Traditional Christmas Cake – Make and Mature

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“I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!”
~ Carolyn Wells

 

I have so many fruit cake recipes, but if you have the time this one delivers a perfect Christmas Cake that is moist, dense and flavoursome. This one’s called a ‘make and mature’ because it needs to be made at least a few weeks before Christmas for the flavours to develop, and so that you can ‘feed’ the cake extra alcohol (or tea if you prefer) to make your Christmas just a little extra special. In fact, if you’re organised you can make this cake up to six months in advance. But hey, it’s only early November and you can go get the ingredients and have this knocked up over the weekend.

I’ve already made several of these cakes as gifts, and I still have a few more left to make. I’m sure Santa will also appreciate you leaving a generous slice out for him on Christmas Eve. It’s not a difficult recipe at all – it just needs a little time and care and you’ll end up with great results too! 🙂

Ben’s also glad that I’m blogging this recipe, because he insisted that we must cut one cake early for ‘quality control and photo opportunities’. It was delicious, eaten with a cup of tea on the veranda during last night’s storm!

Ingredients:

  • 1.2kg of mixed fruit of your choice ( good combinations include raisins, currants, sultanas, mixed peel, glace cherries, cranberries, prunes and dates – but use what you prefer. I often buy a kilogram bag of mixed dried fruit and then add a 200g bag of glace cherries.)
  • 1/2 cup of your choice of either dark rum, brandy, sherry, whiskey or very strong brewed tea
  • zest and juice of two oranges
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
  • 3 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (add 1/2 if you really like cloves!)
  • 250g salted butter, softened to room temperature (*See note below)
  • a little extra soft butter to grease the cake tin
  • 200g of soft brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of treacle (if you can’t get treacle use 250g of brown sugar)
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 200g of plain flour
  • 100g of flaked almonds or your choice of chopped pecans, walnuts or macadamias (you can also omit if you don’t like nuts)
  • extra rum, brandy, sherry, tea or whiskey (you might like a little, or a lot!)
  • optional – glace fruit such as cherries and blanched whole almonds to decorate top of cake

*If you live in Australia or somewhere tropical where the ambient temperature is quite warm as we get closer to Christmas, don’t let the butter get too soft. While you don’t want your butter hard as a rock, because it won’t beat up to a nice cream with the sugar, if it’s too soft it will all end up like soup. 

Method

Soaking the fruit:

Sort through dried fruit and remove any stalks, stones or other debris. This is worth doing as I have, on occasion, found small stones, stem and seed fragments in my fruit. If you are using glace cherries or other larger fruit chop them into smaller pieces.

Place the dried fruit in a large bowl. Grate the zest of the oranges, and then juice them. Add the zest, juice and alcohol or tea to the fruit. Stir well and then cover. Leave to soak for a minimum of 12 hours, or up to a week. Stir now and again so that everything is well soaked and plumped. If all the liquid has been absorbed feel free to add another slug every so often.

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On the day of baking:

Prepare your tin or tins by double lining them 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 like to trace the shape of the bottom of the tin and cut two liners, and then make a collar from a double folded piece of brown paper or baking paper – cutting a small frill of 2cm cuts on the bottom edge to help the paper fit neatly into the pan. Grease your tin, place the first liner, then the collar, carefully pushing it into place so that the frilled edge overlaps the bottom liner, and then place the top liner in the tin to help hold everything together. It might seem like extra effort, but double lining your tin helps stop your cake from burning or drying out. If you’re making one big cake, use two sheets of brown paper or newspaper, wrap then around the outside of the tin and secure with string. Don’t use tape as the heat will cause it to fail!

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Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celcius  (300 degrees fahrenheit or gas mark 2) or 130 degrees celcius (275 degrees fahrenheit or gas mark 1) if you have a fan forced oven.

I have given cooking times for a range of tins  in case you choose to divide the mixture and make smaller cakes for gifts. I’ve also made Christmas cakes in cupcake papers (use 2 for a double liner) and these are just lovely as cakes for one!

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 one hour and twenty minutes

2 x 12cm x 23cm loaf tins – bake for 2 hours

1 large round or square tin – bake for 3 hours

Individual cupcake size cakes – bake for one hour

Method for Cake:

Make sure that you have a bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients for mixing.

Beat the butter using an electric mixer until it is soft. Then add the treacle and brown sugar and beat until it is creamy and lighter in colour. Add the vanilla, and beat again, and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look a little curdled by the end, but I promise it’s fine, so don’t panic.

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Tip in the fruit and any dregs of liquid from the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle in your spices. Then tip in your nuts if you are using them.

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Sift the flour over the top and using a large spoon or a clean hand gently fold it all together until it is well mixed.

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Carefully spoon the mixture into your prepared tin/tins.

Lift each tin about three inches from the bench and then drop it down. Do this a couple of times to get out any air bubbles. Smooth the top of the cake with the back of a spoon or your clean wet hand. If you are using cherries, nuts or other glace fruit place them on the cake now and press down slightly so that they don’t dislodge after baking.

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Bake cake for appropriate time or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven. Tip a generous tablespoon of alcohol or tea over the cake straightaway. (Two tablespoons if it is one big cake.) It will fizzle and sizzle, but that’s fine. Cover with a clean tea towel. Let the cake cool in the tin. This will take several hours. Then feed the cake just a little more alcohol, and leave for an hour to let that soak in.

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Carefully remove from tin, and take away lining papers. Wrap cake in greaseproof paper and foil, or cling wrap. Store in a dark place and feed a little drizzle more alcohol every week to two weeks until Christmas.

Serve and share!

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Last-Minute Christmas Cake Recipe – Quick and Easy

Quick and Easy Christmas Cake

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!

Ingredients:

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.

 

Dietary Variations

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.

retro-christmas-santa

Method:

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.

marinate fruit

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.

soaked-boiled-fruit

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…)

christmas cake

 

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. 🙂boiled-fruitcakes