One of the best ways to start getting into the swing of things for Christmas is to make the cake. It’s usually the first really Christmassy thing cooks get to do. This is my mum’s recipe; she makes one every year, even though there’s only two of them to eat it now, and they’re both diabetic. Old habits die hard I guess!
Start the day before you want to cook, and make this around November so it has time to mature.
- 375g currants
- 225g sultanas
- 225g raisins
- 75g glace cherries
- 50g mixed peel
- 50g dried cranberries
- 225g plain flour
- 225g dark brown sugar
- 225g butter
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon treacle or barley malt
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 shots cognac or brandy
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice, plus 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon & 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
After at least 12 hours it should look plumped up and juicy like this:
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 150°C. Line a 20cm cake tin fully with greaseproof paper.
Cream the room temperature butter and sugar until pale and fluffy – this is really a lot easier in a food processor or mixer. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then very slowly drizzle them into the butter mix while the beater is running. I usually start with a teaspoon at a time and wait for it to fully incorporate before adding more. I also add a teaspoon of the flour with the first few spoons of egg, just to stop it curdling. (if it curdles, it’s not the end of the world. It will taste the same!) When all the egg is in, fold through the flour, salt and all the spices, including the orange zest and the treacle.
Finally, add the egg & flour mix to the soaked fruit, and mix well. Spoon into the cake tin, making sure you don’t leave any air gaps, and smooth the surface of the cake. Because of the quantity of fruit vs batter, it won’t smooth itself during cooking as sponge cakes do, so it’s worth being careful at this stage. Cover with another piece of greaseproof paper. Mum cuts a hole in the middle of the paper to let the steam escape; I’m not sure if this makes any difference but I’ve always done it too.
Bake in the oven for 4 – 4.5 hours, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely in the tin, and pour over additional cognac – a tablespoon or two, before wrapping in more greaseproof paper and storing in an airtight tin for at least a month. Mum adds another drizzle of cognac occasionally once it’s been cut; the boozier, the better!