Stir-up Sunday Part Two Christmas Cake

I never have room for Christmas Cake on the day itself but it is an essential treat for the rest of the Christmas holidays and looks wonderful and inviting on the sideboard when you just fancy a little “something”.   It wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it.  The decoration of the cake can be completely personal and fit with your own style of Christmas. You can use different types of icing and make it either completely traditional or modern and contemporary.  Or even no icing at all and use marzipan and glacé fruits.  It’s completely up to you.  My friend Rachel has brilliant ideas each year for decorating her cakes (see below) – and her kids all join in too so it becomes a real family event

To make the cake itself is quite simple   As with the Christmas Pudding and mincemeat recipes, you soak the fruit overnight in alcohol and then the next day make the cake itself   The kitchen smells wonderful when you do get it into the oven and it kind of gets you into the Christmas mood and out of the “bah, humbug!” one that happens around Halloween and through most of November – though possibly that’s just me!!

The cake takes about 3.5 hours to bake and rather than put a circle of greaseproof on top of the cake itself I use a metal sheet that seems to come with modern ovens and Agas called a cold shelf and which stops things from becoming too brown   If you don’t have one then by all means put a circle of greaseproof with a hole cut in centre on top of cake mix before it goes into oven.  I also always put the cake tin on a baking tray in the oven to help it cook evenly

I warm the tin of black treacle by placing it in a saucepan filled with hot water from the kettle or by leaving it on back of Aga  as this makes it easier to get out of tin!  Finally my last tip would be to beat eggs in a jug to add to the creamed sugar and butter as this really does help the mix not to curdle as invariably happens when you crack in eggs one at a time

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Ingredients

  • 300g raisins
  • 300g sultanas
  • 200g currants
  • 100g glacé cherries, quartered
  • 100g ready-to-eat apricots, chopped
  • 3tbsps each of whisky, sweet sherry, sloe gin
  • 250g salted butter
  • 250g soft brown sugar (dark or light according to preference)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • zest of a lemon and an orange
  • 1tbsp black treacle
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 of grated nutmeg
  • 50g ground almonds

 Method

  1. Put raisins, sultanas, currants, glacé cherries and apricots into a bowl.  Stir in whisky, sherry and sloe gin.  Cover and leave overnight
  2. Set oven to 125c fan.  Put in baking sheet on bottom shelf of oven
  3. in mixer cream together butter and sugar till pale and fluffy.
  4. With mixer running slowly add eggs until thoroughly mixed
  5. Add the zests and black treacle and beat again (see notes)
  6. Remove bowl from mixer and with a spatula fold in flour and spices
  7. When almost all flour is incorporated, add the soaked fruit and mix again.
  8. Finally add ground almonds and give a final stir
  9. Put mix into a buttered and lined 8″/20cm tin and smooth top
  10. Put cake on top of sheet and slide cold shelf on top (see notes)
  11. Bake for approximately 3.5 hours or until skewer comes out cleanly
  12. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 30mins in tin before turning out onto rack and removing lining paper
  13. When cake is  completely cold wrap in parchment lined foil and store in cake tin until ready to marzipan/ice.

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