Quick and Easy Christmas Cake
“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”
~ Charles M. Schulz
Did Christmas sneak up on you too this year? One minute it was 2012, and now it seems a whole year has flashed by and I missed it!
Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding is usually an elaborate ritual in our household, but this year I was too unwell, and then suddenly BANG! I’d run out of time to make my usual recipes.
This Christmas cake tastes just as good as the one that takes me a whole week to make, and the ingredients list is only a quarter of the length of my traditional one. But that doesn’t matter. No-one will know. They’ll just be impressed that you made this yourself. Santa will be happy with the slice you leave out for him (don’t forget some carrots for the reindeers – although Harry and Bert tell me reindeers adore dog treats!) and this cake makes a thoughtful gift for friends and family too.
You can also reheat slices to substitute for a traditional Christmas Pudding.
Yes – fast, versatile, simple and yummy. This recipe is a clear winner!
1 kilogram mixed dried fruit; 200 grams of glace cherries or glace fruit of your choice; 250g butter – cubed; 1/4 cup of rum, sherry or brandy; 1 cup water (use a little extra water if the fruit looks quite dry; 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1 x 395g tin of condensed milk, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar; 4 additional tablespoons rum, sherry or brandy; 1 teaspoon vanilla essence or good quality paste if you have it, 2 cups of plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon mixed spice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind. Blanched almonds and/or cherries to decorate if desired.
This cake is already egg free.
* alcohol-free: substitute strong tea for the alcohol
*gluten-free: simply use gluten-free flour instead of plain flour. It cooks up beautifully as a gluten-free cake but do make sure your fruit mixture is quite moist as gluten-free cakes tend to dry out more
*nut-free: omit almonds and use glace fruit to decorate cake instead.
If you have the luxury of time, put your mixed fruit into a large bowl and pour the 1/4 cup of rum, sherry or brandy over and leave for several hours, stirring every so often.
If time is of the essence place your mixed fruit and glace cherries into a large saucepan. Pour over the quarter cup of alcohol and soak for 30 minutes. (If you’re in a super rush, you can omit this stage.) Then add the chopped butter, water and Bicarb Soda and bring to the boil, stirring often so nothing sticks to the bottom. When it has begun to boil turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. This takes a few hours and plumps up all the fruit beautifully.
When the mixture has cooled preheat your oven to 150 degrees celcius or 300 degrees fahrenheit – you want a slow oven so the cake cooks through thoroughly without burning or drying out. If you have a fan-forced oven drop this temperature to 140C or 275F.
Prepare a large 9 inch/22 centimetre round or an 8 inch/20 centimetre square tin by double lining it with baking paper, letting the paper come five centimetres or more above the top of the tin to prevent the top of the cake browning too fast.
(I have also given cooking times for smaller tins below in case you choose to divide the mixture and make smaller cakes for gifts.)
While the oven is heating, add your condensed milk, vinegar, two more tablespoons of alcohol and the vanilla, stirring well. Just mix it straight into the big saucepan. That way you only have one pot to wash up! The mixture may foam a little – don’t panic, this is normal. Then sift your flour, baking powder and spices into the mixture and stir through until combined. Taste the raw batter and adjust spices if necessary. You mixture will be thick and you’ll need a strong arm.
Spoon the mixture into the tin or tins. Wet your hand and then press down lightly on the mixture to smooth it out and make the tin evenly filled, ensuring the mix is pressed in well into the corners. You can also raise the tins up about 6 inches and drop them onto the bench to help get rid of any air pockets.
Decorate the top with almonds and cherries. I like making flowers but you could also do simple rings of nuts and cherries. Be creative – that’s half the fun of baking!
Place your cake in the oven and follow the baking times below, using a skewer to test of the cake is done about ten minutes before the time is up. Poke the skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is ready, if mixture still adheres to the skewer bake a little longer.
3 x 8cm by 25cm tins – bake for 50 minutes to one hour
2 x 12cm x 23cm loaf tins – bake for one hour and twenty minutes
1 large round or square tin – bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes to two hours (test for doneness)
When you pull the cake from the oven pour the remaining alcohol over the top while the cake is still warm. Then cover with a clean tea towel and leave to cool in the tin before removing.
Store in an airtight container, or wrap in plastic wrap and then tin foil. Excellent keeping qualities, and may also be frozen. (But seriously, it won’t last that long…)
For presentation, you can wrap a pretty ribbon around the outside of your cake on Christmas day. But we never seem to quite get to that…
Oh, and a word of warning. Santa has been known to sneak over early and cut a big chunk for himself, as well as drinking all of the milk you would have used in your morning cuppa so HIDE THIS CAKE if you expect problems of that nature. :)