I baked Christmas Cake!

It may come as a shock to some of you, but my favourite cake in the entire world is not chocolate cake. As good as chocolate cake is – after all it does contain two or sometimes three of the basic building blocks of a healthy food pyramid: chocolate, cake and icing – it quite simply does not compare to home-made Christmas Cake. It’s chunky, it’s heavy,  it’s filled with fruit and it’s covered with two different kinds of sugar paste; what’s not to love? (I would like to make a special mention to Stollen and Panetonne – the not quite Christmas Cakes – for being almost equally awesome, though sadly less likely to give you some sort feeling of discomfort after you’ve eaten them, which completely defeats the point.) Just one slice will crush you and your appetite like it’s an oppressive dictator and you’ve been writing naughty things about him on toilet walls around his country, but you’ll love him for it and that’s not even the brainwashing talking!  Even better is the way it just seems to last and last and last forever. If you’re feeling a little bit peckish when March rolls around, well, don’t you worry because you can help yourself to a slice of Christmas Cake!!!

Every year since I can remember my mum’s made a Christmas Cake that would stupefy and feed a respectably sized horde of ravaging Mongolian warriors and we’ve spent the next couple of months steadily working our way through it. We’ve got pictures from two Christmases ago, when we made a particularly impressively sized cake, of a giant slab of cake and white icing taking up the greater portion of our kitchen table and my sister looking thoroughly dwarfed next-door to it. I took a good couple of kilos of the stuff back to uni with me and I honestly don’t know how I would have survived without it.

This year it seems that the tradition has passed down to me as I’m the one who has far too much time on their hands and just spends it messing about in the kitchen anyway. What I have here is our family’s secret recipe, if you want to you can make half or a quarter of the recipe and it’ll turn out fine, but I’ll think much less of you as a person. Sadly some of the final stages can’t be replicated outside of our house because without the strange little Mini-Santas to go on top and a whole elaborate story to go behind their positioning each year it just isn’t quite the same, but here’s the recipe for everything else…

Christmas Cake!!! 

20oz of plain flour (a recipe so traditional it comes in archaic measurements…. yessss!)

pinch of salt

1 tsp of baking powder

2 tsp of cinnamon

2 tsp of mixed spice

2 tbsp of cocoa powder

8 oz of flaked almonds (optional, but only because my sister doesn’t like them)

1 lb of butter

1 lb of soft brown sugar

8 eggs

2 lemons

2 tbsp of treacle

half a cup of some sort of spirit (last couple of years we’ve been using Grand Marnier)

5 1/2 lbs of dried fruit (this year we’ve got about a pound of dates, a pound of figs, a pound of glace cherries,  two pounds of mixed sultanas, raisins and currants and half a pound of mixed peel, it changes round a lot, but just put in what you like)

First off, sift together all the dry ingredients into the biggest mixing bowl in your house; we’ve got a bunch that are about the same size as our sink and they work nicely. Chop all the dried fruit into chunks and mix it with the dry ingredients and mix it around until all the fruit is evenly coated with flour mixture. This takes much longer than you think it would… be warned.

Now would be a good time to turn your oven on to 150 degrees C… or gas mark 2 if you’ve actually got a stove with gas marks… I wish I did.

Put the butter in a second chunky mixing bowl and then warm it in the microwave until it’s softish. Cream the butter with the sugar and then beat in the eggs one at a time. Take as much of the fruit mixture as will fit into the bowl and mix it around until it’s even, then put it all back into the big big mixing bowl and give it a good stir round. Don’t worry if it’s not completely mixed in and it’s really really thick, if your arm’s feeling a little tired then feel free to skip to the next step.

Add the alcohol, the juice and grated zest of the lemons and treacle. This should make the mixture a little more easy to combine and should give it the texture of cake mix rather than hot concrete. Make sure you mix it really well so you don’t end up with chunks of cake an uneven mix of fruit or cake. Imagine the horror around the Boxing Day table when it’s revealed that little Timmy got ALL the cherries AGAIN.

Line a big big cake tin or a roasting tray or something big with greaseproof paper and give a quick rub of butter before piling all of the cake mix into it. Spread it round so that it’s even and then pop it in the oven for an hour.

Oh oh oh oh, you didn’t think it would be done already did you? Your house may well be smelling wonderful by this point, but don’t let that fool you. Turn the heat on your oven down to 140 degrees C or gas mark one and let it cook for 3 hours more. Stay near to the kitchen and if it smells like burning then rush in and cover it with tinfoil and put it back in the oven.

Now it’s ready to come out of the oven, give it a quick check with a toothpick just to make sure that it comes out clean in the middle (put it back if it doesn’t) and put it on the side to cool.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’ve weeks to go till Christmas, but I’m baking it now. Readers who think I’m considerate may think that I’m posting this recipe now in order to give people time to find the necessary 5 or 6 hours to bake in their hectic seasonal schedules. Readers who know me better realise that I’m only doing it now so that it can mature… and by mature I mean get slowly filled with alcohol by me and a fork and a bottle of Grand Marnier. If you really want a Christmas Cake that Jesus would be proud of, then you quite simply have to keep it covered, poke holes all over the top of it and pour a tablespoon or so of alcohol every few days. I can’t think why you would ever not do this… if you’re considering missing it out then I know your type… you’re thinking about making a half sized recipe, aren’t you? Shaaaame shaaaaame on you!

I’ll bring you the icing stages as they happen, so stay tuned and until then Happy Baking!