I know that the prepared amongst you will have been knee high in steeping fruit for weeks, and that your beautiful star-of-the-show Christmas cakes will be stacked up to your ears. I’m not in this position. In fact, I have never quite understood the notion of baking a cake then not eating it for weeks and weeks. Especially in this case, as the cake could be woefully lost in my race to eat ALL the food on Christmas day. It would be one more regret on a long list as I lay on the sofa unable to move away from Christmas tv. It deserves more than that.
So I have a different approach to Christmas cake. I make sure that there is a near continuous supply in my house from around this time (Christmas for me starts on 10th November, the day after my birthday) until Christmas eve. It is constantly in a production/consumption cycle. It is there for the beloved visitor, it is there to be taken to work on a sludgy Monday, and it is there to revive oneself post the ‘I forgot to get wrapping paper’ melt-down. In short, it is a winter time staple in this house; like candles, blankets, and Night Nurse, I could not get through the season without it.
Here is the recipe, which is my own take on one originally found in Mary Berry’s ‘The Aga Book’. This recipe is for a 18cm round tin (equivalent to a 15cm square tin), but if you wish to make it in a larger tin, just let me know what size and I can give you equivalent weights and measures.
100g Glacé cherries (whole, halved or quarter, as you wish)
1 Orange (large)
100g Dark brown sugar
2 Eggs (large)
25g Chopped almonds
1/2 tblsp Black treacle
50g Self-raising flour
50g Plain flour
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 – 4 days in advance: weigh the fruit into a bowl or container (the fruit will need to be covered, so a dish with a lid is ideal; clingfilm is the other option). Grate in the rind of the orange, then add the juice. Finally, add the sherry. Leave this to soak together for a few days, stirring daily.
Then, on the day you are going to make your cake, start by lining (bottom and sides) your tin with greased baking parchment. Then heat the oven to 140C / gas 1.
Add the margarine, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds to a large bowl and beat them all together until smooth and wet.
Add the flours and the mixed spice and mix well.
Tip in the soaked fruit and all their juices and sherry, and stir until they are evenly spread.
Spoon or pour the mix into your prepared tin, and level out the top with the back of a spoon or a spatula.
Place the cake in the middle of the oven and leave to cook for anywhere between 1 and 3 (or perhaps even more) hours. This has to be a bit of a judgement call, as at such low temperatures, cooking times can really vary; try spearing a skewer into the centre or the cake to see if it comes out clean (although beware that this is a very moist cake, and you may have pierced a juicy cherry).
Serve with tea, cheese or a festive tipple; either way enjoy!
I would LOVE to see some photos of your Christmas cakes, or festive treats. What are your wintertime staples?