This weekend, as family tradition demands, I braved the storm and went off down to Devon to see my family and bake the Christmas cake. I usually do this around the end of October, partly as this gives it plenty of time to mature before Christmas and partly ‘cause the Honiton carnival is usually at the end of October so I can see that too. (It poured with rain this year!)
This Christmas cake recipe is the one that we’ve used for the last few years – I always make sure that the cake contains plenty of cinnamon, mixed spice, cherries and brandy! We make the cake is a 7½ inch, square cake tin. I also make two – one for me, Mum and Dad, (although Dad doesn’t actually like dried fruit so he doesn’t eat any cake – he does like the mix however and so, like a big kid, is always hanging around waiting to lick the bowl out!) and one for my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew.
9 oz plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
½ a teaspoon of ground nutmeg
8 oz butter
8 oz soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon of black treacle
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 lb mixed dried fruit
8oz glacé cherries, quartered
4 oz candied mixed peel, chopped (This usually comes in with the packs of dried fruit)
Cooking Time: 4 hours
Preheat the oven to 150. (It will be turned down later to 120)
Grease the cake tin and then line the bottom with greaseproof paper.
Sieve together the flour, salt and spices.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Then beat in the treacle. My god but black treacle is sticky, viscous stuff. It was like tar. Top tip – if, like me, you’re using a mixer to mix the ingredients in, make sure it’s switched off when you pour the treacle in – when I tried it with the mixer going a strand of treacle got wrapped around the central spindle and the rest of the treacle wound itself around like a streamer – none in the butter and sugar mixture!
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a spoonful of the seived flour and spice with each egg.
Once the eggs are mixed in fold in the remaining flour.
Then add the brandy and lemon juice and stir well.
I then placed the dried fruit and cherries, well mixed together, into a large bowl and poured the cake mix over the top. This is because the bowl of the mixer simply wasn’t large enough to accommodate the fruit as well as the mixture.
Stir really, really well, to ensure that everything is well mixed in and the fruit is well coated.
Pour into the prepared cake tin and make a slight depression in the centre.
I then cover the outside of the tin in a layer of old newspaper so that the outside of the cake doesn’t burn during the long cooking time. I don’t know if this is strictly necessary but we’ve always done it. It means that for the first hour of cooking the whole house smells of hot newspaper!
Bake the cake in the oven at 150 for 3 hours, then reduce the oven temperature to 120 and bake for a further hour, or until cooked. You know it’s cooked when a skewer or knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out and cool further on a wire rack.
Once the cake is made I leave it in the care of responsible adults (oh, alright, Mum and Dad) who are under strict instructions to feed it with brandy once a week. Mum will then marzipan it about a week before Christmas and I’ll ice it on Christmas Eve