This year has been a big one for firsts. I have made my first relish, made my first chutney, grown my first zucchini, made my first soap...and the list goes on. So, it didn't really surprise me that after being on this planet for forty-six years, I was going to make my first Christmas cake. Truth is, until a few years ago I didn't even like fruit cake. I am not wild about sultanas (a waste of a good grape) and dried fruit, but I tried a Lion's fruit cake one year and that's the one I usually buy for Christmas....uhuh...not anymore! Look at that beautiful cake above. Tastes as good as it looks too. Just sayin :)
It was a little hot here on Saturday afternoon so I set about getting everything ready to bake in the evening. A big thanks to Cheryl, one of my readers who suggested a Christmas Cake she always makes that she got from The Women's Weekly. I did have to make some minor changes though.
250g chopped raisins
250g dried currants
125g mixed peel
100g dried cranberries
60g chopped glace pineapple
60 g chopped glace apricots
1/2 cup brandy
250g chopped unsalted butter
200g brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon of treacle
5 lightly beaten eggs
260g plain flour
50g self raising flour
Half a teaspoon of bicarb
I don't like mixed peel (I always get Hot Cross Buns without it) so I increased my quantity of raisins and currants. I also could not find glace pineapple or glace apricots so I used glace ginger which I noticed Maggie Beer includes in her Christmas Cake. To start with, I soaked the mixed fruit in half a cup of brandy for just over a week. I kept the fruit in a covered glass dish in the fridge and stirred it every couple of days...when I remembered.
This is the beautiful drunken mixed fruit. Cheryl has some tips for making a Christmas Cake which I didn't read until later, and one of those tips was to chop the fruit up evenly so the heavier fruit does not sink to the bottom...missed that one.
The smell is absolutely amazing and the syrup is rich and sweet. Some of the sultanas plumped up like small grapes before settling down again. Cool to room temperature. This took most of the afternoon.
While you are waiting for it to cool, line your cake tin with four layers of baking paper. Cheryl suggested putting a dob of butter between each layer which made the job a lot easier. Also cut into the edge of the paper to make it easier to line the sides. See Christmas cake hints and tips.
My lining was not perfect but it certainly did the job and came off nice and easily the next day. I had to buy a deep cake tin especially for this cake. Wiltshire have this handy non-stick one but deep cake tins were not that easy to find in Gympie.
To your room temperature fruit mixture, stir in the grated lemon and orange rinds together with the treacle and the lightly beaten eggs.
Sift together the flours and bicarb soda and stir into the fruit mixture. I added the flour in three lots to make sure I had it mixed in well.
Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for 2 hours at 150 degrees. Check after 1 1/2 hours in case the cake cooks sooner. Mine was not ready at 1.5 hrs but was a little over at 2 hrs so in my fan forced gas oven I would bake my next cake for 1 hr 45 mins.
My finished cake. It looks dark on the edges in the photo but that is the shadow of the lining. Once you remove it from the oven pierce several holes in the top with a skewer and drizzle over two tablespoons of brandy. The cake will sizzle and smell amazing. Quickly fold down the baking paper so it covers the cake, and cover the tin tightly with foil, leaving it to cool overnight before turning it out.
There you have it...my very first Christmas cake. I have tons of treacle and left over brandy so I think there will be more cakes made before the holidays. Plus, I still have my mini Christmas cakes to make for my hamper. I would encourage anyone who has not made a Christmas cake to give it a go. A warning though...it is a little costly, and I would imagine, judging by the ingredients, more than a little fattening.