I wrote about this amazingly easy, decadently rich Christmas cake way back and so many people commented on how great it was. So as the risk of repeating myself, I thought you might like to revisit the recipe those of you who have seen it, and hopefully there will be many of you who haven’t seen it and give it a shot.
When I was a wee nipper, the annual Christmas cake baking fell to my father who relished the task and still does. At a spritely eight-five he still whips up a pretty fabulous cake.
So making the annual Christmas cake in our household is always a ritual. I’m almost always late making it! Never organised enough to knock it off mid winter for tucking away, wrapped carefully in brown paper to be fed lovingly with Sherry or Brandy over the coming months so that come the Big day, or Christmas Eve as is the case in our house, everyone eagerly awaits a slice of boozy, rich cake to kick-start the holiday season.
In my case it all gets flung together late November or even early December (my grandmamma would be sucking her teeth in disapproval). So when I came across this recipe passed on to me by an old friend, I have never looked back.
It simply never fails! And even without a long incubation period draws gasps of approval and praise. The recipe below is the basic, never-fail-version. And of course being the person that I am, no two cakes are ever the same. I employ a rather ‘organic’ approach to Christmas cake making.
Over time I have swapped and played around with the fruits. For a few years it was all tropical fruits and exotic nuts – very expensive and delicious. Other year’s crystallized ginger takes a big role. Currents, prunes and sour cherries are essential for depth of flavour in my opinion. And in more recent years I have cut back on the butter, swapped white sugar for nuttier versions like coconut palm sugar or Molasses sugar, and reduced the amount too. After all, there is a mass of sugar in all that dried fruit anyway.
Dark chocolate adds a tasty dimension, as does a small cup of espresso coffee. And one of my most successful cakes ever included a good amount of date paste. I think I found that in Persian Network, a Middle Eastern supermarket in Dominion Road.
I also only add about 1 cup of flour and make the other cup a nut flour like almond or Macadamia, helping keep it beautifully moist.
I use a wooden box to bake my square cake in, I find it cooks more slowly which is ideal, and the temperature is a conventional 130C without fan bake.
The box is lined with baking paper and before the mixture goes in everyone in the house at the time has to come and have a stir and make a wish. The box is wrapped in newsprint, again to slow down the cooking further. Then in to the oven it goes, and the whole house fills with superb aromatic smells of spices and dried fruits laced with baked newsprint. Gorgeous!
I prefer an un-iced cake but a certain someone in this household has to have Marzipan and royal icing so that’s what he gets! I make my own marzipan when time allows. It’s pretty easy. The cake gets well soused in Cognac, Sherry or Whiskey for a few days before the icing goes on, white royal icing over a layer of rich marzipan, a bit of decoration and it’s ready.
You definitely can’t rush a good Christmas cake, it is like a good cheese or wine, and it has to have time to mature. Slow cooking, a lot of cosseting, plenty of tradition and ritual are essential ingredients. But if you want the same results in less time, this is definitely the recipe to go for.
Happy Holidays everyone!
The Best Ever, Very Easy, Never Fail Christmas Cake
1.75 kgs mixed fruit, chopped whatever mix you like e.g. 300 grams cranberries, 300 grams currants, 200 grams figs, 200 grams cherries, 200 grams papaya, 200 grams ginger, 100 grams prunes, 275 grams mixed peel.
11/2 cups water
11/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup or treacle
1 tablespoon instant coffee or a small espresso
400 grams butter
Boil all together for 3 minutes, and then add 1 teaspoon baking soda. Stir it through, it will foam. Allow to cool. I find the longer you leave the mixture, the better the cake, overnight or for up to a week in the fridge if possible.
When cold add the following: -
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3-4 heaped teaspoons in total of mixed spice, ground cardamom, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, nutmeg.
2 teaspoons vanilla essence or vanilla paste
Two – three handfuls of chopped nuts of your choice
Finally add three beaten eggs.
Combine all the ingredients well, stirring gently. Don’t forget to make a wish.
Bake in a deep 25cm tin (I use a wooden cake box) lined generously with baking parchment inside, and newsprint on the outside for either 3-4 hours at 130 degrees Celsius (no fan), or overnight at 100 degrees Celsius (no fan). I prefer the 3-4 hours but either is fine.
Remove from the oven when cooked (use a wooden skewer to make sure it is cooked), and leave to cool completely. You can leave the cake for several days before icing it. I often add whiskey to my cake before icing by poking tiny holes all over the top and drizzling in a good quality whiskey a capful at a time. You can do this several times so the cake soaks up the alcohol.
Ice with marzipan and royal icing and decorate with a festive ribbon or holly.
Consume and share respectfully. The cake will last for up to a year in a good tin.