The nights are drawing in, the campaign for Christmas number one has started (aka The X Factor), and the girls in the office have already organised a Secret Santa. It must be time to make a Christmas cake.
I’ve been making the same Christmas cake every year since 2003, using a recipe from Delicious magazine – here’s last year’s (pic above). It’s incredibly boozy, phenomenally moist and rich, and will have you pinioned to the sofa in a happy, leaden slump within a few minutes of eating it. In my eyes, this makes it the perfect cake. Your mileage may vary.
Anyway. Here’s the recipe as I make it -you’ll need a food processor. I’d advise you not to drive after eating a slab of it.
Christmas Cake Coma
Start at least a day before baking: Put 450g mixed dried fruit, 175 chopped ready-to-eat prunes (the soft type), 150g halved glace cherries and about 100g chopped stem ginger in syrup in a big bowl, along with the zest of a large orange. You can switch some of the dried fruit for dried cranberries, blueberries etc, but usually I can’t be bothered.
Pour over 250ml brandy. Not the really cheap stuff, but it doesn’t have to be Courvoisier. I also tend to bung in a bit of syrup from the stem ginger jar, and also often add about a third of a tub of candied mixed peel. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it overnight at least, or even longer. Snaffle boozy teaspoonfuls out of it at regular intervals. Just to check it’s OK, obviously…
Baking day! Find your tin – 8 inch diameter loose-base one for preference. Grease it with butter and line the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper (Delia Smith tutorial here). I do enjoy the ritual of this bit.
Get out the food processor and chuck about a third of the boozy fruit mix into it. Whizz to a thick puree. Taste it again, just to be sure…
Make the cake mix. Preheat the oven to 150C (gas mark 2). Beat together 175g butter with 175g dark muscovado sugar until it’s “light and fluffy”. Or as light and fluffy as it’s ever going to be. I gave it a good 5 mins in the Kenwood Chef.
Beat in 4 beaten eggs, a bit at a time. If it goes curdley (which it will…) chuck in a bit of flour. Stir in the fruit puree, the remaining boozy fruit and brandy, 1 tablespoon of golden syrup, and 200g self-raising flour. Sometimes I also add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Sometimes I don’t.
Stir it all up and then bung it into the prepared tin. Level the top, and try to make a bit of a dip towards the centre. This is a good trick, and gives you a flatter cake which is easier to ice, as the middle tends to rise more.
Stick the tin in the oven and go and find something else to do for about 2-3 hours, depending on the vagaries of your oven. Use a skewer to test if it’s done from about 2 hrs onwards – there should be no gooey mixture stuck to it if it’s cooked.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin. I usually poke a skewer into it in several places and chuck some more brandy onto it when it’s warm. Wrap it up well in greaseproof paper, then tin foil.
Care and feeding of your cake: Every couple of weeks, unwrap the cake, stab it with a skewer and pour over ashot of brandy. Wrap it back up again and leave it somewhere where the dog can’t get it.
Serving: Ice it however you damn well like, and serve cautiously to non-driving guests.