Like I do every year, I started making the Christmas cakes in September as is tradition. I macerated the fruit for a week, then began the mass production of wheat and dairy free cakes. I made 4 successful cakes in total, but I messed up the first one by accidentally mixing baking powder into the flour by force of habit; that one we're eating as a tea brack.
I've always loved Christmas cake, and this year it's just as delicious as ever. I did, however, subsidise some of the sherry with cold strong tea to make it go further, as I was macerating 4 pounds (2 kilogrammes) of fruit in one go to make a load of cakes.
They have gone into storage, wrapped in cling film then tin foil, to mature until December when I will cover them all in marzipan and icing.
Here is the recipe for the cakes, it's a slightly modified version of last year's one (not much, just a little)
☑ Soya (check for soya lecithin)
☒ Alcohol (use ingredients in italics for an alcohol-free version)
☒ Nuts (use ingredients in italics for a nut-free version)
Makes 1 8 inch (20 centimetre) round cake
For the fruit preserve:
- 4 ounces (115 grammes) dried currants
- 4 ounces (115 grammes) raisins
- 3 ounces (85 grammes) sultanas
- 3 ounces (85 grammes) glacé cherries
- 1 ounce (30 grammes) candied mixed citrus peel
- 1 ounce (30 grammes) slivered almonds
- For a nut free version, simply replace that ounce (30 grammes) of almonds with another fruit of some sort.
- 1 ounce (30 grammes) brown sugar
- 1¾ fluid ounces (50 millilitres) rum, spiced or plain
- 5 fluid ounces (150 millilitres) dry sherry
- For an alcohol free version, just use 7 fluid ounces (200 millilitres) cold strong tea instead of the rum and sherry.
For the cake mixture
- 4 ounces (85 grammes) butter or block margarine
- 4 ounces (85 grammes) soft brown sugar
- 2 medium eggs
- 4 ounces (115 grammes) white spelt flour or gluten-free flour mix
- 1 ounce (30 grammes) ground almonds
- For a nut free version, just replace this with an ounce (30 grammes) of cornflour
- 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence or almond essence
First mix all the fruit preserve ingredients together in a glass or ceramic bowl. Mix thoroughly, and leave somewhere cool (but not in the fridge) for a week before preparing the cake, stirring daily. For best results, the cake should be made at least a month before serving, so by extension the fruit mixture should be prepared about a month and a half in advance.
When the fruit has soaked:
- Prepare your cake tin. Grease and flour the inside, and then double line the bottom and sides with baking paper. Preheat the oven to Preheat your oven to 150°C (300°F, Gas Mk.2, or moderately cool) and set the rack in the centre of the oven with plenty of room to spare from the rack above it.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla or almond essence, and then the ground almonds.
- Sieve in the flour, spice and salt and mix in until the flour has just disappeared.
- Add the fruit preparation and combine thoroughly.
- Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 1½ hours.
- Start checking for doneness after about an hour and a quarter. The cake is baked when a skewer inserted into the thickest part - usually the middle - comes out completely clean. If it isn't, continue cooking but don't cook for more than 1½ hours in total; it'll be dry and chewy.
- Once cooked, allow to cool completely in the tin before taking out and transferring to a wire rack.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR: Free-From Gingerbread Men