The holidays are finally here! It has been tough wading through my endless, ever-growing ‘to-do’ list, but I have survived and I have made it to the end of term! Despite being rushed off my feet however, I have really enjoyed the run up to Christmas in the nursery. It’s always a really magical time of year when you work with 3 and 4 year olds and this year has been no different. Amongst the glitter and other things, my week has consisted of 2 Christmas parties, 90 nursery children dressed as stars (as part of an assembled cast of 600 in the nativity), millions of Christmas cards (at least that’s how it felt helping all the children deliver their Christmas cards to one another!) and an insurmountable number of renditions of Jingle Bells, Away in a Manger, Twinkle Twinkle and We Wish You A Merry Christmas! What a week!!
In addition to everything at work I have also been busy at home. We put up our decorations back at the start of December and sent our Christmas cards last week so the big jobs were done, but as always there were lots of little things that I needed to do. The main has been baking and icing my Christmas cake, and that’s what I wanted to share with you today.
Every year I make my own Christmas cake using my mum’s recipe. I believe that the recipe originally comes from my Granny. It is a little bit time-consuming and requires some planning but it is most definitely worth it!
The start of the process involves soaking all the fruit in sherry. The recipe recommends a week, but i like to leave mine for around a month to really infuse the flavours. Initially I soaked the fruit in 1/2 a pint of sherry, however Mr B decided halfway through the soaking process that it didn’t seem like enough and added his own liberal glug or two. Unfortunately he did this without my knowledge and without measuring it so I actually have no idea how much went in! Fortunately the end result tastes lovely so I guess it doesn’t really matter how much sherry you use!
After the fruit had soaked I drained the remaining sticky syrup-like liquid off and put it aside in a bowl. The next step was to make the cake mix and add the fruit to it.
I greased the cake tin with butter, lined it with greaseproof paper and then greased it again with butter. After years of making this cake that has proved to be the most successful combination. I’ve had occasions where the cake has stuck to the tin and where the greaseproof paper has stuck to the cake – don’t be lazy and miss out all the greasing and lining!
The cake went in the oven, covered with tin foil, for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 170°C, but if you decide to make this recipe for yourself you will just have to alter the temperature and times to suit. Our oven is fan assisted but always cooks much faster than recipes say so I usually turn the heat down a little and cook for a shorter time. I have shared the recipe at the end of this post and have left the original instructions so you can make your own adjustments. In the end I think my cake could have done with a slightly hotter oven as it didn’t quite rise properly (although the density of fruit means that you hardly notice!)
Once the cake has baked the recipe says to use the left over sherry-syrup from the fruit to pour over to make it nice and moist. Because I leave my fruit soaking for so long the syrup is too thick and sticky so when I tried to pour it on it just sat on top and went really sticky. If you soak your fruit for less time your cake should just soak up the less-sticky mixture.
For icing I covered the outside of the cake in apricot jam (I heated it in the microwave so it was runny and I could paint it on with my pastry brush) then I added marzipan and white ready-rolled icing.
The last part is the decoration. Every year I do something different and this time I decided to try snowflakes. I made a basic royal icing using egg whites, lemon juice and sugar then piped it onto the surface of the cake. I did a few practise snowflakes on some paper and used some pictures of snowflakes to give me inspiration. I think they turned out ok – what do you think?
I finished the edges of the cake with some piped swirls all the way round and then added some little snowball decorations I had bought in Tesco. Voila! My Christmas cake 2012!!
Christmas Cake Recipe
(Its an old recipe so the quantities are imperial – I’ve never bothered to convert them)
- 6oz sultanas
- 6oz raisins
- 4oz currants
- 3 oz cherries
- 3 oz mixed peel (I don’t like mixed peel so substitute it with an extra 3oz of cherries!)
- 1/4 pint sherry (I use 1/2 pint)
- 6oz soft brown sugar
- 6oz butter
- 4 eggs at room temp.
- 4oz self-raising flour
- 4oz plain flour
- pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice (I usually add a bit more)
- 1oz ground almonds (it tastes fine without if you don’t like almonds)
- Soak the fruit in the sherry for approximately a week
- Pre-heat oven to 325°C (This is far too hot in my experience – perhaps it’s actually °F and the recipe has gotten muddled as it has been handed down the generations)
- Cream the butter and sugar.
- Gradually add the eggs
- Fold in the flour, salt, spices and almonds.
- Drain the fruit and mix in.
- Keep the liquid to pour on the cake when cooked.
- Line and grease the cake tin then pour in the mixture.
- Bake for 1 hour at 325°C then cover with foil and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours at 300°C.
Royal Icing Recipe (This makes a HUGE amount and I ended up wasting a lot. Next time I would probably only make 1/3 of the quantity)
- 3 medium egg whites
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 700g icing sugar
- Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.
- Stir in the lemon juice
- Gradually add the icing sugar and mix well.
- Colour if desired.