Hi! Welcome to my blog. I am a major foodie, with a haphazard cooking philosophy, currently making that transition from cooking and baking for friends and family to 'wonder if I could make this my career'. Follow me for recipes, the outcomes of a few experiments, and general lovely foodiness. Opinions, reviews and recommendations are all my own.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Quest For The Perfect Christmas Cake

There are many things that I am trying to turn my hand to this year, with Christmas Cake being high up on the list for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am hoping that (if and) when The Pantry Door starts to officially trade, I will be able to sell them. Secondly, because this year, I am hoping that they will be a key feature in my Christmas hampers for friends and family. And thirdly, but no less important, because you have to have Christmas cake, and it's about high time I learned to make one!

Because Christmas is steeped in tradition and recipes passed down from generation to generation, I decided against Google as my source of inspiration this time, and tried a more traditional approach... I asked my Mum. My Mum is a great baker, her cakes are legendary. So much so in fact that I remember at school whenever I took a slice of my Mum's cake in my packed lunch I would auction it off to the highest bidder! (Always safe in the knowledge that I could spend my 20p on whatever I chose, and still have a slice of delicious cake when I got home...)

So I phoned my Mum, expecting, to be honest, for her to pop over for a cup of tea, and then, with exaggerated secrecy present me with a faded brown page, passed down from the ages, containing the ultimate Christmas cake recipe. In reality, she brought me a ready measured Christmas Cake Kit from Tesco. True, it was endorsed by Mary Berry, but that's not really the point.

However I set about the task in earnest, and unpacked the bag of ingredients and the recipe card. I actually have to credit the brilliant simplicity of these kits. All the dry ingredients are measured, bagged and labelled in the kit, and all you need to add are butter, eggs, and citrus peel. The sheet gives you step by step instructions on making the cake mix, and the recipe and quantities are all written down so you can actually keep it for another year.

The Mary Berry endorsed Tesco Kit recipe is as follows;

210g dark brown sugar
210g butter
4 large eggs
1 orange
1 lemon
40g chopped almonds
10g black treacle
210g plain flour
3g mixed spice
833g soaked fruit mix (currants, raisins, sultanas, cherries, apricots, mixed peel and brandy)
10g apricot jam
200g marzipan
250g icing sugar

The method is surprisingly simple. Pre-heat the over to 140 degrees. Grease an 8 inch tin, and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Make a lid for the cake from parchment as well, and cut a small hole in the centre to let any steam from the cake escape during cooking.

Line Tins with Greaseproof Paper or Baking Parchment
Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until creamy. Add the eggs, almonds, treacle, and the zest of the orange and lemon, and mix well.  Sift in the flour and mixed spice, and fold into the mixture. Add the soaked fruit, and combine well until evenly distributed through the mix.

Christmas Cake Mixture

Place the mixture in the prepared tins
The instructions said to bake for four and a half hours, but to do the skewer test after three and a half. I actually used a series of small cake tins to make my cakes, as I have plans to decorate them individually as gifts, so I checked my bakes after an hour, and they were pretty much done. I gave them an extra 20 minutes, and then put on a cooling rack. 

Tradition dictates now, that the cakes are wrapped in greaseproof paper and tin foil, and are fed with more brandy every couple of weeks until they are decorated for Christmas. I have made two batches, and the first are now coated in marzipan waiting for the final touches with the icing. I cannot wait to see my designs come to life!

All in all, I have to say that the Christmas Cake Kit was not such a bad idea, and actually I picked up another couple at the supermarket last week for £5 each, which, lets be honest, you would never manage to buy the individual ingredients for, and actually, you are still doing all of the cooking so it isn't really cheating... is it? I suppose, as always, the proof will be in the eating - I'll let you all know how it goes on Christmas Day!

V x

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