Christmas cake 2015

IMG_20151122_181718[1]There are hundreds of different recipes out there, but having tried Nigella’s last year I think this is just about the easiest both in terms of shopping for ingredients and in baking it.  This is my take on it. Quantities below are for one small 18cm round or 15cm square cake.  If you double up the mixture this will make a 23cm round or 20cm square cake but will take much longer to cook.  Soak the fruit in any type of aromatic spirit (I used a mixture of Scotch and brandy as that’s what I had available!), or use bourbon if you want to go the full Domestic Goddess route. Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature before you start mixing – take them out of the fridge the night before. Nigella suggests adding a teaspoon of almond extract but I don’t think it’s necessary, especially if the cake is going to be covered in marzipan before icing. This is quite an easy cake to put together, but you do need to bear in mind that you need to start preparing the ingredients a good 24 hours before you’re ready to bake it.

  • 350g raisins
  • 150g currants
  • 50g glace cherries, cut in half
  • 75g chopped walnuts
  • 200ml whisky, brandy or bourbon
  • 150g butter
  • 90g dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle
  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • half teaspoon cinnamon
  • quarter teaspoon ground cloves
  • quarter teaspoon ground ginger

Put the raisins, currants and cherries in a small saucepan and pour over the spirit of your choice.  Bring the mixture to the boil then remoove it from the heat, give it a good stir, then cover it and leave it overnight.

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees C or gas mark 2.  Line your cake tin with a double thickness of greaseproof or baking paper.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream them together until the sugar granules have disappeared. Then mix in the grated lemon zest. Now add an egg and beat it in well.  Add a spoonful of flour, mix that, then add another egg and beat well.  Now add in the black treacle.  A good tip to get treacle out of the tin is to heat up the spoon over a gas flame fora few seconds, or dunk it in a cup of boiling water, before putting your spoon in the tin.  The heat will help the treacle slide off the spoon more easily.

Mix the flour, spices and ground almonds together in a separate bowl (you really don’t need to sieve flour these days, unless you’re still buying it from a grocer’s shop where they scoop out your flour from a big sack on the floor….).  Add a big spoonful of flour mix followed by a big spoonful of the soaked dried fruit and mix well. Continue like this until all the flour and all the fruit is incorporated.  Then add the chopped walnuts and give the mixture one last stir to distribute the nuts evenly through it.

Put the mixture into your cake tin.  A silicone spatula is a great tool for getting the last scrapings out of the mixing bowl.  Level off the  mixture in the tin as much as you can, then put it in the oven. A small 18cm round cake will take anything between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours to cook, depending on your oven.  A larger 23cm round cake will take about 3 hours, give or take 20 minutes either side. The easiest way to test if your cake is done is to stick a thin metal skewer right into the middle, leave it there for a few seconds, then pull it out. If the skewer has some sticky cake mixture on it, the cake’s not done yet.  If it comes out and looks clean, the cake is baked all the way through.  Take it out of the oven and brush the top with a tablespoonful of brandy or whisky, turn it out of the tin and wrap it up in a double layer of foil (you can keep the baking paper on it at this point).  The next day, take off all the baking paper and rewrap it in fresh baking paper, then put it in an airtight container.

At this point, your cake is ready for feeding.  Every so often,  unrwap your cake,  prod it all over with a skewer and brush over a couple of tablespoons of whisky or brandy, then wrap it up again .

A small cake will need one pack of marzipan to cover it – anything bigger may require two. You should put the marzipan on the cake a few days before you want to put the icing on.  Use a tablespoon of apricot jam, heated up and sieved, to brush over the cake before you put the rolled out marzipan on – it will help to stick the marzipan onto the cake.  Icing?  I cheat and use ready-rolled fondant!

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Molly Cake

At least one of your five a day,  and vegan too – no eggs, no added sugar, no added fat, just yummy.

  •  250g chopped prunes
  • 300 ml water
  • 85 g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 85 g wholemeal plain flour
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 400 g mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries – whatever you feel like)
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • 80 ml orange juice

900g loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C or gas mark 3.

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.  Chop the prunes (you can do this in a food processor) and put in a pan with the water.  Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and set aside.

Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large bowl.  Add the wholemeal flour, mixed fruit, walnuts and ground almonds.  Stir to combine.  Stir in the wet prune mixture and the orange juice and mix well, and spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. Get it into the oven as quick as you can – the baking powder gets activated by the liquid so you need to act fast to keep all the bubbles in the mixture to make it nice and light.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Turn onto a wire rack and cool before slicing.

This could be used as a vegan version of a celebration or Christmas cake – it’s quite dense, and will take marzipan and icing quite well as it doesn’t rise much.  However it won’t keep as long as a traditional fruit cake.

Microwave clootie dumpling

In honour of Burns Night, we made this and served it with a bucketload of custard.

  • 300ml water
  • 125g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 125g lard (you could use butter)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice
  • 450g mixed fruit – we used currants, sultanas and about 75g of glace cherries
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 beaten eggs

Put the water, sugar, lard, spices and fruit in a saucespan and bring to the boil gently until the fat has melted.  Set aside to cool for a little.

Meanwhile, line a microwavable pudding bowl with clingfilm. Sieve the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl, add the beaten egg and the cooled fruit mix and mix it all together until all of the flour is incorporated.  Pour it into the pudding bowl.  Cook it in the microwave for 9 minutes on full power. Do not cover the bowl while cooking.

Turn it out and serve it with custard, or cream, or whisky sauce.

The above quantity served about 13 but there was some left over (and we did have trifle as well…).