This weekend I got around to baking my Christmas cake. The fruit had stopped absorbing any more brandy (see Part 1 for that stage) and it was looking plump and smelling delicious. I’m delighted that my cake cooked evenly and took on a lovely golden tone. I used gluten free flour and it appears to have held together perfectly. I find cakes cooked with gluten free flour can be a bit dry but given the amount of moisture in the fruit and also that it will be ‘fed’ with brandy between now and Christmas, I don’t think there’s much to worry about. I shall proceed with the recipe and the tips passed down to me from my Grandma, via my mum. Make sure you’ve got an old newspaper handy!
- 1 batch of soaked fruit (keeping any excess brandy)
- 2 oz of ground almonds
- 10 oz of gluten free plain flour (or normal plain flour)
- 6 oz of castor sugar
- 0.25 tsp of mixed spice (I doubled all the spice quantities shown here because I love festive spices)
- 0.25 tsp of cinnamon
- 0.25 tsp of grated nutmeg
- 0.25 tsp of sea salt
- 8 oz of butter
- 4 eggs
- Brandy, to feed the cake after baking
Edit: if you’d like a deeper cake then use 1.5 times the cake ingredients whilst keeping the batch of fruit the same. There is still plenty of fruit there to give a fruity and delicious boozy cake!
- Preheat the oven to 150°C and line your cake tin with three sheets of newspaper and a layer of baking paper; this is important as it stops the outside of the cake cooking too quickly. Try to cut the corners in well, if using a square tin, as this will help your cake to look sharper when you come to ice it. You want to use a fairly large tin, mine was approximately 25 cm square, this made the cake about 6 cm deep. Go for a slightly smaller tin if you’d like a deeper cake.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. I used a handheld electric whisk to do this.
- In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients (almonds, flour, spices and salt), mix well.
- Beat the eggs well and then add then bit by bit, in combination with the dry ingredients, to the butter and sugar mixture. Again, using an electric whisk.
- Pour any excess brandy from the fruit into the mixture and whisk this into it. You want a fairly stiff/thick mixture, so don’t add too much if you have a lot of liquid left. Hopefully you haven’t got a lot of un-absorbed brandy, as wasted brandy is a crime. Conversely, add more brandy if your mixture is too thick, but it should be fairly thick to support the weight of the fruit. Never add milk to the mixture.
- Fold the fruit into the cake mixture using a spatula, try to do this fairly gently, too keep some air in the mixture.
- Pour the cake mixture into the lined cake tin and spread the mixture evenly. Then, using your spatula create a shallow dip in the centre, this will help the cake to rise into a level/flat topped cake.
- Bake the cake for 1 hour at 150°C and then for a further 1-3 hours at 135°C. The cake is cooked when an inserted skewer comes out clean. I cooked my cake for a further hour only, even though the recipe suggests 2-3, as it was cooked by then. I imagine this recipe wasn’t written with fan ovens in mind as it gives temperatures in regulo and suggests you check your cake is cooked by inserting a knitting needle into it! It is definitely a recipe that has seen a few generations.
- Once your cake is cooked, leave it to cool for two hours in the tin.
- Once removed from the tin, let it cool completely.
- Use a skewer (or knitting needle!) to poke some small holes into the cake.
- Fill a small dish with a few tablespoons of brandy and then coat the top and sides of the cake with it, using a pastry brush. Gently pour any remaining brandy in the dish onto the cake. This is ‘feeding’ the cake and should be repeated every few weeks/month or so until winter (before icing), or until it can’t ‘eat’ anymore.
- Wrap in layers of cling film and tin foil. Store it in a safe location, do not refrigerate.
- The next installment will be marzipaning (definitely a word) and icing the cake. It’ll be a few months before that post though! Plenty of time for you to come up with some beautiful designs.