It’s Christmas Time – At Least For Anyone Connected To Retail!
After 17 years of living in Australia, it still seems odd to be thinking about Christmas just as the days get longer and warmer, but it’s time to plan ahead and get Christmas presents ready for sending early.
Let’s face it, the post this year is going to be a nightmare!
Anyone in retail will already be taking in extra stock, or if you are a distillery, winery or brewery you will be getting special packs ready to meet your customers’ Christmas shopping lists. My wife’s business, as an online retailer of eco-friendly products (www.hellocharlie.com.au), already has orders in for the coming months, from eco-friendly baby and children’s toys to sunscreen and (my essential summer item) mosquito repellent.
As a service industry entrepreneur, Christmas doesn’t affect my work routine, but as the designated family Christmas cake maker it means a weekly cycle of soaking dried fruit in something yummy and flavoursome and then making the cakes.
Last year it was 8 cakes as presents for family and friends (plus one for the chef!), this year it may expand to 10. I am, of course, unconcerned if I make too many!
The first cake was cooked Sunday, with the second batch of fruit already soaking. I thought that I’d share my Mum’s Christmas Cake recipe and instructions, which I have relied on ever since I started making my own cakes.
I have made this cake using all sorts of different dried fruits, with and without flour (gluten) and with innumerable drinks. In fact, when I was managing Cape Mentelle Vineyards in Margaret River I even made the cake with Cape Mentelle Zinfandel – it was very popular in the cellar door!
The Best Christmas Cake Recipe Ever!!
1 week in advance:
Mix together the fruit and booze and keep in a sealed container and in a cool dark place.
- 8oz (225g) Raisins
- 8oz (225g) Sultanas
- 8oz (225g) Currants
- 4oz (113g) Glace Cherries (usually I use Cranberries or Glace Ginger)
Really it’s 800g of dried fruit of your choice – you could use prunes (maybe a bit less!), figs etc.
- 2 Wine Glasses of Rum, Sherry or Brandy (that’s what my Mum had, but you could really go with whatever you like. You could use Orange Juice or a non-alcoholic spirit if you want to go alcohol free, but you’d want to keep your dried fruit in the fridge and soak it for less time)
Making the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 150°C (a little less if you are using a fan setting).
2. Grease (butter!) an 8” (20cm) round or square loose bottom cake tin, lining the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper.
3. In a mixer (or by hand if you don’t have one) cream together:
- 8oz (225g) Butter (as an old UK ad had it, “no buts, it’s got to be butter!”)
- 8oz (225g) Brown Sugar
4. Once mixed add 1 tbsp Black Treacle (or Golden Syrup if you prefer) and mix to combine then set aside.
5. Get your soaked fruit mix and add the zest of one orange or lemon and set aside.
6. In a separate container mix together:
- 8oz (225g) Plain Flour
- 4oz (113g) Ground Almonds
- 1 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Mixed Spices
- 1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1 tsp Salt (not necessary if you are using salted butter)
- 4oz (113g) Blanched Almonds (optional and you can replace with any nut(s) of your choice)
7. Gather 4 to 6 eggs (depending on their size, say 4 large or 5 medium or 6 small eggs)
8. Keep mixing the creamed butter and sugar and add an egg, them some of the soaked fruit mixture and then some of the flour mixture. Repeat this process until you have added all your ingredients.
Once everything is mixed together, get a large metal spoon, scoop up some of the mixture and hold it over the mixing bowl, turn it vertically so that the mixture can slide back into the mix. If it takes about 3 to 4 seconds to fall off it’s good to go. A bit longer and you can add a drop more liquid, a bit shorter and a bit more flour.
9. Transfer the mixture to your cake tin. Add another piece of greaseproof paper to the top and gently press down to flatten the cake surface. Leave the greaseproof paper in place and put the cake in the oven.
10. After 1 hour turn the oven down to about 110°C to let the cake cook slowly.
The cooking time will vary from oven to oven, but a general guide is to cook for at least 2.5 hours and it may take up to 4 hours. After 2 hours at 110°C I always take the top piece of greaseproof paper off to let the top of the cake brown (I tend to scrape the greaseproof paper clean of any cooked cake sticking to it, just to test it of course).
Test the cake is cooked by inserting a large needle into the centre, if it comes out clean then it’s cooked. If it is sticky or you can see wet cake batter then keep cooking.
11. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the cake tin until it is cooled, then transfer to a wire rack before finally wrapping in foil and putting it away to mature.
N.B You can eat it straight away, but it will get better with a little age. Adding more liquor will also help preserve it, but I tend to find that it isn’t necessary.
To consume (and this bit may offend you) cut a slice and transfer to a plate, then go to the fridge and get some nice strong cheddar cheese, cut a piece and add to your plate. Eat together, cue salivating!