I am a freelance writer living in Gloucestershire. I have been writing family style articles in the form of columns for newspapers since 2000 and spent four years presenting an interview chat show on Forest of Dean Radio.
Published November 19th 2012
Warning: Cake contains alcohol and is seriously addictive
You need to make the Christmas cake Mum" said 18 year old. "If you don't make it this weekend, you won't have time to feed it before Christmas." Feeding the Christmas cake is an excellent time honoured tradition in our house and one to which we all, especially our adult children, reverently subscribe. "It makes it moister" I hear. "Perhaps one more feed before you ice it?"
Now it has to be said that my Christmas cakes are moist without any additional brandy. It is a Christmas cake recipe that I have adjusted and adapted, and have rolled out year on year. I have occasionally dipped into Delia, have flirted with Nigella, but have always come back to my old faithful recipe, which works for me, every time.
It's said by the experts, that you need to make the Christmas cake months in advance, for full maturity purposes. But I am not an expert. I am a Mum, who cooks, and once a year makes a Christmas cake. That said, I have made it early sometimes. Last year we celebrated a big wedding anniversary, and so I used my Christmas cake recipe to make a huge cake. I bought a big new baking tin for the purpose. Hubby, being the mathematician of the two of us estimated that I needed four times the mixture. "Surely not" I said. "That will be too much." But...he is the mathematician and so I took his word for it. I had to get out the most enormous receptacle possible to stir the mixture, and I struggled. In the end it was mixed - but too big for the tin. So big, that I had a ready made Christmas cake, five months in advance.
The latest that I have made the cake has been the day before Christmas Eve. Bit of a rush that year: made the cake on 23rd December; out of the oven in the middle of the night; doused with much brandy and marzipanned on Christmas Eve morning; iced on Christmas Eve evening.
And then there is the eating of the cake. My Mum has always liked it with a cup of tea in January. Ours never seems to last into January, however hard I try. Perhaps we need two. One for when all the festivities are over. On the other hand, that might cause a riot, given that by January 2nd everyone in the house is on a diet.
In the meantime, if you want a fail safe Christmas cake recipe, this is it.
12 oz/ 330g butter or margarine 12 oz/ 330g dark soft brown sugar
12 oz/330g sifted plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons black treacle
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 lb/ 1320g mixed dried fruit *
3 oz/75g blanched chopped almonds
5 oz/130g halved glacé cherries
Grated rind of 2 lemons
Grated rind of two small oranges
Brandy for the all important "feeding"
4. Add the eggs, one at a time and use a little flour each time if necessary to avoid curdling.
5. Add a pinch of salt.
6. Fold in the flour and the spices with a metal spoon.
7. Add the treacle and the lemon juice.
8. Add everything else except the brandy.
13. Cool in the tin overnight.
14. Prick the cake all over and feed with approximately 4-5 tablespoons of brandy.
15. Wrap in foil and store in an airtight tin. Feed with more brandy from time to time, according to taste.
Fruit which contains mixed peel has always been a bone of contention in our house. One year Eldest Son found a large packet of mixed peel in the cupboard. It was intended for baking purposes. He threw his hands up in horror and said to the others: "You know those bits that we always pick out of the dried fruit packets? Well Mum's only gone and bought a giant sized pot of them..." Personally I like mixed peel, but the cake works with and without.
p.s. Warning: this cake does contain alcohol and nuts.