I have a confession to make. I love everything about Christmas... just not Christmas cake!
However, it's something we make in our house every year for visiting friends and family to enjoy. Plus, I love the tradition of it all, having an excuse to buy a new Bow Beaus cake topper and of course there's nothing better than the festive, aromatic smell that fills the house while we're baking.
This is the recipe we swear by for a moist, fool-proof cake - which I'm told is delicious! It's by Delia Smith and is her very own family recipe.
For the pre-soaking:
- 450g currants
- 175g sultanas
- 175 raisins
- 50g chopped glace cherries
- 50g chopped candied peel
- 100ml brandy
For the cake:
- 225g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed ground spice
- 225g dark brown soft sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 dessert spoon black treacle
- 225g spreadable butter
- 50g chopped almonds (skin on)
- Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
For the feeding and topping:
- Armagnac or brandy to 'feed' the cake
- 100g whole blanched almonds
Grease a 20cm round, loose-based cake tin and line both the base and sides with baking parchment. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of the tin for extra protection.
Put all the fruits in a bowl and mix them with the brandy, cover with a cloth and leave them to soak for a minimum of 12 hours. When you’re ready to cook the cake, pre-heat the oven to 140°C, Gas mark 1.
Sift the flour, salt and spices into a very large roomy mixing bowl then add the sugar, eggs, treacle (warm it a little first to make it easier) and butter and beat with an electric hand whisk until everything is smooth and fluffy.
Gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture, chopped nuts and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.
Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon and, if you don’t intend to decorate the cake with marzipan and icing, lightly drop the blanched almonds in circles over the surface.
Finally take a double square of baking parchment with a 50p-sized hole in the centre (for extra protection during the cooking) and place this not on top of the mixture itself but on the rim of the brown paper. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched. Sometimes it can take 30–45 minutes longer than this, but in any case don’t look at it for 4 hours.
Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
When it’s cold, ‘feed’ it by making small holes in the top and bottom with a cocktail stick and spooning in a couple of tablespoons of Armagnac or brandy, then wrap it in parchment lined foil and store in an airtight tin. You can now ‘feed’ it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.
This year's Stir Up Sunday date is 21 November, when traditionally Christmas Cakes are made to give them plenty of time to be fed and mature ready to enjoy over the festive period. If you're donning your pinny and giving this recipe a go, be sure tag us in your pictures!