupperware or cake tin. Feed weekly with brandy. Pricking the surface with a toothpick helps the cake to suck up the Brandy like a thirst starved desert wanderer encountering a fresh water spring for the first time in days. I’m admittedly a little generous with the brandy. Technically you only need a few table spoons of feeding, but I slosh on a good few tots.
The cake will be fabulously matured in 2-3 months! Enjoy it with a slice of lovely, moist, mature cheddar cheese!!!! You may think I’m crazy but you have to try it, it is amazing!!!! If you’re generous enough, you can slice this baby into 6 mini cakes and gift them.
If you like your marzipan and royal icing, there are a load of fabulous tutorials out there for icing Christmas cakes, I prefer mine plain. An alternative is to cover the top with nuts and glacé fruits and glaze!