I’m old fashioned about Christmas, I’ve mentioned it before, I don’t like Christmas to start until December and don’t really like to think about the things I need to do until after Ma’s birthday, 21 days seems to be a perfectly reasonable amount of time to me!
However, if you want to make Christmas cake, you have to start thinking about it early, you can’t make a good Christmas cake 21 days before Christmas. I have two Christmas cake recipes that I’ve used for the last 10 or so years. Delia Smith’s and one that came from a Sunday magazine (probably The Observer), I ripped the recipe out of the magazine and it’s now crumpled, stained and charred from me setting it alight!
For a good example of how to make Delia’s more traditional cake, go and have a look at Jenny‘s blog (the post is part one, so I expect that nearer Christmas, she’ll going to show how she iced it.) I decided not to make that version as I didn’t want an iced cake and I did want to eat it with Stilon. I know, Christmas cake and cheese, it shouldn’t work but it absolutely does, it’s an amazingly good combination that I learnt from Sarah’s friend Jude, who tells me it’s a Yorkshire tradition. This cake with figs and prunes in it, works well for eating with cheese and doesn’t need icing or feeding, but it does need some time to rest and mature in order to be good for Christmas. If you do it in the next couple of days, you’ll be just in time!
200g cherries in kirsch (I couldn’t find any this year and used some of the cherries I jarred in the summer)
100ml of the kirsch syrup
200g seedless raisins
400g pitted prunes, chopped
200g soft dried figs, chopped
zest of an orange
zest of a lemon
1 tablespoon brandy
175g plain flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
225g, unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
225g soft brown sugar
4 eggs lightly beaten
50g ground almonds
1 tablespoon of treacle
1) Place the cherries, kirsch, raisins, prunes, figs, zest and brandy into a bowl.
2) Leave for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so until the alcohol has been soaked up.
3) Pre heat oven to 140oC/gas 1. Grease a cake tin with a removable base (24cm across, at least 8cm deep) and then sprinkle with flour. Shake off any excess flour.
4) Sift the flour into a bowl with the spices, baking powder and salt and set aside.
5) In another bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until the mixture is fluffy and pale. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. (If it curdles, just add a little of the flour mixture and beat in until it’s all combined again.)
6) Fold in the flour and the ground almonds.
7) Mix in the treacle and the fruit.
8) Pour the mixture into the cake tin and loosely wrap with greaseproof paper.
9) Put in the oven and bake for 3 hours or so. Check at 3 hours by stabbing with a skewer, if the mix sticks to the skewer, put it back for another 15 minutes and check again.