the christmas collection 2012 - traditional christmas cake

I’ve been making some form of Christmas Cake since I was 16. Once I found this recipe, which I adapted from a recipe I found in the Good Cook, Cakes and Pastries book published by Time Life, the finished cake was so moist and fruity there was no reason to look for another.

Now I realise not all countries have adopted the fruit cake with as much enthusiasm as the UK and other Commonwealth countries. I think that’s a bit of a shame, as a well made fruit cake is a lovely thing. A badly made fruit cake, I agree, is a bit of a nightmare. The cake is baked for a long time in a low oven, so protecting the cake from the heat is really important otherwise you'll end up with a dry cake.

I’d love to say that the recipe is foolproof, because it’s not. You all know about the blue vein version I made one very hot and steamy summer when I put sour cherries into the fruit mix and they soaked up just a bit too much liquid.

There was also the fruit brick I made when I was living in Edmonton. The combination of altitude, an unfamiliar oven and different  types of dried fruit resulted in an expensive failure but you should get a good result if you follow the instructions to the letter. I normally make the cake about 4 weeks before Christmas to allow it time to mature. The longer the cake matures, the darker and richer the cake will be and the house will be filled with the smells of Christmas.

You'll need to start this recipe the night before.
Traditional Christmas Cake (makes one 17 cm cake)
printable version
50 gm (2 oz), finely chopped mixed peel
50 gm (2 oz) dates, chopped
190 gm (6½ oz) sultanas
190 gm (6½ oz) currants
125 gm (4 oz) raisins, chopped
50 gm (2 oz) almonds, blanched and chopped
125 gm (4 oz) unsalted butter
½ cup (125 gm) (4 oz) brown sugar
grated rind of ½ orange and ½ lemon
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup (135 gm) plain flour
¼ teaspoon each mixed spice and nutmeg
3 tablespoons rum or brandy
Additional almonds to decorate the cake

The night before, thoroughly wash the dried fruit. Place in a bowl and add the rum. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF. Line a 17 cm round tin with a layer of greased greaseproof paper. Tie a band of brown paper or folded newspaper round the outside of the tin for extra protection. Place the prepared tin on a sheet of folded newspaper on a baking tray.

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the grated rinds. Sift the flour and spices together. Gradually add the eggs with a sprinkling of flour to stop the mixture curdling. Stir in the remaining sifted flour. Lastly stir in the soaked fruit and chopped nuts.Turn the batter into the lined tin and hollow out the centre of the cake a little to prevent rising. Decorate the cake with the remaining almonds and cover the top of the cake with a piece of greaseproof paper to prevent it from browning too fast.

Put the cake into the preheated oven for 20 minutes, before reducing the heat to 150ºC/300ºF. Bake a further 40 minutes then reduce the heat to 140ºC/275ºF for the rest of the cooking time. The cake will need a total of 2 – 3 hours baking time. The cake is cooked when it stops “humming”. Allow the cake to cool thoroughly before turning out.

When cool, I pour additional rum over the cake before wrapping it plastic wrap and placing the cake into a well sealed storage tin.

I normally make a 23 cm/9 inch cake using double the mixture but this year I made 2 smaller cakes instead. If you do decide to make one large cake you'll need to increase the total cooking time to 4-5 hours.

That's the last recipe I have to share with you for 2012. I do so hope you enjoyed this year's Christmas Collection,


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