One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to bake our cake and plan it’s final decoration. I always aim to make it 5 - 6 weeks before Christmas but I'm happy if it's had a good glug of brandy a few times before decorating. You could probably buy a cake of this size cheaper in a Supermarket but I can assure you it won’t taste as nice and the compliments you’ll receive will have you grinning from ear to ear.
225g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Grated fresh nutmeg or 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200g unsalted butter
200g brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
800g mixed dry fruits
100g chopped mixed peel
150g glace cherries halved
100g blanched almonds, chopped
Brandy (or other if you prefer)
Heat oven to 150c fan, (slightly higher for non fan) and then grease and line a 20cm round or 18cm square tin.
Sieve flour, salt and spices into a bowl.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and then add the treacle and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs alternating with a little flour mix so it doesn't curdle.
Fold in the rest of the flour and then add the fruit and almonds.
Pour in the tin and make a slight hollow in the middle.
I always put greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin and put a piece on top of the cake tin to stop it burning around the edges.
Pop it in the oven for a good 2 and a half hours and enjoy the festive smell coming from the kitchen. I find sometimes it takes longer and so I check every 15 - 20 mins. This year mine was bang on 3 hours.
Once it's on a cooling rack you need to use a skewer to put holes all over and then spoon a few tablespoons of brandy in (if applicable).
Make sure the cake is completely cold before you wrap it in greaseproof paper and then foil before putting it in an airtight tub or cake tin. Once a week from now until Christmas I’ll open it up, prick it again and put a couple more spoonfuls of brandy in.
In our house we seem to play an annual game called ‘hide the brandy from Daddy' and every year he finds my little bottle and drinks it just for fun. It has become a tradition as I find somewhere new to store it and my husband loves the challenge of trying to find it. I would hide it in the car if I wasn’t worried about being pulled over by the Police!
Christmas cake for me has to have marzipan and royal icing on but I normally use fondant for ease and add then I'll add royal icing here and there if I can. Before I had my son, the cake was always simple for family coming over but now I really try and get a ‘wow’ factor and love the decorating part.
Last year’s cake was my favourite so far with a simple white decorated cake which was topped with a homemade gingerbread house. I especially loved this one as I gave it stained glass windows and then put battery operated fairy lights inside which I turned on just before bringing it in with coffee and desserts. As I walked in the kids mouths fell open and I’ll never forget my son looking at me with pleading eyes and whispering "can I eat it?"
Note made in 2017 - Since writing this blog post I thought it would be nice if we made individual cakes for teachers gifts and so my son helped to bake the cake and then nearer the end of term we cut a third off and then cut the smaller piece into 3. My son lovingly put the marzipan and fondant on before decorating it with festive cutters and then I wrapped them individually in cellophane and added beautiful ribbons. Now that I was left with a lovely rectangular shape, I thought I would make a large gingerbread house and built it around the iced cake. The result, if I may say so myself, was that it looked pretty impressive!
If you do try to make one, give the house a little back door and feed some battery operated fairy lights in. The battery pack can then be kept at the back of the house and switched on before presenting to the family.
Some more fun cakes I have made over the years include Santa getting stuck down the chimney, penguins playing with snowballs and a simple snowman.
Thanks for reading, if you have a go at making your own Christmas cake then I’d love to see your pictures!
PS, I feel I should have some sort of disclaimer, like 'I hold no responsibility for any cakes burnt or undercooked'. I've had plenty of disasters in the kitchen and like to have someone to blame when I get caught up watching something juicy on TV! :) Just remember every oven is different so you need to do the skewer test a few times before taking it out of the oven for good. (Oh and don't be alarmed if you can smell a burnt raisin, there's bound to be one that'll catch).