I have reached the age at which I should make a Christmas cake – generally I buy a good quality, expensive Christmas cake, and then forget to serve it on Christmas Day. I then cut it into pieces and freeze them, eating it in small portions for most of the year.
Despite all this I decided that I had to start making an annual fruit cake. Over the past 2 years I have tried 2 cakes of different styles, firstly I chose a recipe that was someone’s traditional family recipe that had butter and a good selection of spices in it and it became my starting point and the second one was called Glad Shute’s Christmas fruit cake from the ABC web site, a boiled fruit cake that is far less complicated and tastes just as good.
Whenever I make any type of fruit cake I ignore the fruit list, just totalling up the weight and using that quantity of the fruit that I like to eat – no peel and yucky stuff in my cakes! This is what I did for each:
TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CAKE
- 1.4 kg chopped dried fruit – I used dates, sultanas, figs, apricots
- 350 g roughly chopped nuts – brazil nuts, slivered almonds, hazel nuts
- 1/2 cup or more of brandy (about 1 1/2 cups total)
- 250 g unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 5 eggs
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1/4 cup almond meal
- 1 tbs cocoa
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp allspice
- 2 tsp coffee essence
- 1/4 cup brandy
- additional brandy, port and/or rum – to pour over cake after cooking.
This takes 2 days to make – the first day is for chopping nuts and fruit and soaking it in the brandy. The second is for the cooking.
Day 1: Measure out the fruit and put it into a fairly large bowl, you need room to stir the fruit and brandy together. It is a seriously large quantity of fruit and nuts. Leave it to soak and stir regularly, adding more alcohol if it is still dry.
Day 2: Remove the butter from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature.
Prepare a 23 cm cake tin by lining it with a double layer of baking paper crossed over in the centre and let it extend up the sides, then wrap the whole pan in a double layer of brown paper, folding the edges under the tin. Tie this firmly in place with string.
Check there is enough space in the oven for the pan, rearranging the shelves if necessary. Heat the oven to 150ºC.
Cream the butter and sugar then add the eggs one at a time.
Sift the flour and spices together and mix 3/4 of it into the creamed mix.
Get a really big bowl (I use a dish-washing bowl kept for tossing salads) and mix the rest of the flour mix through the fruit and nut mix, then add the wet mix and stir well.
Pack the mix into the pan and decorate the top with any nuts left around.
Cook on the centre rack for 2 hours, rotating regularly. If the top starts to look brown cover it with a double layer of paper.
Continue to cook until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Check every 15 minutes until cooked.
Remove from the oven and pour 1/2 cup of brandy over the top and leave in the pan to cool.
When cool remove the cake and wrap it in foil then plastic wrap. It should keep for a month or two.
Each week add an additional amount of alcohol to the surface of the cake and rewrap it.
BOILED CHRISTMAS CAKE
Prepare the Fruit
- 1.375 kg mixed fruit (bag each of raisins, currents, glace cherries, some chopped dates, sultanas, apricots)
- 250g butter
- 1 ¾ cups of brown sugar (dark brown, or coconut sugar optional)
- 2 tbs golden syrup
- 1 tbs coffee and chicory mix (optional)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup of sweet sherry (rum or brandy – rum needs additional sweetener to compensate)
- 2 tsp of cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cloves
Make the Cake
- 4 large eggs (duck eggs)
- ½ cup sweet sherry
- 3 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tsp limoncello or lemon essence
- 1 tsp carb soda
- 1 tbs hot water
- 3 ½ cups plain flour
- pinch salt
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup whole blanched almonds
- 1 cup almond slithers
- 2 tablespoons sherry or rum
Prepare the Fruit
Put the “prepare the fruit” ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil, let simmer for about five minutes then turn off heat and leave to cool. This takes a fair while. (if using rum rather than sweet sherry add a cup extra of icing sugar – or to taste)
Make the cake
Prepare the tin as above – a 23 cm square tin will fill to the top.
When the fruit is lovely and juicy and cool, put it all into a bowl and add the whisked eggs, the sherry and flavours.
Dissolve the bicarb of soda in the hot water and stir that in to the mixture then fold in the flour, baking powder and nuts.
Put into the prepared tin, cover with a piece of baking paper and brown paper and tie on loosely.
Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for three hours rotating every 30 mins or so. Start testing with a skewer in the last hour to see if it comes out clean. If so remove from oven.
When done remove from the oven, pour the remaining half cup of alcohol over the top of the hot cake, it will just disappear with a sizzle. Put the paper back over it and leave to cool until it is cool enough to handle.
Wrap in a large bath towel and put into a bed (I did under the covers). Allow to cool in the tin, it takes at least overnight but this step seems to increase the moisture in the cake. Remove from the tin, leaving the silicone paper in place, then wrap in plastic wrap until needed. Freezes well – I prefer to eat cake from the freezer.