It’s raining here and I have just baked my Christmas cakes. As usual, I have far exceeded the amount of alcohol stated by the recipe. I have also changed the types of fruit, nuts and cooking time until it looks nothing like the original. I have tried to convince myself that the first time I make a recipe, I will follow it to the letter, but it’s like ‘breaking up’ - hard to do. I always feel that if I just tweaked it that little bit…. usually, everything is fine although there have been a few spectacular disasters over the years. Here is my recipe for Christmas cake, it has gone through many incarnations but this is not the version that we had to drink through a straw!
NIRALA’S CHRISTMAS CAKE
I included some pitted and chopped prunes and figs for their sticky factor and some red and orange fruits for colour as well as the sultanas and currants. This year I have lots of home dried plums which add a lovely purple colour and some finely chopped crystallised ginger to zip it up. The choice and proportions of fruits are up to you but please chop the larger pieces to no larger than a raisin.
1C each of brandy and sherry or fruit juice Use a LITTLE more if you need to (see below.)
1.5kg dried fruits
125g butter at room temperature
½ C brown sugar
¼ C strong espresso coffee, cooled
¼ C marmalade or jam
1 C plain flour
1 C self raising flour
1 Tbsp cocoa or carob powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp nutmeg
2 C pecans or walnuts
Soak the fruit in the juice or alcohol in a bowl covered in plastic wrap until you are ready to bake. Stir once each day.
On baking day drain the fruit in a colander over a bowl. If all the liquid has been absorbed, pour a LITTLE extra over the fruit and save the delicious brown, sweet and sticky stuff that ends up in the bowl. You need about 2 tablespoons.
With butter, grease a large round spring form or two smaller pans and line with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar till pale in colour and stir in eggs, one at a time, until combined.
Mix the coffee and the marmalade and stir this in too.
Sift the dry ingredients and stir in two lots until combined.
Finally add the soaked fruit and call the family for a stir for good luck.
Pop into the pans and level the top. Decorate with whole blanched almonds at this stage if you don’t want to ice them later.
Bake in a slow oven, 160 C if you can. If cooking more than one cake, put them all on the same oven shelf so they will cook evenly.
A large cake will take from 90 minutes to 2 hours. If it is becoming too brown on the top, cover with foil. I make 3 small cakes and they usually take about 50 minutes. The cakes are cooked when a bamboo skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean.
Brush the tops of the cakes with the reserved liquid while hot to form a nice sticky glaze.
Cool in the tin before wrapping in plastic wrap and storing in box or tin with a tight fitting lid.
These will keep for three months if you hide them really well. Some recipes tell you to pour a little extra alcohol over the cake after baking but I prefer to drink mine or save it for the Christmas pudding.