I know Christmas has officially arrived in my home when I can smell my Christmas Cake Cooking. I enjoy making my own Christmas Cakes and have done so for years. One year I baked 3, then decorated them all so that I could take one home to my Mum for Christmas, another for my Auntie Pam and the third for my Mother In Law as gifts, which they loved!
It’s a good idea to make this at least a few weeks and up to 2 months before Christmas so you can feed it brandy every other day until you are ready to decorate it or just leave it plain as I have done this year.
Sometimes I cover with a thin layer of sieved apricot jam, then marzipan and then fondant icing. If you brush the surface of the marzipan with a little vodka once it is on the cake, then the icing layer will stick well to it. You can buy ready made fondant icing in different colours in most supermarkets and it is pretty easy to model.
You can cook this recipe in any cake tin you fancy. If you use a metal tin then line the insides with a double layer thickness of grease proof paper but use a triple layer for cakes bigger than 10 inch square or 11 inch round.
I prefer to cook mine in my stoneware pot which I also use for cooking all my bread loaves.
Using a clay or stoneware pot means that the cake cooks more evenly without the sides burning or going crusty. I put the lid on for most of the cooking time then remove towards the end. If baking in a tin, then place a piece of loosely wrapped foil over the top and this will stop the surface cooking too fast.
I make up one and a half times the amount of mixture as I like to bake one big cake in my Deep Covered Baker then I use the leftover mixture to make a few smaller mini cakes, which make nice gifts. I also can’t wait until Christmas to taste my cake, so once it’s cooked, my husband and I have one of the smaller mini cakes with a cup of tea just to test……then maybe one more “to be sure”!
Ideally start this the night before so you can soak the fruit in brandy overnight. If you are pushed for time then you can make the whole thing on the same day. Just mix the brandy into the fruit first then go straight to the next stage. However, an overnight soak helps the fruit plump up and creates a good moist texture. My recipe contains nuts so if anyone in your family has a nut allergy, leave out the almonds and almond extract.
It is also good luck to let everyone in your family have a stir of the cake mixture, as long as they don’t start eating it before it has been cooked. My Mum used to always let me and my sister lick the bowl when she had finished making her Christmas Cake but we would fight over who got to lick the wooden spoon! My husband now gets to lick the bowl and the spatula!
I have listed approximate cooking times at the end of the recipe below but these are just a guide as cooking times depend on how sloppy your mix is, the shape of your tin and your oven. My oblong cake I made took over 4.5 hours in the end but then I did keep opening the oven door to check my mini cakes were done on the bottom shelf, so cooking times are not an exact science. Be patient, allow as much time as it needs and my best advice is to ideally start cooking your cake in the daytime. Then if the cooking time does over run you are not staying up until 2am peeping through the oven door like a Bake Off contestant!
As a final tip, store your finished cake in the coolest room in your house such as a spare bedroom or utility room, loosely wrapped in fresh grease proof paper, in a sealed plastic container and away from pets. If you leave it next to a warm radiator, it might possibly ferment with all that alcohol you will be feeding it! I don’t think my husband could quite believe I have actually added half a bottle of brandy to my Christmas Pudding and Cake already, although I am a bit partial to drinking the “cooking brandy”. I think the rule is, “Some for the cake……or pudding or whatever, I can’t remember what….and some for the cook…!”
Happy baking and enjoy sharing this delicious cake with your friends and family.
225g or 8oz of Butter
225g or 8oz of Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar
half a teaspoon of salt
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
half a teaspoon of nutmeg
half a teaspoon of ginger
half a teaspoon of cinnamon
half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
half a teaspoon of orange extract or the zest of half an orange zest
the zest of half a lemon
half a teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of black treacle
275g or 10oz of plain flour (sifted)
50g or 2oz of ground almonds
900g or 2lb of dried mixed fruit (include some chopped dried dates, glace cherries, prunes, apricots, sultanas, currants raisins and mixed dried peel)
25g or 1oz of blanched almonds
5 tablespoons of brandy
a few optional extra tablespoons of milk
an optional tablespoon of gravy browning
a teaspoon of cold water (to sprinkle on the cake before cooking)
Start making this cake the night before by first soaking all the fruit plus the blanched almonds in the brandy in a large bowl. Stir to coat the fruit in the brandy, then cover the bowl with clingfilm or a lid. Leave to soak overnight.
The next day, line the cake tin with a double layer of grease proof paper. If you are using a stoneware pot like I did, butter the inside well.
Preheat the oven to 140C , 250F or Gas Mark 1
Melt the butter gently in a separate bowl. I use a very low/defrost setting on the microwave and melt in a pyrex bowl for a minute or so but keep an eye on it as it melts quickly. If you wish you can add an optional splash of gravy browning to the butter at this stage to give the cake a darker colour.
Put the brandy soaked fruit, extracts, spices, bicarbonate of soda, salt, lemon zest, sugar and treacle into a separate large mixing bowl and stir well.
Add the melted butter and stir well again.
Beat the eggs and add to the mixture a little at a time. Stir.
Add the ground almonds and sifted flour a little at a time, mixing each time.
At this stage if the mixture feels too stiff, add a little milk and mix once more. The mixture should be loose but not runny.
Put the mixture into the cake tin and sprinkle the surface with a teaspoon of cold water. Loosely wrap a piece of foil over the top to make a loose lid. This will prevent burning. I used my stoneware baker which had a lid.
Cook in the centre of the oven. Cooking times will vary depending on the size and shape of your tin and your oven but as a rough guide see the cooking times listed at the end of the recipe.
I also remove the foil cover towards the end of the cooking time when the cake is almost completely done.
Test by inserting a cake skewer or sharp knife into the centre of the cake and it should come out clean when fully cooked. The sides of the cake should also be coming away from the inside of the cake tin slightly and the top of the cake should feel springy. The cake should also look nice and brown.
Cool the cake completely in the tin before attempting to remove. Once cool, remove carefully. Store in a cool dry place, loosely wrapped in a clean piece of grease proof paper in a sealed plastic container. Feed a spoonful of brandy every few days by sprinkling it onto the cake surface and allowing the brandy to soak in.
Cake Mix Quantities to use and Cooking times
6 inch square tin or 7 inch round tin use ¾ mix and cook for approx 3 Hours
7 inch square tin or 8 inch round tin use 1 mix and cook for approx 3 to 3.5 Hours
8 inch square tin or 9 inch round tin use 1.5 mixes and cook for approx 4 to 4.5 Hours
10 inch square tin or 11 inch round tin use 2 mixes and cook for approx 5.5 to 6 Hours