Friday, 30 November 2007

Christmas Cake

I didn't make this one in the slow cooker either, but we've started on our christmas cake. Every year I intend to make one, then decide it's too late, but this year I stood firm and now have a lovely looking fruit cake maturing in a tin in the kitchen. I get so excited in the lead up to Christmas, more so with every passing year. With all the presents purchased, the Christmas cake made and the travel home planned, I just need to get on with some actual slow cooking to take food home and some more christmas treat making.

I used a Nigel Slater recipe but scaled it down to make a cake for an 8" cake tin. I've posted the original recipe for a larger cake but message me for the scaled down quantities. I'll post a picture when it gets its next dose of brandy!

Christmas cake

This is a large cake, enough to feed about 16 or so.

350g butter
175g light muscovado sugar
175g dark muscovado sugar
1kg total weight of dried fruits - prunes, apricots, figs, candied peel, glace cherries
5 large free-range eggs
100g ground almonds
150g shelled hazelnuts
500g total weight vine fruits - raisins, sultanas, currants, cranberries
5 tbs brandy
zest and juice of an orange
zest of a lemon
tsp baking powder
350g plain flour

You will also need a 24-25cm cake tin with a removable base, fully lined with a double layer of lightly buttered greaseproof paper or non-stick baking paper, which should come at least 5cm above the top of the tin.

Set the oven to 160 c/gas 3. Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. I needn't tell you this is much easier with an electric mixer, though I have done it by hand. Don't forget to push the mixture down the sides of the bowl from time to time with a spatula.

While the butter and sugars are beating to a cappuccino-coloured fluff, cut the dried fruits into small pieces, removing the hard fig stalks. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time - it will curdle but don't worry - then slowly mix in the ground almonds, hazelnuts, all the dried and vine fruits, the brandy and the citrus zest and juice.

Now mix the baking powder and flour together and fold them lightly into the mix. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top gently, and put it in the oven. Leave for an hour, then, without opening the oven door turn down the heat to 150 /gas 2 and cook for 2 hours.

Check to see whether the cake is done by inserting a skewer - a knitting needle will do - into the centre. It should come out with just a few crumbs attached but no trace of raw cake mixture. Take the cake out of the oven and leave it to cool before removing it from the tin.

· The fruit content is no longer confined to currants, sultanas and raisins. Providing you get the ratio of fruit to flour, butter and sugar right, which fruits you include are entirely a matter of choice. So dried figs, cranberries, apricots can all be included. The juicier the fruit the better, so best not use the thin slices of dried fruit such as mango or apple. Glace cherries and dried apricots will keep the cake particularly juicy.

· Look, I know lining the cake tin is a drag but it has to be done, otherwise the edges of the cake will burn. You can't spend enough time on this. I do it while the butter and sugars are creaming in the mixer. A double layer of paper is the trick, skip the process at your peril.

· Rich fruit cakes are amazingly good natured. I once put my cake in the oven and started clearing up the kitchen, only to find most of the flour still on the scales. I simply took the cake out of the oven, mixed in the flour and put it back in the oven. And yes, it came out a treat.