December 8, 2009
Christmas Cake In A Month Of 50's.
This is my fiftieth post. I was kind of hoping to hold out till next week and have it coincide with my fiftieth birthday.
Alas, not to be. It is two thirty am and I cannot sleep. My mind is occupied with all the things I need to be doing. There are still some guests I have yet to invite. I need to get started on the veggies that must be roasted and left to marinate, so that by the 20th they will be loaded with flavour and bursting with zingyiness. Which veggies? The beetroot, the eggplant and the capsicum. Either tomorrow or the next day. No later. I mean it.
I made four calico tablecloths yesterday and four lovely country apple green table runners to go over the tops. Together with some table decorations in the way of citronella candles in large glass vases, chunky carafes, small green glass vases with fresh flowers, upturned terracotta pots holding sticks, washed rocks from the river and further wooden sticks and bark, the table was looking very rustic yet warm and inviting. At least that is coming together and looking very nice.
I need to make a couple of chocolate mud cakes. Probably one for my actual birthdate and a larger one for the party date. Righto, that's on the agenda as well. Speaking of cake, I made a Christmas cake about three weeks ago and I made the fatal mistake of cutting it about seven days ago. Half of it is gone. No kidding. And I'm ashamed to say I have consumed most of it.
Why should I be ashamed? It is absolutely gorgeous and I am loving it. There is simply no comparison to a storebought fruit cake. I don't care what you say. There just isn't. A homemade fruit cake is about as luxurious as it gets. Perhaps because there are so few people that I know who actually bake one these days. My mother-in-law still does. Several infact.
I am particularly pleased with my christmas cake this time round. I have made a few alterations and I'm delighted with the results. I have always enjoyed a moist fruit cake, but I have really overloaded the cake with fruit in the past making it too moist. However, there is nothing worse than a dry fruit cake, burnt around the edges and overcooked and overworked. It's not easy. Still, I haven't felt my version has been too crash hot the last couple of years. Sure it has been delicious but it has also been too difficult to cut without breaking up and quite simply there is just too much fruit.
In my lastest effort I decided to reduce the amount of fruit, made sure not to overcook it and wrapped it up soon after brushing generously with extra brandy. The enclosed steam probably helped with retaining the cake's moisture. And surprisingly enough it cut beautifully. It is not crumbly and the ratio of cake to fruit is much more to my liking. It's a keeper. So I guess I better get this recipe in writing before I forget exactly what it is I did. I don't remember as well as I used to. Would that have anything to do with turning 50?
Mariana's Christmas Cake
125gm raisins, chopped
125gm prunes, chopped
125gm dried dates, chopped
125gm glace cherries, chopped
rind of one orange
juice of one orange
2tbsp orange marmalade
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
extra glace cherries & blanched almonds for decoration
**Amendment on this November 12th, 2013 - I used 400gm sultanas instead of 500gm. Much better in my opinion as the cake cuts better and not quite as laden with fruit.
Place the first nine ingredients all in a glass or ceramic bowl. Mix thoroughly so that all the fruit has been well coated with the liquid. Seal tightly with some cling film and place in a cool, undrafty spot. I soaked my fruit for about one week agitating it a couple of times to mix it up and soak evenly. I cannot describe how wonderful the smell was each time I unveiled the cling film. It is easy to overlook this step. I have at times. But the soaking of the fruit really is essential for a plump, juicy, voluptuous and spicy cake. I wish you could smell it.
Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl. Make sure the butter is fairly soft but definitely not melted. Mix till the two are only just combined. Really. Only just combined. Do not be tempted to keep mixing. Add this to your fruit and ensure that all the fruit is covered with the butter mixture.
Take four lovely free range eggs and mix well with a fork.
Add this to the butter and fruit mixture.
Using a spatula or indeed your hands, ensure the eggs are well incorporated.
Sift together the flours and ground cinnamon and mixed spice. The grated nutmeg may be too coarse to sift. I added it directly onto the mixture.
Ensure all the ingredients have been well distributed and mixed together. No flour spots please. No need to mix the heck out of it either. Just mix till you see it has all come together.
Grease and line your cake tin. I used double baking paper. Take your time to line the tin so that there is no buckling or uneveness with the paper. You may as well carry on with the love and care now that you have come this far.
Carefully drop the mixture into the tin. Using a large spoon or your hands, spread the mixture till even. Drop the cake tin from a height, not too high, so that it helps to knock out some air bubbles and settle the mixture.
Decorate the cake top with blanched almonds and glace cherries if desired.
I baked my cake for three hours and fifteen minutes at 130 degrees celcius in a conventional oven, not fan forced. I brushed the hot cake with about 3 tablespoons of extra brandy. After ten minutes I pressed the baking paper sticking above the tin over the cake and covered the tin with a large teatowel. Leave overnight.
The next day, I removed the cake still encased in the baking paper and wrapped securely in foil and cling film then wrapped the lot in newspaper. Try and resist temptation for as long as you can to allow those flavours to further develop. It is well and truly worth it. Christmas Cake made with love.
Happy 50th Post to me!