Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Piece of (Family Tradition) Cake...

I love Christmas Cake! There we go, I've said it, I definitely think it's one of life's Marmites. When both of my Nannas were alive, they made Christmas Cake for the whole family plus a bunch of friends too; their Christmas Cakes were exceptional and they taught my Mam how to make them for us. This year, I decided at 27 it was about time my Mam taught me how to make it to the 'old family recipe'. Plus I am trying to organise my Christmas so this just seemed a logical and timely step in that whole process (and it has sincerely made me in the mood for Christmas!!!!!)

The first thing about Christmas Cake is that the ingredients are expensive. I priced it up roughly and for the ingredients I got it worked out about £11 for the size I made. I tell you now, don't waste money on expensive ingredients - it will not make the taste any better. I used Asda Smart Price SultanasRaisins and even Smart Price Butter plus the cheapest glace cherries, almonds and flour, etc. It's the methodology rather than the cost of the ingredients, so here you go - the old family recipe!

3/4 lb Self Raising Flour
3/4 lb Dark Brown Sugar
3/4 lb Butter
7 Large Eggs
2 lb Fruit (Sultanas, Raisins, Currants, Mixed Peel)
Tub of Glace Cherries
4 oz Ground Almonds
Teaspoon Mixed Spice
Quart Brandy (or Rum, according to taste)

Step One: Soak fruit in about half of the brandy overnight (room temperature), drain off any which hasn't been soaked up back in to the bottle the next morning

Step Two: Pre-heat the oven. I used a fan oven at 140 degrees - adjust accordingly for electric or gas. Measure all of the ingredients out. Chop each cherry in to four, take a few tablespoons of the flour and roll the cherries in to it and set them aside. This will stop them sinking in to the bottom of the cake when baking.

Step Three (apologies for the blurry pictures, my hands were slightly greasy!!!!): Cream butter and sugar together. You must do this by hand using the back of a wooden spoon. To combine the eggs to the mixture, break one egg in to a jug (you cannot afford to get any shell in the mix!), and add to the creamed butter and sugar and add one tablespoon of flour. Mix. The flour prevents the egg and creamed butter and sugar from separating or 'curdling'.

Step Four: Combine remaining dry ingredients (flour, almonds, spice) and add to the sugar, butter and eggs. When done, beat until it's dropping consistency (drops off the spoon before the count of three). Next, you're ready to add the fruit and finally add the cherries.

Step Five: Line a large square cake tin with margarine and greaseproof paper. Then grease with more margarine. Because of the lengthy cooking time, you do not want the outside of the cake to burn and stick and the inside to be raw.

Step Six: Pour mixture in to the tin. Push it in to the corners and create a 'well' in the middle. You are hoping to acheive the most level cake and usually when you cook a cake the middle rises, right? Well creating this well prevents it from peaking.

Step Seven: Using sturdy brown paper, double the height of the tin, create a 'wall' around the tin and a base underneath. Secure with an old shoe lace or string. This is another measure to prevent the cake from burning.

Step Eight: Cook in the pre-heated oven for an hour. Do not slam doors, talk loudly or stamp your feet. These actions will all make the centre of the cake drop. Carefully open the oven and place a square, foil covered piece of cardboard over the top of the brown paper 'wall' and then close the oven for a further 1.5 hours.

Step Nine, Ten, Eleven and weekly thereafter!: Remove the cake from the oven and lift out of the tin using the greaseproof paper, then leave to cool for a minimum of eight hours. Feed weekly with a sprinkling of the remaining brandy. The longer you have to feed and 'mature' your cake, the better!

When Christmas comes (apparently in the old days, the Christmas Cake was 'cut' on New Years Day?! I can't wait that long!!), serve plain with a slice of cranberry laden Wensleydale and a glass of wine or ice with apricot jam, marzipan and thick crunchy royal icing.

Nanna Kate X

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