I've had a couple of requests for our Christmas cake recipe and I'm happy to oblige. This cake is really easy to make, it's full of dried fruit and nuts - so you might already have the makings in your pantry, and it will keep for up to three months - but if it lasts that long, I'd be amazed. It's also versatile. You can ice this cake and make it into a wedding cake, eat a slice with butter on it, or pour a good egg custard over it for a delicious dessert. We have it here with a cup of tea and as I bite into the moist fruit and crunchy nuts, the taste of brandy on the top tells me it's Christmas time. Naturally, if you're serving this to children, you'd leave the brandy off the top but any alcohol in the cake itself would be cooked out to leave just the taste without the alcohol. It's an easy cake to substitute ingredients if you're short on one thing, so if you wanted to leave out the alcohol, you could easily use fruit juice instead. This is a real traditional seasonal treat. I hope you enjoy it.
Oh, and when I looked up my recipe book, it's not called "deliciously moist fruit cake" as I described in my previous post, but:
DELECTABLY RICH FRUIT CAKE
1/3 cup pitted prunes, halved
1 1/2 cups sultanas (golden raisins)
1 1/2 cups currants - I used 3 cups of mixed fruit for these two
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup brandy - I used mostly brandy. If you don't want to use alcohol, use fruit juice. I also added pomegranate juice to mine. Whatever you use, you'll need one cup of liquid.125 grams|1 stick butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup plum jam - I used lingonberry jam
1 cup plain|AP flour
3/4 cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg - I didn't have mixed spice so I used 1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups glace cherries
1 1/2 cups halved dates
1 cup mixed dried peel
2 cups walnuts - I used half and half walnuts/pecans
Combine prunes, sultanas|raisins and currants in a bowl and pour in the sherry|brandy|fruit juice. Stir, cover with a tea towel and leave overnight for the liquid to soak into the fruit.
The next day:
Grease 23cm round cake tin and line with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar in a small bowl, add eggs one at a time and beat each one in before adding the next. Transfer mixture to a larger bowl, stir in combined coffee, water and jam, then the dry ingredients in two lots, mix well before adding the second lot. Add prune mixture, cherries, dates, peel and nuts to the mix and combine well. Add to the cake pan and smooth the top. If you want to add decorations to the top, like I did with the cherries and almonds, add them now before it goes in the oven. Bake in a slow over 170C|340F for about two hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Don't overcook it, you want a moist cake not a dry one. If you want to pour brandy or sherry over the top, do it when it's hot from the oven. The cake just soaks it up. Otherwise, heat two tablespoons of apricot jam or orange marmalade in the microwave and brush it on when the cake is warm. You'll get a beautiful shiny cake.
Hanno and I have not only test tasted our little cake, we've finished it and eaten one slice of the big cake. Yep, it's delicious. I have seen these cakes made up as several small cakes, decorated with a Christmas ribbon, wrapped in plain brown paper and given as gifts. They're always appreciated because people think they're really difficult to make. As you can see by the above, they aren't and it's a very forgiving cake. It takes substitutes well and even new cooks can make a silk purse with this cake.
Generally, this cake would be made during November, cooled completely, then wrapped in parchment paper then aluminium foil, and stored in a cupboard, or fridge if you're in a humid climate, to mature and bring out the flavours. It's like a relish - the flavours improve when it's left to mature. But even if you don't do that, even if you eat it the next day, I'm sure you'll love it. Just don't be surprised if you notice the flavours improve each day it if takes a week or two to finish it.
Thanks to everyone who helped out with comments yesterday. I received another email from the young woman this morning - she's very grateful for the help we gave. She and her husband will be travelling away to their parents for Christmas and using the time to work out a strategy based on what they read. :- )
Tomorrow we'll be bottling our ginger beer.