Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Chritsmas Cake - it's baking time

I have finally made my Winter Feast cake!

But Sparky, I hear you cry, it’s October!

I know, I know, I’m running late this year. I normally have all Yule, Christmas and Winter Feast cakes made in September. But it’s still a good time to get them baking.

I always make these every year partly because of Beloved. He used to hate Christmas cake because his family never baked them – they bought them. Nasty, dry things that they were. And then he ate, in order, my great-aunt’s Christmas cake and then my Christmas cake – he is now hooked and a huge cake

And partly because of said Great Aunt, master baker for near a century, who finally broke and asked how I made my cake. Victory parade, if you please.

Since I think Christmas cake – and fruit cake – is sorely undervalued I’m going to throw the recipe I use out there in the hope more people will make this unctuous, rich, boozy, heavy and EASY cake (sans icing since we won’t be doing that until December)

Note: this cake is very rich, very heavy, very boozy and has been known to pin people to their chairs, caught in the eternal torture of wanting to eat more of the lovely but possibly exploding if they do. If you want a lighter version of this cake, please go look up the meaning of the winter feast, put away the diet books and invest in some elasticated waist trousers. Lighter Christmas cakes indeed! *harrumph*

The night before, prepare the fruit:
Your ingredients (in metric despite my imperial scales):
420g of Currants
250g Sultana
250g Raisins
160g glace cherries
150g dried apricots
75g Candied peel
9 tbsp of Brandy (or more! I go more, often a lot lot more) Do not stint on the booze!)
3 tbsp of red sherry or ruby port (if you prefer a smoky – NOT peaty – whisky)

Put it all in a BIIIIG bowl, mix well so the booze can soak that fruit through and through – leave it over night to percolate. I’ve left it a couple of days before to really SOAK.

The rest:

280g Plain Flour
2-3 tsps grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
280g butter (softened)
295g Dark Muscavado sugar
5 BIIIIG eggs or 6 smaller ones (beaten)
80g whole almonds – chopped
2 tbsp black treacle
2 grated rinds of lemon
2 grated rins of orange.

Mix it all into the boozy fruit. Mix mix mix mix. Done. No, really – just shove all the ingredients in a bowl and mix – if you can use scales and turn a spoon, you can make this cake.

Set your oven to 140 (that’s Celsius. If you don’t work in Celsius – learn) Put in a greased tin and bake for FIVE HOURS. That is not a typo. 5 hours. This cake wants to bake forever!

When it’s done let it cool and wrap in paper and store in a cool dry place. Every 2-3 days from now until you ice the cake in mid-December you want to take it out, stab it with a thin skewer and drizzle more brandy into the cake. Don’t stint on the booze but don’t drown it. Keep feeding the cake until we finally ice it.

This is a BIG cake (about a 9” round tin). You may want to make a smaller one but remember – WINTER FEAST! GO GLUTTONY and just make a big one and eat it all. It also keeps forever and a day without going stale

A note on measures: I guestimate as much as anything. It’s a very forgiving cake – and, remember, MORE IS MORE, especially with the fruit, spice and booze. Winter Feast guys, don’t be stingy.

The icing is a nice simple layer of marzipan covered with a layer of diamond hard royal icing. Making it EVEN RICHER.