Fortunately it is not looking a lot like Christmas just yet — I will take my rainy fall days as they come. But it is beginning to smell a lot like Christmas, because for some reason over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend last week, I decided to bake a Christmas cake. Talk about a lesson in delayed gratification: I can’t believe I have to wait two and a half months before trying this cake, but I am hoping all the booze will settle nicely into the cake by then.
After browsing a few recipes online, I chose Nigella Lawson’s Christmas cake recipe from her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess. While I could not say what makes a good Christmas cake, this recipe did not require nuts or processing them, so it seemed like a good start. It also provided a list of ingredients to scale your cake to the size of your liking.
Ingredients for a 25 cm round tin (makes a large cake!) from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
– 1kg sultanas
– 350g raisins
– 175g currants
– 175g glace cherries
– 175g mixed peel
– 180 ml sherry or brandy + 2 tbsp for brushing onto the finished cake
– 350g butter
– 300g brown sugar
– 1.5 tsp lemon zest
– 1.5 tsp orange zest
– 6 large eggs
– 3 tbsp marmalade
– 1 tsp almond essence
– 525g plain flour
– 1.5 tsp mixed spice (allspice)
– 1.25 tsp cinnamon
– 1.25 tsp ground nutmeg
– 0.25 tsp salt
The night before, in a large bowl, soak all your dried fruit in your choice of alcohol. I went with sherry. Yes, this was a lot of fruit and I was worried I read the recipe incorrectly, but the cake batter came together in the end. Give the fruit a good stir and cover overnight. Pour yourself a nightcap, if you wish.
Boozy dried fruit in the morning
When you are ready to bake the next day, preheat your oven to 150 C.
Line your cake pan with two layers of brown paper and a layer of parchment paper to 10cm above the top of your tin. This is, as I have read, important to prevent your cake from burning on the outside because the cake is in the oven for a long time. I used a spring-form pan, which helped in removing the cake later on.
Cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the zest. Add the eggs one at a time to prevent curdling. However, if it does curdle, and I suspect mine did, it doesn’t seem to matter since it is all mixed into the batter anyway.
Stir in the marmalade and the almond essence until well distributed.
Sift the dry ingredients (flour, spices and salt) in a separate bowl. Alternate mixing in the dry ingredients and the fruit into the wet mixture. The batter is heavy and sticky, so just work through it!
Pour the batter into the tin.
Bake for 4 to 4.5 hours.After the first hour, turn down the heat to 140 C for the remaining time. I covered the cake after the three hour mark with tin foil to prevent it from browning too much. Keep an eye on your cake. You can test with a skewer to see if the cake is done.
Take the cake out of the oven and brush another two tablespoons of sherry or brandy on top of the cake. Wrap the cake and cake pan in foil so that the steam keeps the top of the cake moist.
When the cake is cool, unwrap the tinfoil and remove the cake from the tin. I actually waited until the next day before the cake was completely cool. Re-wrap the cake and put it in in an airtight container.
For many homemade Christmas cakes, you “feed” your cake every other week or so with sherry or brandy. Nigella didn’t put this in her recipe, so I am not sure if there is already enough booze in this cake. Then again, it seems so appealing to visit my Christmas cake every so often. I plan on feeding it at least once or twice, and perhaps I’ll give an update. Of course, I’ll provide an update in a couple months on how it tastes!
Until December, to see the whole cake unwrapped again.