I've tried out a few recipes for Christmas cake over the years but I couldn't honestly say which one was the best. I cannot remember from one December to the next the particular taste of a cake. Moistness is important, booziness essential and grittiness to be avoided (for me this means no currants). Most years I plump for Mary Berry's Christmas cake because it doesn't require any ingredients I don't normally stock. I have adapted it to suit my taste and you can too. If you don't like candied peel or can't eat nuts for instance just replace them with more fruit. It's really easy to put together -just mix everything, bung it in a tin and bake.
Soak 2 lb fruit in brandy overnight (see yesterday's post).
4 oz glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
4 oz dried apricots, snipped in pieces
11 oz sultanas
11 oz raisins
2 oz candied peel
4 tbsp of brandy or really any spirits you like.
I suppose you could use orange or apple juice but that's missing the point.
Prepare your cake tin. This is an 8 inch (20 cm) springform tin. I've buttered and lined it. I have some reusable liners cut to fit my tins.
Put the following into a large mixing bowl and mix well.
8 oz plain flour
8 oz dark muscovado sugar
8 oz softened butter. NOT MARGARINE
4 large eggs
2 oz chopped almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts (optional)
1 scant tbsp black treacle
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
¼ ( a quarter) tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp mixed spice
Tip in the soaked fruit and mix together.
Turn into the prepared tin and cover with two layers of baking parchment. You can buy ready cut discs of baking parchment from Lakeland, one packet lasts for years.
Bake at 140°c (120°c fan oven)/Gas 1 for 4½ -¾ hours.
Once cool stab the cake all over with a skewer and splash on some brandy. Wrap well in greaseproof paper and/or foil and store in an airtight tin or plastic box somewhere cool and dry. Feed it with brandy once a week until Christmas and make sure you don't drive after eating it.
Because the oven was on for so long I thought I'd better make full use of the heat so I stashed a few large potatoes on the bottom shelf.
We had 'loaded' potato skins for supper in front of the telly - not something we do often.
Spring onions, sweetcorn, cheese and crispy bacon mashed up with a little cream. The skins were wonderfully chewy and crispy after their long cooking.
I must show you how the Quince Tree's leaves have changed colour-over night seemingly.