When is the best time to bake a Christmas cake? The answer to that question is "right now!". The more time left to mature will give the cake a stronger aroma and richer flavour. In fact the answer is any time from September to December.
A traditional fruit cake mustn't be rushed. It needs slow baking, time to mature in a cool dark place and, every so often, a tot of brandy (or whatever takes your fancy) poured over the top. By the time Christmas comes you'll have yourself a delicious, moist, mature cake packed with fruit! Just think of it, tea and cake for days!
'Give us a recipe', I hear you saying, so here it is, the rich fruit cake recipe I've been using for my Christmas cake for the past 35 years.
This is suitable for an 8" (20 cm) round or 7" (18 cm) square tin.
450 g currants
200 g sultanas
200 g raisins
150 g glacé cherries
75 g chopped candied peel
75 g chopped blanched almonds
350 g plain flour
Pinch of salt
2.5 ml mixed spice
2.5 ml cinnamon
275 g fat (butter or margarine)
275 g soft brown sugar
5 large eggs
30 ml brandy or rum
Oven temperature 150 degrees C
Cooking time 1h 30 minutes (approximately).
Line the tin you've chosen with grease proof paper, set aside.
Crack the eggs in to a bowl and whisk lightly. Stir the brandy or rum into the eggs.
Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.
Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg mixture a little at a time, alternating with the dry ingredients until it is all incorporated and well mixed.
Add the fruit and nuts and mix well. You may find this part is easier by hand.
Now transfer the mixture to the tin, making sure the corners are well packed with the mixture. At this stage you can either bake the cake or leave it until tomorrow. A rich fruit cake doesn't rise so nothing can be spoilt here.
When you bake the cake have a cake tester handy as ovens vary a great deal, especially when doing a slow bake. The cake is done when the cake tester comes out clean (or you can no longer hear the cake sizzling).
Leave the cake to cool completely. Then, carefully, turn it out of the tin and spike the cake with the tester. Next brush over the brandy and when it's all soaked in wrap in a piece of foil and store in a cake tin in a cool dark place.
If you made the cake well in advance, brushing the cake once a month with brandy is sufficient, however, if your cake is made closer to Christmas then do this once every two weeks.
Keep an eye out for our next blog where I give a few pointers on how best to prepare the cake for serving. In the meantime, get baking!