English Christmas Cake
Approx cost: n/a
Approx calories (per serving): n/a
Approx preparation and cooking time: ~1 week preparation, ~3 hours cooking time
Ho ho ho, I hope you’re all getting into the Christmas spirit. Well, of course not everyone celebrates Christmas so for those of you who don’t then I hope you’re having an awesome December. For those who do however, today’s post is going to be all about cake. An English Christmas Cake to be more accurate,to signify the beginning of my run-down to Christmas. I’m posting this quite late, but I had to finish it off myself. You’ll need to allow about 7-10 days to make this before you intend to eat it. Why, you ask? Because during these days you’ll be glugging brandy over the cake every couple of days to get the fruit inside really plump and moist. If you decide to make an alcohol free version then you can easily make it the day before and eat immediately, though bear in mind that it will not keep fresh so long. I’m going to write up my “version” of the recipe below. I haven’t changed much – Delia Smith is a real British institution so I wouldn’t mess with perfection too much, however, her cake was much too big for my needs, and I also did a bit of fiddling with the ingredients. The result is a very manageable cake which is perfect for a family who just want to have one or two slices of cake themselves and maybe share some with their close friends, instead of having this vast slab of cake sitting in a tin until February
I haven’t hidden the fact that I’m really not a big fan of English Christmas Cakes. English celebratory cakes in general are devoid of any kind of “fun”. No matter what the occasion is – Weddings, Easter, Christmas – we’ll eat a giant, heavy, sweet fruit cake, steeped in alcohol. It all gets a bit much sometimes. I guess the Brits really love dried fruit… just look at our Christmas pudding as well. It’s kind of like a Christmas Cake, but steamed… and people eat both in the same day! That said however, I’ve never made my own Christmas Cake before and this year I’m so happy I did – it was a very rewarding experience. I’ve made hundreds of cakes before, but nothing felt quite so significant as this one – plus making it really put me in the mood for Christmas too!
The recipe list is as long as your arm, and it’s not the cheapest of recipes (although if you shopped smart you could probably get a few good deals on the ingredients). Not only that but it requires no small amount of preparation time but if you’ve never tried it before I think it’s totally worth it! In other news, I’ll be posting more festive recipes in the run-up to Christmas so stay tuned for those. Enjoy the cake everyone and have a great day!
For the cake
- 220g Currants (if you don’t have this quantity of currants make up the difference using raisins and sultanas)
- 80g Sultanas
- 80g Raisins
- 20g Candied Lemon and Orange Peel
- 30g Candied Cherries
- 4 tbsps Brandy + ~8 tbsps for later “feeding”
- 120g Plain Flour
- 1 tsp Nutmeg
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 120g Butter
- 120g Brown Sugar (ideally dark brown muscovado. If unavailable use demerara)
- 2 Eggs
- 20g Whole Almonds, chopped
- Grated zest from 1 Lemon
- Grated zest from 1 Orange
- 1 tbsp Black Treacle (Molasses)
For the icing
- ~250g Marzipan
- ~ 400g Icing Sugar + extra for dusting
- 2 Egg Whites
- 3-4 tbsps Apricot Jam
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
Step 1 to be done 24 hours in advance
- 24 hours in advance, place all the fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, candied cherries) and peel (candied lemon and orange peel) in a bowl and pour in the 4 tbsps of Brandy. Mix well and cover with a clean cloth, before setting aside somewhere cool and dry.
- The next day start by pre-heating the oven to 140 degrees Celsius then mix the butter and sugar together. Once it is well blended, beat in the eggs and then finally mix in the flour, nutmeg and cinnamon to form a thick batter.
- Transfer the batter into the bowl which contains the fruit. Add in the chopped almonds, orange and lemon zest and black treacle (molasses) and mix well until the everything is well blended.
- Grease and flour an appropriately sized tin. You can use any style of tin, though I find a loaf is best. I used a tin 21cm long, 11cm wide and 7cm deep – the cake does not rise much so do not worry if it only just comes above he mixture. Transfer the cake mixture into the tin and smooth out to fill the tin evenly.
- Place into the oven for about 3 – 3.5 hours until a rich golden colour. Be sure not to undercook it. I think I left my cake in the oven for about 3 hours, though because the size is smaller than the original recipe (which recommends 4 hours) you may need to try and adapt depending on your oven. The cake will be very dense and compact – this is normal. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, before removing it and placing it on a rack. When completely cooled, stick the cake all over with a skewer to create small holes. “Feed” the cake by pouring over one or two tablespoons of the extra brandy. Wrap the cake in baking paper and then wrap again with tin-foil. Store the cake somewhere safe where there are no temperature extremes and remove from its wrapping every 2 or 3 days to “feed” again, with more brandy. You can continue like this for some time – indeed, some people making their Christmas cakes 4 or more weeks in advance of Christmas – or you can just feed it once. The choice is entirely up to you, though for best results, try to maximise the feeding.
- When you ready to finish up the cake start by spreading 3-4 tbsps of Apricot jam over the cake surface (this is so the marzipan adheres properly!) and then dust a surface with icing sugar. Roll out the marzipan to a thickness of about 4mm – 6mm and drape over the cake so all sides are covered (if you made a round cake you may find it easier to ice only the top!). Press gently onto the cake, trimming away the bottoms and sealing the corners. Don’t worry if you tear it at all – this will be covered again in the next step.
- Next, add the egg whites and lemon juice to a large bowl and whisk until combined and starting to froth. Add in the icing sugar and continue to whisk until you get a quite a stiff consistency. If you cannot reach this texture, add a bit more sugar.
- Apply to the cake and allow to set before serving. Will keep for a *very* long time, many weeks usually. Personally I don’t eat the icing usually – maybe a scrap or two, but it’s not really my thing! Enjoy