Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Traditional English Christmas Cake recipe

For Christmas 2012, I baked a traditional English Christmas cake using a recipe from my Bruv's cookbook "The Cookes' Cookbook".  It was delicious, so here's the recipe for all.

Note: Americans hate fruitcakes. I always wondered why, but after reading some recipes I decided it's because American fruitcake recipes include pineapple. Why in hell anyone would want pineapple in a cake is beyond me, and the proof is, as it were, in the pudding. Your pineapple containing cake, Americans cook them, and then give them away and laugh at the person left holding the hot potato, or cake. The recipient has to find a way to pass it on quickly. And so forth.

Now, if you bake a proper cake, and ice it properly, it's a thing of beauty.

The Cookes' cookbook
2x7", 2x3 1/2 lbs. or 1 X 10"

All tins must be lined with greaseproof paper or greased foil, preferably double. Cover top of cake with piece of foil during the last few hours of cooking to prevent burning.
Oven 150C for 1-1 /
2 hrs, reduce to 130C for 3 - 3 1/2 hrs. Bake in centre of oven.
12 oz S.R. flour
tsp salt
l dsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 lb ground almonds
1 lb currants
1 lb raisins
1 lb sultanas
1/2 lb glace cherries
1/2 lb mixed peel
1 large lemon
12 oz unsalted butter
10 oz soft dark brown sugar
9 large eggs
8 tbsp. brandy (extra to add after cooking/before Xmas)

Sift all dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Mix in all the finely chopped fruits. Blend thoroughly.
Cream together, in a separate bowl, the sugar, butter and grated lemon rind until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir into the flour and fruit mixture, followed by the lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of brandy. The mixture should be soft and moist.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins, level the top and bake. The cake is done when it begins to shrink away from the sides of the tin.  

(c) My brother

Reminder: You'll also need, closer to the holiday, 24 ounces of marzipan, more than a pound of confectioners' powdered sugar, an egg white, either some glycerin or some lemon juice, and a jar of apricot preserves.

This does indeed take 3 1/2 hours to bake and the paper lining on the bottom is essential because burning on the bottom is a distinct possibility.  I used a 10" springform pan because I couldn't find a non-springform one, and it worked quite well (though I was worried the batter would drip out of the bottom). The way to line the tin is to first make two circles of greasepoof paper the same size as the tin and place one in the pan. Estimate the circumference and cut a piece of paper four times the height of the tin and one times the length of the circumference. Triple fold the paper and then (this is the important bit) make lots of half inch cuts from the bottom of the paper towards the top. Grease the lower circle and grease the tin, then line the sides by pushing the long piece down onto the circle at the same time it's being pushed on to the greasy sides. Use the pastry/grease brush to push the paper down into place. The little slits will allow thin fingers of paper to 'fan' towards the center of the circle, and the whole deal will be much more stable than if you just placed upright paper around the edges. Grease the inside of the circumferential piece of paper, then drop the other circle on the bottom. The little fingers will sandwich between the two circles and anchor everything.

Grease this new circle and mix the cake batter. (I used an ordinary Cuisinart onion-chopping-whirly-bladey thing to cream the butter and sugar and mix in the eggs - I don't have a cake mixer and it works, so why not.)

Pour the batter into a tin. Use a spatula to ensure the middle of the batter is lower than the edges, or you will get a domed cake. Bake it.
Once it's cooled, take it out of the tin and punch five or six holes in the top and pour in a couple of table spoons of brandy. Don't remove the paper! Cover it (e.g. in a tin, or in foil) and keep it for four to six weeks to become soft and moist.  You can uncover the top, add extra brandy every week and re-cover it - this always helps.

A week before the holiday, buy sufficient marzipan to cover the cake. (This one used 25 ounces.) Soften the marzipan in your (clean) hands and use a rolling pin to make the cover pieces as though they were dough.  Make a circle for the top, and a long piece to cover the sides. You can use confectioners' powdered sugar to keep the marzipan from sticking to the work surface. Take the papers off the cake. Heat sufficient apricot preserves, and brush the goo across the cake surface to make it sticky and remove crumbs. Encase the cake in the marzipan sheets and press them on to the sticky apricot. Pinch the edges together (the idea is to seal the cake). Put it aside for a couple of days.

Two days later, make Royal Icing and ice the whole deal. (The Cuisinart makes icing just fine - no need to have a cake mixer or use elbow grease if you don't want to.) If you want hard icing, use the recommended amount of lemon juice. If you want it a little softer, use a little glycerin instead.

If you watch YouTube videos on the subject, you'll see that some people use a ruler to scrape the icing dead smooth. This must be some sort of Photoshop deal. It's not actually possible in real life. The best normal people can do is use the icing spatula to make irregular "snowy peaks" and then claim you did it that way to be all Xmassy.  You can sprinkle little silver balls on it, or if you're my mum, you'll have a collection of small plastic snowmen on sleighs and Santas you can stick into the icing. Icing takes two to three days to go rock hard (the preferred way of eating icing).  (Fondant icing, while edible, is definitely not Xmassy.)

This is not a cheap cake. I reckon I spent close to $70 on ingredients, although not all of them ended up in the cake. (But what are you going to do with the four ounces of currants, four ounces of candied peel etc. left over?) Also, the pan wasn't cheap and neither was the giant plastic "work pot luck style" cake carrier I ended up buying to keep it in, since I didn't have any large enough old popcorn tins lying around.

However, it was worth it to see the smiles on the faces of my British cow-orkers as I brought them traditional Chrissy cake. (I didn't even suggest it to my American cow-orkers. They ate "hard tack" and "salt water taffy" and other enticingly-named treats of their own design.)

1 comment:

Bruv said...

Hi Sis

You forgot to mention to eat it with Wensleydale (white) cheese or better still with some white Stilton, if you can get it. Our American friends look aghast when you suggest they eat 3 month old xmas cake and cheese, what about the mould and Listeria !!!!!!

By the way this years batch of home made sloe gin is looking good we make 7 or 8 litres of the stuff every year and give it away to friends and relatives in fancy personal labelled bottles as extra xmas pressies. Pity your not here you could have had a sampler.



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