I realised that this was the first non-sponge cake I’ve made since I started baking. So this is a very special cake for me. My friend Poorni bought me this book of cake recipes from around the world. And I love it! It’s so amazing and I’m learning so much about the history of why/how each cake was invented.
Apparently this Traditional English Christmas cake was originally a porridge to which spices, dried fruits, eggs and flour were later added to make it a special dish for Christmas. Its origins go back to the beginnings of Christianity. It was a part of the festival of Twelfth Night, the day when Christians celebrate the arrival of the Magi at Bethlehem. By 1870, when this festival was banned, to keep the sales going strong, the confectioners simply decorated it with snowy scenes and sold them at December Christmas parties.
This cake keeps well for 3-4 months if stored like so in a cool dry place.
Decorate, if you want with marzipan and/or royal icing.
And remember, there’s alcohol in this cake. So it improves in taste greatly over time. I would suggest
baking this a few weeks ahead. Or at least resist the temptation to
finish it off as soon as it has been baked.
English Christmas Cake Makes 12 slices
You will be needing
-225g each of black currants, raisins and sultanas
-50g chopped glazed orange peel
-50g halved cherries
-225g dark Muscovado sugar
-a few tablespoons of caramel (See Note below)
-225g plain flour
-1 heaped tsp ground all spice mix (See Note below)
-50g ground almonds
-4 large eggs, lightly beaten
-zest of one large lemon (See note below)
-1 tbsp lemon juice
-50g flaked almonds (See note below)
-Wash the dried fruits, peels and cherries, draining the water thoroughly.
-Soak the nuts in the brandy overnight or longer. Cover and set aside. I soaked my batch for a week.
-Preheat the oven to 140°C. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat till light and fluffy. Add the warm caramel and stir well to combine.
-In a separate bowl, sift the flour and the all-spice powder. Stir in the ground almonds.
-Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture, a little at a time, beating well to incorporate before adding more.
-Fold in the flour along with the lemon zest and lemon juice.
-Add the soaking fruits along with all the brandy syrup it is steeped with. Add the flaked almonds. Stir gently but thoroughly.
-Spoon them into a cake tin lined with parchment paper
-Bake for 1 hour at 140°C
-Reduce temperature to 120°C, cover the top of the cake with parchment paper, and bake for a further 1 hour. The top should feel firm and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
-Cool the cake completely in its tin for at least 24 hours. Trust me, this is very important.
-Remove from tin, leaving it in its grease-proof parchment paper. Cover over with a second layer of clean parchment paper, then finally with tin foil.
1. To make Caramel at home: Heat a pan, add a few tablespoons of sugar
to it, watch it melt in the heat, stir continuously to avoid burning,
and remove from heat when it reaches golden brown color. Use immediately
while still hot. If you wish to use it later, simply re-heat the pan
till it dissolves.
2. All Spice mix is a combination of the ground spices cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Use powdered form of the spices in these quantities. Equal parts of the above OR 1 part cinnamon, and half part of all the other spices. Or you can just buy this mix in gourmet stores.
3. ‘Zest’ refers to the top-most part of the rind of a fruit, citrus fruit in general. The zest of lemons, limes and oranges impart a tangy flavour to the dish, and make a whole lot of difference to the final flavours. Take a clean lemon(lime or orange as the recipe calls for it), and grate it in light quick stokes on a fine grater so that the coloured part of the rind comes off exposing the white bitter spongy layer beneath. Keep turning the lime ever so often while you grate, making sure you only get the coloured part of the rind, without going through the white or fleshy part of the fruit.
4. Flaked almonds are plain almonds, De-skinned, and sliced lengthwise into bite sized shards.